Maximize Your Work and Life

by David Noland, YLS Futures Committee member

What is work-life balance? This phrase makes me think of a scale in which every hour worked should be offset by an hour of play. But the real world doesn't work that way. Whether you're a hardworking associate or partner in a firm, a sole practitioner, otherwise employed, or even unemployed, the concept of work should be a source of enjoyment, not a source of stress. Don't get me wrong, a certain amount of stress is necessary for our well-being, but too much stress can take years off our life.

Like many attorneys, I have invested a large amount of time and money on my education. My goal is to be able to leverage that investment for financial payoff and a career I enjoy.

The best advice I have ever received for balancing work and life is simply this: "Maximize what you enjoy doing, minimize what you don't like to do." This is a perspective one should have in any career, but especially for lawyers. We tend to work insane hours and forget about why we chose a career in the legal field. Maximizing what you enjoy doing in life can take years to accomplish, but it is worth the effort. In the meantime, no matter what your work situation, you can apply these simple items:

1. Plan your week: Identify the major projects, appointments, etc. of your work week, place onto your calendar the personal items you need to accomplish (e.g. kids' school meetings, house projects, etc.), and don't forget to add recreational time. The latter is especially important regardless of how busy you are. Find a hobby, sport, or activity you enjoy.

2. Find time for physical activities: A recent study in the Journal of Occupational & Environmental Medicine shows that employees who work out at least two and half hours each week are more productive and find greater job satisfaction. I recommend finding a physical activity you enjoy such as biking, running, hiking, etc. and doing it regularly.

3. Learn to recognize when you need a break: When faced with a frustrating project or hitting a wall while working, one of the best things you can do is get up and take a five minute walk.

4. Set personal goals for the year, for five years, for 10 years: Setting and focusing on completing personal goals you want to accomplish can have a dramatic effect on your daily focus. Don't forget to revisit these goals on a regular basis.

5. Time to relax is critical for everyone: Take the time to sit back and enjoy the moment. Let go of what needs to be accomplished tomorrow and relax. If it helps, take time to write out a list of what you are going to accomplish tomorrow, set it on your desk, and walk away for the evening or weekend.

This is your life to live. Find your personal balance in life, enjoy this moment in time, and plan for the future.