What a crazy year we have had! This is especially true when you consider that this year’s craziness is stacked right on top of 2020’s own craziness. We are all, thankfully, working and very busy serving clients. However, we are also experiencing stress and fatigue at higher levels than ever before. Finding calm and contentment seems elusive.
The year has already been the basis for great introspection for a lot of reasons. It seems appropriate to extend this awareness into the holiday season and consider ways that we can find a greater degree of work-life balance and make the very best of the upcoming holidays.
Because this is also a personal struggle for me, I took the most logical route to quick self-help advice and did a Google inquiry. So, I will share some of the suggestions I found to be most appropriate to the struggles we share in our legal practices and personal lives, as well as ones that I hope to incorporate into my own life over the coming weeks.
Our overall theme should be INTENTION.
Be intentional in how you allot your time, in the activities you participate in, and in your commitment to family, friends, clients, staff, work, community, and, most importantly, yourself.
1. Be attentive to your schedule
Plan ahead—do not leave matters to chance. Fill in your calendar with personal appointments in addition to your professional obligations, and try to find a balance in doing so. Try to make sure you have something of personal importance on your calendar every day in December. When you plan ahead, your preferred activities are more likely to actually happen. Explore being more flexible with your schedule; consider working from home one day a week or coming in late or leaving early on certain days. Avoid overbooking yourself, whether it is for professional or personal events.
2. Be purposeful in setting your priorities
Consider everything when setting your priorities, not just your case demands. Of course, your clients have to be attended to on a timely basis. But consciously move your personal priorities from the bottom of the list up to a position of more prominence and treat them with the respect they—and you—deserve.
3. Be creative at work and at home
Think outside the box when you when you are trying to figure out how to manage getting more done than you have time to do. At your office: take advantage of available resources and underused staff, or consider hiring someone new to help on a temporary or more permanent basis. Do the same at home. Consider hiring a personal assistant, additional daycare help, a housekeeping service, or a caterer for a party—whatever you need to get the jobs done. Do not try to take on every task yourself. Allow yourself the luxury of help. Think creatively and don’t shy away from new or innovative ideas. You can give it a try through the holidays and if it doesn’t work out as you hoped, you can always go back to your old way of doing things after the holidays.
Also, allow yourself to unleash your creative tendencies in art, music, cooking, or whatever else appeals to you. Creative tasks tend to give us a strong sense of accomplishment, all while calming our nerves and providing positive stimulus. When channeled, these creative activities can also help produce beautiful, unique holiday gifts…which might also save you from unwanted time in shopping malls.
4. Just say “NO”
Really work on the skill of saying “no” when you legitimately have no time, interest, or patience for tasks you are being asked to do. That includes the odd circumstances of having to say “no” to yourself when you are seriously tempted to overextend yourself and commit to more than you are physically capable of doing or mentally prepared to handle. Of course, this applies to both your work life and your home life. Finding a reasonable balance in life means you need to set and abide by limits that you set for yourself, no matter how difficult it is.
5. Commit to self-care
The usual circumstances are that clients and our work take first priority, followed behind by commitment to family and friends. Caring for ourselves often comes in at a distant third. Now is the time to shake that up. Recognize that the better shape you are in, physically and emotionally, the better you will serve your family, friends, clients and community. And, in all likelihood, you will become happier, healthier, and more content yourself.
- Consciously try to be positive in your attitude.
- Take time for walks, no matter how long or short. It can be a quick walk around the block during a break in a deposition or a day-long nature trail hike with your life partner. Either way, you are only going to benefit.
- Take time to laugh, breathe, read, write, exercise, meditate, nap…whatever is right for you and brings you happiness.
- Freely give support to others and openly accept the support for yourself.
- Practice self-compassion and gratitude, as both will nurture your soul.
6. Create new traditions
Don’t stress yourself by always trying to meet preconceived notions of how you manage the holidays at your office or in your personal life. Our society seems to be in the midst of a revolution of change. Now is a perfect time to rethink old habits and develop new traditions that just might be a better fit for your current work and lifestyle. Only you know what that might mean to you…maybe eliminating a five-hour drive to grandmother’s house for a two-hour family dinner; closing your office completely for a holiday week; spending Christmas Day serving the under-privileged instead of preparing a big meal at home; or taking off for a Caribbean Island rather than meeting anyone else’s expectations. Maybe it is as simple as leaving your holiday decorations up until Valentine’s Day. Whatever your thoughts are, do not be afraid to try something new. It may also turn out to be better.
Jeanne, co-founder and managing partner of Divorce Lawyers for Men, is a successful civil litigator who has focused her legal practice on complex litigation, primarily catastrophic injury and wrongful death lawsuits. She has served as a member and Chair of the Washington State Bar Association Law Clerk Board, as a Thurston County Family Court Child Advocate, and as a founding member of the Thurston County Volunteer Legal Clinic.