Attorney Work-Life Balance

Six Tips For Associate Attorney Work-Life Balance

Many associate attorneys struggle to find a work-life balance.  Although it can be difficult to achieve that balance in the legal field, especially at a law firm, it is not impossible.  Below, an attorney shares 6 tips for achieving associate attorney work-life balance!

Six Tips For Associate Attorney Work-Life Balance

Achieving attorney work-life balance as an associate is not one size fits all.  Work-life balance means different things to different people.  Some associates consider one day off a week to be sufficient.  Others want to have nights and weekends free.  Your ideal balance may depend on your familial obligations, or your commitment to outside hobbies and personal interests, or simply a need for a certain amount of weekly downtime to avoid burnout.  Regardless of your subjective goals, the tips below can help you achieve the balance you are searching for!

1. Block off important dates in your work calendar.

If you are expected to work some late nights and weekends, you may be wondering how achieving work-life balance as an associate is at all possible.  Although a straight 9 am – 5 pm schedule is not typical in the legal field, especially if you work in a law firm, this does not mean that you’re required to give up your personal life.  One way to ensure that you are not expected to work on days when you have important personal commitments is to block the dates off in your work calendar.

So, if you have a wedding coming up, or a family vacation, or even a weekend away with a significant other, block it off in your work calendar and share it with whoever controls workflow at your place of employment! You don’t have to get too specific with what your plans are, and if your employer requires that you obtain permission before doing this, be sure to do so.  Just don’t expect that you’ll be able to block out the dates for EVERY weekend (as nice as that would be)!  But by blocking off dates that you know you will be unavailable, your supervisor and coworkers can plan accordingly, leaving you free on those dates.

2. Manage your time well.

Time management is key for achieving work-life balance as an associate.  In many cases, late nights are the result of unproductive days.  One way to keep yourself on track is to calendar important deadlines and create to-do lists (both long-term and short-term).  Another way to stay on track is to eliminate distractions if you can—including silencing social media notifications on your cell phone while working on any task that requires your full attention.  Whatever works for you to stay focused and efficient, do it!  By managing your time at work more efficiently, you will move through tasks quicker and avoid having those tasks carry over into a late night or weekend.  Work smarter, not harder!

3. Prioritize assignments with deadlines.

It is important to meet deadlines, so prioritize tasks with near-term deadlines when possible so that you can get them out of the way.  Once they are completed, you will have the flexibility to move on to less urgent tasks.  Of course, this does not mean that you should procrastinate on completing tasks that have later deadlines, as this will cause you to fall behind on your work!  But it does mean that you won’t be stuck at the office until midnight to meet a deadline simply because you left that task until the last minute after completing assignments with less urgent deadlines first.  If you tackle tasks in order of priority, you will feel less overwhelmed, and you will be able to better manage your time so that you can still make it home at a reasonable hour.

4. Do not overcommit.

Work-life balance is impossible to achieve if you overcommit at work.  The adage “don’t bite off more than you can chew” definitely applies here, but this tip can be a tricky one for associates to follow.  When someone in a more senior position asks you to help with a task, it can be difficult (or impossible) to say no, but do not commit to something without making that person aware that you are already stretched too thin!  Chances are that person is not aware that you already have a heavy workload, and they may be able to help redistribute workflow.  You may still end up with the task, but by raising the issue you increase the likelihood that a better solution can be reached!

5. Use your vacation time!

Use your vacation time and any personal or sick days to achieve balance and avoid burnout! Don’t sacrifice your wellness to prove to your employer that you are the most dedicated, most hardworking associate.  You can prove that you are an asset to your employer while still taking time off.  In fact, breaks can help you to work more efficiently!  Also, with most employers, you either use your vacation days during the allotted time or you lose it.  If you don’t get paid out for the unused time, you are essentially throwing away that benefit—so use it!

6. Make a career change

It may be the case that achieving work-life balance as an associate is impossible at your current place of employment.  Some employers simply expect associates to work long hours with little time off, which means that following the five tips above may not help change things for you.  If this is the case, and work-life balance is important to you, consider making a career change.

One way to ensure you have control over your schedule is to be your own boss.  If you are interested in starting your own law firm, check out these posts with tips on starting your own law firm and how to prepare to start your own firm. If starting your own firm does not interest you, consider applying to other jobs.  Before you do so, be sure to create or update your LinkedIn profile as this is a great job search resource, update your resume using our top legal resume tips, and prepare for the interview process by reading up on our interview tips for law students and lawyers.

The bottom line is that achieving work-life balance as an associate is possible, so if it is important to you, follow these tips to help get you there!

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