If You're Not First, You're Last: Honestly Assessing Workplace Priorities
By Jennifer Hilsabeck
When they see that I am a full-time working mother of three, people often ask me how I manage to successfully balance the various demands of my busy life. It is probably true for most of us that finding the time to fit everything into a hectic work day or week is usually remedied by sacrificing the nonessentials, such as quality time with family and friends, or perhaps even sleep. But are there other victims to an overly fast-paced lifestyle whose demise might not be felt until months or even years after they were first neglected in the pursuit of that elusive reward known as success? Perhaps our physical or mental health or relationships with friends, family, or other loved ones are suffering silently on a daily basis due to neglect in the face of the unrelenting pressures of work. The more troubling question for me has become not whether I am actually able to get everything done in a timely manner, but rather whether this demanding balance is being executed successfully. To use what is certainly a tired cliché at this point, am I truly managing to “have it all?”
Regardless of whether or not we have children, each of us as working professionals must balance different aspects of our lives on a regular basis. The demands of a career in the law are great, and many times other elements of who we are must suffer in order to meet those demands. After all, who hasn’t blown off a medical checkup or social engagement because of a heavy workload or impending deadline? Each time we do this, we tell ourselves that this is the last time and that from now on we will be better about prioritizing, but the truth is that sacrifices such as these are inevitable in the ongoing quest for professional success.
Nevertheless, I continue to be cautiously optimistic that my decision to pursue a career in the law full time will not result in a complete imbalance in the work-life arena. My personal recommendation, for what it is worth, on successfully managing this stressful balancing act is to:
(i) honestly assess what your personal priorities are, (ii) create solid boundaries to protect those sacred priorities, and then (iii) hold the line when being challenged to subjugate your stated priorities to the demands of another.
Because this is the real world in which we are living, unfortunately there will be times when you will have to back down in order to preserve your reputation as a professional, your marriage/romantic relationship, or perhaps even your sanity. But if this retreat from what you have thoughtfully declared to be most sacred begins to occur on a regular basis, perhaps it may be time to reconsider whether being perceived as “having it all” is really something worth attaining. Although I understand that while my method for coping may not be a universal prescription for happiness and success, perhaps this article has given you something to ponder the next time you have a few moments to yourself in between deadlines.
Jennifer Hilsabeck has practiced law in Las Vegas, Nevada, since 1999. Since January 2010, Jennifer has been practicing as Of Counsel with the Law Vegas office of the regional law firm Lewis and Roca, LLP in the firm's Environmental and Natural Resources and Energy, Alternative Energy, Telecommunications and Utilities practice groups. Her practice emphasizes renewable energy development, legislative affairs and general corporate transactions, as well as county and municipal relations. Prior to joining Lewis and Roca, she served for five years as Associate General Counsel for American Nevada Company, a Greenspun family company that was founded in 1974 and is a major developer of commercial office centers, retail centers, and master planned communities in Southern Nevada. Prior to joining American Nevada Company, she practiced as an Associate with the Nevada firm of Jones Vargas. In addition, she has been an active member of various Sections and Divisions within the American Bar Association since becoming an attorney, including serving as a Young Lawyers Division Liaison to both the Business Law Section and the General Practice Solo Small Firm Division. Jennifer is currently serving as a Council Member for the General Practice Solo Small Firm Division and as an active Member of the Diversity Committee of the ABA Section of International Law.
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