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After the Bar

Personal & Financial

Managing Time and Maintaining Resilience

Chaz R Ball

Managing Time and Maintaining Resilience
Stone Lyons via iStock

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Life can be stressful, and so can a legal career. Living and practicing during a pandemic exasperated that reality. Managing your time and calendar effectively, setting boundaries, and cultivating a self-care mindset will help you manage and cope with stress in the legal profession.

Manage Your Time and Calendar Effectively

Your calendar is your own, it is no one else’s, and it is important. No one knows the areas in which you are most proficient and those in which you are less proficient better than you do. We often have many separate tasks that we need to accomplish, and all of them have due dates. It is paramount that you consider the respective deadlines and allocate specific time to accomplish those goals. Programs like Pomodoro or Google Calendar or techniques such as Stephen Covey’s four quadrant system can be helpful for calendar blocking.

Additionally, we all deal with avoidance issues, like that call you don’t want to make or that project you dread starting. To overcome these hurdles, think introspectively about what is causing the block. Writing down your thoughts about why you’re eluding a task, talking to someone, or asking for help can aid in accomplishing that task you’ve been avoiding.

Set Boundaries

Setting boundaries is necessary for your mental health. Joe and Jane, Esq. need to have time just to be Joe and Jane. Every lawyer, from graduation onward, gets calls, texts, and messages from distant friends and family asking for free legal advice, and often while off of work. Being able to say “No” is an integral part of setting boundaries. Remember that “no is a complete sentence.” For those that find “no” too curt, consider the concept of an “Oreo no.” An “Oreo no” is expressing how much you appreciate the person for thinking of you, telling them you currently don’t have the time to do what they are asking of you, and telling them that you hope they ask again in the future.

Cultivate a Self-Care Mindset

If you don’t establish self-care techniques and focus on personal well-being, your work will ultimately suffer. To be the best attorney you can be, you will need to focus on your well-being. A good lawyer is a healthy lawyer. Issues with mental health, substance abuse, and compulsions often stem from lawyers not addressing their own needs and limitations adequately. Meditation, sufficient sleep, body nourishment, systemic relaxation, and other contemplative practices can help you maintain your mental well-being.

Clinical burnout and excessive mental and physical fatigue have a reciprocal relationship with lack of motivation. While trying to ensure clients, managing partners, and everyone else is alright, you need to make sure that you are also alright. And fortunately, the ABA and state and local bar associations have resources available to aid attorneys in need.

Attorneys are, by nature, outward-looking problem-solvers. Even so, to build our resiliency skills, we have to look inward to have the ability to deal with difficult situations in a way that causes the least amount of stress on our brains and bodies. You can develop resiliency by effectively managing your time and calendar, setting boundaries, and cultivating a self-care mindset.

In a demanding profession, many lawyers experience acute and chronic anxiety and stress, and the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated these stressors. These conditions can become overwhelming and take a toll on individual well-being and the ability to perform legal work at the highest professional level. Watch the on-demand CLE program Practical Tools: Managing Time and Maintaining Resilience to learn how to increase your effectiveness as a lawyer while reducing your stress level.