8 Critical Actions to Avoid Burnout
Like the Cobblers Children With No Shoes I Plummented Myself into Crash and Burn
I have to admit it. I am guilty. I allowed myself to crash. I experienced first-hand what it feels like to burn out.
A few months ago, I began a project, “Lawyer of the Week.” It will go live this week. I hope you find it here, on LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube and other social media platforms. I began to contact lawyers and thought leaders all over the world. I interviewed these lawyers and their leaders via video all over the world in different time zones. It was wonderful. I pushed myself harder and harder. I began to sleep less and less.
I spent months getting less than five hours sleep. I would wake up in the middle of the night and start working for a couple of hours. Until…
Until, my brain stopped working for me. It was as if I were in a mental fog. My actions were five steps behind my intention. I missed things; my mind was dull. I made mistakes. I lost my joy. I felt sleep deprived all day long. As I tried to perform my routine activities, it seemed to take so much effort.
I Know Better
I am a watchdog with my clients to make sure they don’t burn themselves out. It is common for me to ask, “What’s going on with your sleep habits?” or “What are you doing to replenish your energy?” Now I have to admit that I lived the horrible drain of day-in-and-day-out exhaustion. Thankfully, I caught myself in the early stages. Even with that, I did not rebound overnight. It took me a while to recover.
Lawyers Take Burnout Seriously
Burnout can cost your mental, physical and emotional health. You can lose your love of your profession; simply tolerate your family and you will even lose the joy of living. You cannot continue in burnout mode without suffering consequences. I can tell you this firsthand.
When lawyers make personal time, it goes a long way to managing stress. To maintain a successful legal career with longevity, find time for a personal life. Statistics tell us that one out of four lawyers suffer with depression, anxiety, alcoholism or other mental challenges.
It is imperative to find your own personal balance. We are all different and we have to learn our own body clock. You must manage stress levels. Keep an eye on long days and balance your life-long commitment to your profession.
8 Critical Actions to Avoid Burnout
1. Avoid working in 10–14 hour days
Everyone has times they need to put in a long day. However, when law firms and solicitors regularly push themselves to work too hard, you lose your effectiveness. Your mental and physical health suffers.
2. Organize your work for the following day, before you leave the office.
Organize and prioritize your day before you depart from the office the night before. Do not let your work hit you in the face as you walk into work in the morning. You usually never recover from the chaos.
3. Let go of your obsessiveness about perfection.
Perfectionism begins in law school. If you don’t manage this obsession, it will grow and increase. You can get lost between demanding clients, financial pressures, and billable hours. Each day you face the tall order to be a good lawyer
4. Take breaks throughout the day.
Take breaks, stand up and stretch. Move around get fresh air; drink water, and healthy snacks. Take a stretch and water break every ninety minutes. Taking breaks increases your ability to focus.
5. Make time for yourself and things you enjoy.
Find something you enjoy. Make time to read, go to the movies, and walk in nature. Others like activities such as tennis, jogging or Yoga. Make a date on your calendar as if it were a doctor’s appointment.
6. Exercise: Keep your body moving.
Going for a walk is something everyone can do. Find a walking buddy or if you run, a running mate and make appointments or a schedule together.
7. Stay Ahead of Your Billable Hours
Stress only increases if you fall behind on your billable hours. Many Associates tend to under-bill because they feel they took too long to complete a task. Bill the time that you worked. Also be meticulous and keep track of your time.
8. Get at least 7 hours sleep
Sleep goes a long way in allowing your mind to be sharp and efficient. You want to be competitive and stay ahead of the game. Lack of sleep results in your mind being dull. You can be sluggish like you are trying to move through molasses.
Lawyers you want to salute yourself. You have worked hard to become part of a profession that makes a huge difference in our society. My favorite saying is, “Practicing law is not a sprint. It is a triathlon.”
Lawyers you are athletes for the law. Take care of your mental, physical and emotional health like any high-performing athlete
Many law firms find that abandoning the silos helps. Creating pods within their practice groups solves many problems.
Smart lawyers/solicitors and law firms always have a support team. Savvy lawyers know they need help them withstand overwhelming obstacles in their career.
Find a coach, counselors; consultants and even a trusted colleague to help you stay on track. As a coach and strategist, I sat down with my coach to assess the changes I needed to make.
I regained my joy, enthusiasm and effectiveness. It took me time to catch up on needed sleep little by little.