Later this week, I’ll be talking with articling students in the Law Society of Manitoba’s CPLED program as part of their practice management curriculum. My assigned topic is stress management, and includes the sub-topic of work/life balance.
I’m certainly no expert on work/life balance though I do write about it from time to time and practice it daily. In fact, I struggle constantly with keeping some sort of balance to my own life. As a part-time freelance lawyer, frequent volunteer and full-time mother, I know what it is to juggle conflicting priorities, responsibilities and obligations while trying to do it all in way that demonstrates some degree of competence.
I’ve heard countless presentations on the subject and have read even more. My key takeaways on the subject are these:
- Not every task I take on needs to be completed to a standard of perfection. In fact most of the time, good enough is good enough.
- Time needs to be allotted every day to keep my body functioning effectively. This, for me, means setting aside time to get outdoors and walk. Happily, my dogs are always ready to join me. It also means taking a break for a snack or a meal before my blood sugar levels get so low I can’t think clearly.
- Vacations are not optional and ideally, the next one should always be planned before the current one ends. Whether spent at home or abroad, these breaks are necessary for my mental health.
- When I take a break from work, whether on the weekend or on vacation, it needs to be a genuine break. It won’t be nearly so effective or rejuvenating if I remain tied to my work.
- Structure your life so you have time to say yes to the things you want to say yes to. If you relish the work you are doing, whether for your self, for you family, for your community or for your clients, you will be able to more easily maintain a feeling of balance.
- Conversely, when no feels like the right answer, listen to your gut and say it as boldly as you’re able. I’ve learned this the hard way.
- Accept that you cannot control every aspect of your schedule. Keep a firm grip on what you can control and come to peace with those commitments and obligations that are out of your hands and in someone else’s.
- If having more control of your schedule is important to you, you need to understand that it may come with tradeoffs, including less long-term certainty and reduced income.
- Make time for your friends and family as often as possible and when you do, give them at least the same level of focus you give to your paid work. Relationships are essential to a balanced life and need regular “feeding and watering” to thrive.
What would you tell articling students about managing stress and maintaining balance in their lives?