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See below a Lawyer’s Guide to dealing with Stress and Burnout.
Stress Management For Lawyers
By Andrew J. Dunbar. He is an associate at Sidley Austin in Los Angeles, and focuses on SEC enforcement, white-collar defense, and accountants’ liability.
Legal work is stressful by nature, but you can minimize the tensions that come with a busy practice.
All attorneys have felt overwhelmed at one time or another in their careers. Whether it arises from the complex nature of a project, the sheer amount of work, competing demands of clients (each with “urgent” needs), or the tension between pending deadlines and family life, work-related stress can hit like a rogue wave.
But good time management skills can help relieve much of that pressure. And with clients clamoring to contain costs, time management is essential for obtaining the best results while maximizing efficiency. Fortunately, time management is an acquired skill that anyone can learn with a little practice and dedication (as well as some trial and error to discover what works best for you). Here are five helpful techniques:
Distractions are embedded in the nature of legal work, so the best you can do is contain them. Even small distractions will disrupt a project as they immediately take away your focus and attention, requiring you to reengage once the distraction is gone. And depending on the perceived urgency of the distraction, that can be difficult. For example, the email alert that automatically pops up on your screen and beeps (or vibrates) for every new message is a major culprit. Those alerts may seem like a minor annoyance, but such repeated distractions can seriously impede your progress on a major project. Turn this function off-or at least mute the volume on the beep-to increase your productivity.
Eliminate Time Wasters
Time wasters are nonproductive tasks or habits that we allow to take away from our productive time-and often they consume much more time than you’d imagine. Surfing the Internet is a major time waster: Just one innocuous click on a news story can lead to many more clicks through many other sites. Such activities are not inherently bad-indeed, they often provide needed mental breaks and relaxation. However, it is important to recognize this meandering for what it is and apply appropriate discipline. For example, during productive hours set self-defined time limits for browsing the Web. Otherwise, valuable minutes will continue to slip away.
Break Down Big Projects
No one can run a marathon without taking that first step-and the key is to determine the proper starting point. Major projects become much more manageable when they’re broken into specific tasks. Once that occurs, a detailed road map will emerge and clear steps will guide your project to completion.
Keep Meetings Focused
Whether meetings are formal or informal, in person or over the phone, without structure they often devolve into inefficiency. Request meetings only when necessary. And no matter how big or small the gathering, ensure that there is a defined agenda with stated goals and an estimated duration. Keep the participants focused, and stay on course.
Planning your day is one of the best time management techniques you can adopt, and it delivers the biggest payoff. If you spend just 10 or 15 minutes in the morning (or even the night before) planning and prioritizing your work for the day, you can limit, if not eliminate, the inevitable shuffling between assignments that kills a lot of time. Planning also gives you a chance to prioritize tasks that have the greatest potential to benefit your career in the long term. It ensures that you’ll devote time to the highest-value projects and forces you to act on the most daunting tasks-the very ones that have eluded completion because you’ve directed no effort at their completion.
Of course, it’s important to remain flexible. The nature of legal work includes unexpected projects and demands. However, with a daily plan in place, these will be easier to address. And once they are taken care of, your prioritized action plan will enable you to immediately shift your concerted effort to the next important task.