In this week’s edition of Things I Wish I Knew, New York solo lawyer Joleena Louis gives us an update on her ability to improve her work-life integration and create more personal time.
I was recently reminded of an article I wrote back in 2015 about how the concept of work life integration helped balance my work and personal life. I was commiserating with three other solo’s about our crazy caseloads and how we were all counting down the days until our next vacations.
My stress was mostly due to the three back to back trials I had going on, but some of my colleagues felt this overwhelm all the time. They felt like work was taking over their entire life. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
As solos, it’s almost impossible to keep our work and personal lives separate. So work-life integration is figuring out a way to combine them both without sacrificing one for the other.
After looking back at that article, I realized my approach has evolved since 2015. Here are a few things that have changed:
Since that article in 2015, I’ve become much more strict about boundaries.
I like to be accessible to my clients, but it’s very stressful to be available all the time. So now I only respond on evenings and weekends for emergencies or if we have pre-scheduled an after hours phone call or meeting.
So far this hasn’t been a huge problem. My clients now tend to plan ahead and they know I usually don’t respond to non-emergency texts until regular business hours.
Not feeling like I have to respond during my off time has been a big relief for me.
5/10/15 Minute Tasks
I keep a running list of things I can do in 5, 10, or 15 minutes. So when I’m on the subway, waiting between court cases, or generally waiting for anything, I know exactly what I can do to fill the time.
I get so much more done this way, especially those little things that would otherwise linger on my to do list forever.
Taking “Me” Time
At least once a month I block off a day that is all mine. No work, no friends, no family- just me.
Maybe it’s spending the day in bed watching Netflix. Or a day at the beach. Or a day at a museum. Whatever it is, it’s my time to unwind and recharge.
I find that after these days I’m less stressed and more energized. And it makes rough weeks better knowing I have that day to look forward to.
Batch Process like Items
Batching like items continues to be a fantastic way to keep my life in balance. I return phone calls, texts and emails (both business and personal) at set times every day so that I am not doing it all day. Even if I take a weekday off, it’s simpler to set aside an hour to respond to phone calls and emails instead of breaking up my day.
Mix Personal and Business Tasks.
As an introvert mingling with people can be very exhausting. So I like to maximize my social outings. Most of my friends are lawyers, so I try to attend CLE’s and networking events with them. Then we can go out and catch up over drinks afterward.
I also find it very rewarding to mix networking with activities I enjoy. I’m a huge fan of meetup.com and I try to find meetups that combine activities I enjoy with the type of people I want to meet.
Also, when I run personal errands I try to combine it with business tasks. If I have a doctor’s appointment, I’ll reach out to a referral source whose office is nearby to meet for coffee. Two things accomplished in one trip.
Keep your Business Mobile
One of the best aspects of my practice is mobility. By keeping a paperless office, I can work from almost anywhere. This was extremely helpful this year during my many visits to Ohio to help care for my mom while she was going through her breast cancer treatments. I was there for her and kept my practice running smoothly since I could get my work done remotely.
One of the greatest benefits of being a solo is having control over our schedule. That control along with integrating work and personal life makes it easier to create a healthy, balanced life overall.