Why Time Management Matters to Lawyers
This article was based on topics found in “Time Management and Productivity Methods for Attorneys” by Anne-Marie Rábago
On its surface, the lawyer lifestyle may not seem naturally conducive to a healthy work-life balance. Adding a little structure will make time work for you. It all starts with how you manage it.
It’s true, poor time management can lead to mental health issues including:
- Mood swings
- Sleep issues
These health concerns impact the personal and professional lives of lawyers across the nation and throughout the world, and it makes sense. If work is piling up, it can feel like there’s no way out.
This is where lawyer productivity comes into play. By implementing a time management method into your daily workflow, you can overcome these obstacles.
We’ve already highlighted four excellent time management methods for lawyers in our previous blog. Today we would like to focus on the mental health benefits that come from managing your time and streamlining your work.
No matter where you find yourself in your legal career, it’s in your best interest to create a healthy habit of time management.
A Proven Way to Combat Burnout
It may come as no surprise that lawyers demonstrate high instances of burnout. According to a 2022 Bloomberg Law survey, 52% of attorneys felt burnout in their jobs. Additionally, 70% of attorneys surveyed who reported a decline in well-being also experienced burnout.
Burnout is particularly noticeable among solo practitioners who tend to fall into a scarcity mentality. The anxiety of wondering when your phone will ring next or when a new client will walk through the door can have catastrophic consequences. This mentality may lead you to say yes to everyone who contacts you, which will result in work overload.
Overwhelming amounts of work may seem like an impossible mountain to climb, but time management methods can help you chip away at your workload all while creating positive, lifelong habits.
When you break down your tasks into more manageable pieces, you’ll be able to complete them without feeling overwhelmed. In the long run, this habit will extinguish the lingering embers of burnout.
Once your work is under control, you can move forward with a better understanding of the healthiest amount of work you can take on. This is an excellent opportunity to gauge limits and set boundaries for yourself.
Remember, it’s better to dedicate all your mental fortitude to fewer tasks or clients instead of spreading yourself too thin trying to please everyone. We’re only human, after all.
Manage Your Daily Workflow and Streamline Your Practice
One of the most common causes of burnout, stress, and anxiety among lawyers is a lack of control. Whether you’re a solo practitioner or part of a firm, it can be difficult to manage expectations and complete all the day’s work without losing steam.
Instead of tackling your daily tasks at random, organize your work first thing in the morning. Set realistic expectations for yourself, and try not to spread yourself too thin.
To further improve your daily workflow, consider the following:
- Work on completing the hardest tasks first
- Say no to multitasking
- Use apps and tools to manage your workflow
- Stay organized
- Take breaks
- Ask for help
Get a Serotonin Boost When You Finish a Task
You know that feeling you get when you finally complete a task that’s been hanging over you for weeks? Feels great, doesn’t it? You can thank serotonin for that euphoric feeling of happiness.
This naturally occurring hormone affects many bodily functions including memory, sleep, and digestion. Simply put, serotonin helps you to be productive and positive all at once.
While high serotonin levels can account for an overall positive mood, low levels of the hormone can result in feelings of anxiety, depression, and irritability.
As work becomes more difficult and tasks begin to pile up, achieving and maintaining a positive mood can seem nearly impossible. If your mood has taken a hit, consider using a time management method.
One of the biggest benefits of time management is the serotonin boost you get from completing your tasks. By tracking and marking off the tasks you complete, your brain will thank you, and you’ll feel much more positive and energetic.
A great time management method to use for the maximum serotonin boost is Eat That Frog. Once you accomplish your biggest, most daunting task for the day, you’ll experience a serotonin boost, and the rest of the day will flow smoothly.
Other natural ways to improve your mood include:
- Light therapy/getting natural light
- Getting more sleep
- Eating bananas, oats, quinoa, oranges, blueberries, and other carb-rich foods
- Socializing with friends and family
Self-Care Translates to a Better Work-Life Balance
Time management is one of the best, easiest ways to practice self-care. Not only will you be able to visualize your daily tasks, but you’ll be able to build a schedule that works for you (not the other way around).
While the legal community tends to hold long hours and stressful cases as badges of honor, you need to put your mental health above any unfeasible goals.
Your world shouldn’t revolve around work. While it’s great to be devoted to working hard and achieving success for your clients, it’s necessary to maintain your health.
Achieving a work-life balance as a lawyer can seem difficult, especially if you’re just starting, but it is possible. Take a look at this article from Legal Support World for first-hand accounts from attorneys across the industry to learn more.
Know When to Ask for Help
If you’re experiencing overwhelming burnout, know you are not alone. It’s okay to ask for help.
Call or text the Texas Lawyers’ Assistance Program at 800-343-8527, 24 hours a day. Their assistance is strictly confidential.
To learn more about TLAP, check out their website.
To Make the Most of Your Time, Start Today
Finishing tasks and keeping your professional world in check may feel impossible, especially if your work is already piling up. The best way to dig yourself out from under all that work is by implementing a time management method and sticking to it.
There’s beauty to the simplicity of time management. By being proactive and making your time work for you, you’ll be able to get more work done all while maintaining your mental health. Now’s your chance to start!
For more insight into achieving and maintaining a healthier lawyer lifestyle, check out the following TexasBarCLE resources:
Otto Nicli is part of the State Bar's Web team and serves as the blog writer for the Texas Bar Practice website. He also plays a part in marketing and video production. In his free time, he enjoys watching Top Chef with his wife, collecting records, reading, and going to shows.