The resounding answer to the ever-important question of how to balance your career and your personal life is: do what is right for you in your life. Which means that anyone claiming your personal and work-life should be split 50/50 is oversimplifying the answer and expecting what is, in actuality, completely unattainable.
What “Work-Life Balance” Actually Means
Though it usually denotes the idea of the different aspects of our lives being divided equally, the term balance, when referring to work-life stability, demands a personalized definition. No one can equally divide every minute of every day between spouses, children, work, friends, exercise, faith, or even hobbies, much less any other commitment in our busy lives.
In reality, true balance is about finding fulfillment in everything you do, especially in your career and in your lifestyle. For attorneys, in particular, this balance can be hard to find even when doing the work you love. Most lawyers bill 40-50 hours per week, even if they’re really working closer to 60-70 hours, leaving minimal time for being with loved ones, self-care, or other activities.
How You Might be Getting in Your Own Way
Though it was called a “trend” at first, the shift from in-office jobs has proven to be much more than that. The importance of a good work-life balance is on everyone’s list of priorities, which has been made clear in the number of industries that are moving toward flexibility and alternative schedules for employees. But finding fulfillment isn’t as simple as swapping careers for a new nine-to-five, at-home job.
Studies have shown that attorneys are often more susceptible to an unsatisfactory work-life balance than people who have chosen other career paths (such as doctors, nurses, child-care workers, and other demanding jobs). One theory put forth by the Harvard Business Review is, in general, people “log too many hours because of a mix of inner drivers, like ambition, …anxiety, guilt, enjoyment, pride, the pull of short-term rewards, a desire to prove we’re important, or an overdeveloped sense of duty.” The nature of a lawyer’s job and the method of traditional law firms commonly contribute to these inner drivers. Navigating the high demands for billable hours, tricky office politics, and the weight of legal work, in combination with a lack of self-care eventually takes its toll on everyone.
As mentioned before, a huge aspect of finding fulfillment is doing what’s right for you in your life, but the reality of doing what you love and doing what is right for you regularly get lost in translation. Despite doing the work you love, it can get to a point where you feel burned out, often without even noticing the transition from excitement to monotony. That’s where working for a company that embraces a healthy work-life balance and supports efficiency is just as important as pursuing a career you love.
Choose to be the Solution
At the center of what we all seek when searching for work-life balance is our core belief that there has to be a better way. When our actions reflect our values, that’s where we find the most lasting fulfillment, but oftentimes our values in life compete with our values at work. A solution that more forward-thinking law firms, like Practus, are embracing is finding ways to encourage and enable their employees to do the legal work they love while also being as efficient as possible while doing it. This philosophy creates time and flexibility for their employees to pursue their personal interests.
By eliminating certain inefficiencies, like too much time spent on administrative tasks, client acquisition, hourly business requirements, and the typical office meetings and politics, a lawyer’s hours are spent more productively, and in turn, he or she is able to gain more hours in their day for personal time.
Balance goes beyond being able to shut off your work computer and separate from other electronics at the end of the day. Balance has a tight-knit relationship with fulfillment. In work-life balance, there can’t be one without the other. Fulfillment impacts work, work impacts fulfillment and the same can be said for lifestyle. But without fulfillment, there is no balance between the different areas of career and life.