Is it really possible to change your work habits?
Absolutely! The new year offers each of us the chance to make changes. Not by setting lofty goals, but by committing to small adjustments that can make a big difference in attitude, health, and resilience.
Cut your work hours
Several years ago I reported on a study from the Annals of Internal Medicine that found people “who work an average of 11 or more hours per day have a 67 percent higher risk of suffering a heart attack or dying from heart disease than people who work a standard seven- to eight-hour day. Those who work between 10 and 11 hours per day have a 45 percent higher risk.”
Your micro goal: Commit to a 9 hour (or less) work day. The occasional exception is fine, just don’t backslide.
Stand, move, stretch
Sitting in your chair for hours on end shouldn’t be the norm. Stand, move, stretch. Consider a treadmill or standing desk. Better yet, leave the office for a few minutes and walk around the block! Your joints and muscles will thank you.
Your micro goal: Move at least once an hour. Use a cheap timer, an app, recurring task reminders, or whatever it takes to remind yourself to get up. No one will care if you stretch during a deposition or walk to the back of the room during a CLE.
Find it hard to turn people away? You aren’t alone. I don’t really have a choice. I need the money. Family, friends, or former clients are depending on me. These are things we tell ourselves. Follow this advice to turn the tide.
Your micro goal: Say no at least once a month. As you gain confidence, don’t hesitate to say no whenever necessary.
Cull the herd
Too much to do and not enough time? Cull the herd.
- Review your current client list for matters you regret taking. If feasible, say goodbye to those clients.
- Farm out work or delegate to others in your firm. If you’re a solo/small firm practitioner, reach out to colleagues for referrals to a contract lawyer who can get you over the hump.
Your micro goal: Apply your newfound client/case criteria to future matters and screen out cases that aren’t a good match for you.
Protect your priorities
What do you want to get done? What are your priorities? When is the last time you even thought about what you wanted?
It’s easy to get pushed around by interruptions: phone calls, texts, emails, pop-in clients, or colleagues.
Your micro goal: Block out time on your calendar for work you want to get done. Treat this time as if it were a client appointment. (No interruptions allowed.) Stay off the Internet unless the task at hand involves being on the Internet. Give the matter your undivided attention.
Put your calendar first
If your calendar contains your personal and business commitments, including time blocks to get work done, let it determine the scheduling for all new promises.
Your micro goal: Check your calendar before promising completion of a time-related task. If there is no “deadline” per se, determine when you can reasonably fit the new project into your schedule. Add it to your calendar and back it up with a task reminder. You gain nothing by promising a quick turnaround if you can’t keep your word.
If you’re in a pickle – a deadline is approaching and you know you can’t meet it – the best approach is to face it head on. I know this can be hard. We assume clients or other lawyers will yell at us. The truth is, people are more understanding than we give them credit for. Everyone has been there. They get it.
Your micro goal: Renegotiate deadlines you can’t meet.
You can start over and you can make changes. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
All Rights Reserved Beverly Michaelis 2019