According to a 2016 study conducted by the Journal of Addiction Medicine, a significant number of attorneys struggle with depression, anxiety, and problem drinking – and these issues are often paired with long hours in the office, heavy caseloads, and a lack of work-life balance. In fact, almost one out of three lawyers showed signs of depression, while one in five showed signs of anxiety.
While it does take hard work and commitment to be a successful attorney, it should never hurt your health, your mental well-being, or your personal relationships. But how do you protect yourself from burnout, mental health issues, and even addiction when your clients need your skills – often in ways that can significant change or affect their lives?
While the above problems need to be dealt with in serious manners involving professionals, there are steps that attorneys can take to prevent these issues from developing in the first place. For example, having a healthy morning routine, both before and after your arrive at the office, can be key to stopping burnout before it starts.
Below, we’ve shared productivity and happiness tips that can help attorneys start their morning, collected directly from attorneys.
7 Tips For Attorneys Starting The Day
- Block some quiet time. For many attorneys, it can seem counterintuitive to take time in the morning to do nothing. But in fact, studies have shown that taking just a few minutes to quiet your mind can lower your levels of stress for the entire day and improve your health over the long term. It can also boost your productivity later in the day. Quiet time can take many forms: meditation, exercise, yoga, or simply getting ready for your day without checking your phone for calls or emails. Try to get your quiet time in outside of the office, whether it’s at home, at the gym, or at a nearby park.
- Log your time. For many attorneys, time is literally money, and billing for your hours is vital not only to your job, but also to your peace of mind. At the beginning of the day, make sure that all of your time from the day before has been logged and that unlogged hours are not hanging in the back of your mind. Have a solid strategy for tracking your time and make sure that you use it so that you can increase your mental clarity.
- Tackle that one very unpleasant task. Did you know that even small and relatively unimportant unpleasant tasks can weigh you down mentally and drain you before your day has even started? Even though your first thought might be to put off the task, taking it on head first as soon as you get to the office can energize you and take away the feeling of dread that otherwise might follow you through your day. The task might be as simple as scheduling a meeting, returning a call to a difficult client, or even scheduling a dentist appointment. Or the task might be larger and require a few hours of concentrated work – which brings us to our next tip…
- Take time to engage in deep work. One of the biggest problems facing attorneys is that they have two major types of work: small tasks like answering emails and talking to clients, and bigger tasks, such as writing legal documents and preparing for court dates. It is absolutely imperative that you can focus deeply during your big tasks and that you get your big tasks done when you are most alert. Try scheduling a 2-hour block of time each morning to really dive into a task. Turn off your computer and phone notifications, close your email, and only take important calls. Not only will engaging in deep work help you relax your mind, it will also take the biggest, most worrisome tasks off of your to-do list.
- Review your to-dos and to-dones. First thing in the morning is an excellent time to review your to-do list from the day before and see what was accomplished and what was left behind. Transfer tasks that were not finished onto your new day’s list and organize it in the way that works best for you, such as by case or by how long the task will take. Consider using a to-do app that will help you group your tasks and see your accomplishments, such as Evernote and Things.
- Start your day at a whiteboard. While electronic apps can be helpful, some attorneys thrive with a large visual that they can see when they glance up from their desk. Consider writing out a running list of cases and upcoming deadlines that illustrates your work timeline for the next several weeks or months. On the other side, you can even include the above to-do list as well as a time frame for getting each task done that day.
- Check your email in bursts. One of the biggest drains on productivity in the technology age is instant notifications: having emails, texts, and phone calls taking your attention away from the task at hand, minute after minute. While these notifications can be useful in emergency situations, they can sink the chance of getting longer projects completed that require deep work. Instead of switching your mind’s gears each time your phone buzzes, only check your email and phone in bursts – and limit how much time you devote to answering your emails.
Generally, mornings should be times of organization, concentration, and execution. Save the busy afternoons for scheduled meetings, calls, and issues that come up that need immediate attention.
Of course, it is also important to know yourself: if you are a night owl, that may be the best time to schedule your periods of deep work and planning, and mornings may be a better time for colleague interactions and lighter tasks.
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