By Ms. JD Editor • August 09, 2021•Ms. JD, Writers in Residence, Issues, Balancing Private and Professional Life
Have you ever found yourself looking at the calendar, wondering where the time went? It feels like there are three days in the week, rather than seven. Every month I find myself saying something like, “There aren’t enough hours in the day!” or, “The weekend went by way too fast” (spoiler: I don’t think weekends will ever feel long enough). But twice a year, I’m genuinely shocked and befuddled that time literally jumped ship (here’s looking at you June and November). By the time we welcome June, half of the year has already gone by. June signals summer – we’ve emerged from allergy season, it gets darker later, and vacationing is at a peak. In the blink of an eye, it’s November and there’s a holiday or holiday party every other week. But not only that, there are end of year deadlines, exams, and preparations for the upcoming year. While you can’t slow or stop the clock, there are a few things you can do to make it feel like you have:
1. Plan It Out
“For every minute spent in organizing, an hour is earned.” – Benjamin Franklin
One of the biggest time sponges is disorganization. Plan your months, weeks, and days as far in advance as you can. Visualizing the layout of your month or week helps you see where you have available time and where you don’t. Organization is integral to success. Proper planning reduces stress and can you help you feel more in control. Sometimes obligations will come up at the last minute, but being organized will help you navigate and manage your time in a way that is most effective for you. Plan your work day and your personal time. While you’re planning out that report or presentation, it won’t hurt to factor in some time for self-care.
2. Make Time for Fun
Fun is subjective. Whether you’re spending time with friends and family, reading, bike riding, or axe throwing … do what’s fun for YOU. The most important thing to remember is that non-stressful activity is key (heavy emphasis on non-stressful).
3. Disconnect. Rest. Reset.
Disconnect and unplug for a little while. Put your phone on do-not-disturb (even if only for 20 minutes) and do absolutely nothing. Relax, rest, sleep. Also, take time to reset your mind.. Readjust your mental state by meditating or practicing another mindfulness activity. You can also use positive affirmations to guide and center yourself. There are so many tools for meditation and positive affirmations – from apps and podcasts to YouTube videos. Download it on your phone, or bookmark it, for easy access. Or maybe you found the perfect quote from a book or magazine – jot it down on a post-it note and put it in a prominent place.
4. Wake Up Earlier
If you already wake up at 5am, kudos to you. You can skip this section. For everyone else, keep reading. When I was in high school, I slept in every chance I could get. It didn’t get any better when I went to college. During breaks, I’d go to my parent’s house and sleep until 1:00 pm (I usually stayed up until 4am the “night before” doing nothing worthwhile). I’d wander downstairs to see the house completely empty… no breakfast, or lunch, waiting for me. Without fail, my parents would come home an hour later after having a full day. By 2pm, my parents had: (1) gone to the gym, (2) had breakfast, (3) gone shopping, and (4) had lunch. Meanwhile, I still had line marks on my face from the pillow and I’d only managed to wipe the drool from my face. It’s no secret that you’ll have more hours in the day if you wake up at 10:00 am instead of noon. Try starting off small - set a goal to wake up one hour earlier. If that seems impossible, try 30 minutes and gradually increase the time over several weeks. Don’t stress yourself out though, just make a deliberate effort to wake up a bit earlier than the day or week before.
5. Just Say No
One of the hardest things to do is to say “no.” Too often, we find ourselves overworked and stressed out because we have taken on more responsibility than we can often handle. We keep saying yes to hanging or saying yes to taking on another project. It’s ok to say “no.” Say no to hanging out with friends if you really want to stay in. Be honest with yourself and your supervisor if you’re so swamped with work that taking on another project would send you into a tailspin. A recent study in PLoS ONE found that mental health issues and alcohol use are exceedingly high among attorneys and that women in the legal profession experience more mental health distress than men. I cannot stress this enough: set boundaries and prioritize your mental health! If you’re not sure where to start, the American Bar Association has an extensive list of mental health resources. You can also reach out to your local bar association for assistance.
It's not too late to maximize the next five to six months. Start small and make today your “Day One.”
Anker J. & Krill P.R. (2021). Stress, drink, leave: An examination of gender-specific risk factors for mental health problems and attrition among licensed attorneys. PLoS ONE 16(5): e0250563. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal. pone.0250563