By Paula Davis-Laack • September 29, 2011•Writers in Residence
Wake up after too little sleep, think about exercising, hit the snooze button, drag yourself out of bed, wake up the kids for school, start the coffee, take a shower, wake up the kids again, make breakfast, pack lunches, read email, quickly kiss your significant other goodbye, answer emails and deal with the first crisis of the day on your way to the office, get to the office and realize you’re not going to have the day you thought you would, answer emails from clients who want their documents today, not tomorrow, draft documents, prepare for trial, make a mad dash to a local restaurant and buy some lunch, rush back to your desk, eat quickly while working, spend several hours on the phone talking to clients and opposing counsel negotiating documents, talk to your significant other because one of your kids has become sick and has to go home, answer more email, drink more caffeine to keep going, attend post-work client development event, eat something at the event, head home, put the kids to bed to bed, relax for ten minutes, significant other wants some “alone time…” WHAT?
Sound familiar? This is the life that many busy attorneys lead today. Is this balance? I’m not sure, but isn’t this what our culture tells us success looks like?
Regardless of the picture our media and culture paints, balance is all about maintaining your personal resources – that blend of physical, psychological, emotional, social, and other domains that keep you going and functioning in peak condition. Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz call you “corporate athletes,” and define balance as being fully engaged in work and life (Loehr & Schwartz, 2003). In order for athletes to function at peak condition, they need rest, proper nutrition, exercise, and coaching. Athletes spend 90% of their time training and 10% of their time performing; as busy attorneys, you do exactly the opposite.
According to research by Dr. Edy Greenblatt, many people think of work as depleting and non-work as restoring. In order to achieve balance under that model, you would either have to quit work or work as little as possible. Not exactly an option for most people. Rather, Dr. Greenblatt suggests you put work and non-work on one axis and what restores you and what depletes you on the other axis. The key is to identify what restores you and depletes you both at work and non-work, then do more of what restores you (Greenblatt, 2009).
Balance also implies that there is some end point, and as high-achieving individuals, you likely fight to find that elusive sweet spot; some days you’ll be close; other days, on another planet and that’s because balance is fluid. Balance is also self-defined. What works for you and your family may not work for other people, and that’s OK!
Instead of wondering whether you have balance or not, look at all the facets of your life and ask how you are performing. Are you fully engaged? Are you physically energized, emotionally connected, mentally focused, and connected to something significant in your life? If the answer to any of these components is no, one of your “muscles” likely needs to be developed. Do you want more confidence? More focus? Are you connected with friends? How frequently do you work out? What kind of foods do you eat? What do you value?
In order to more fully explore what barriers might exist that would prevent you from performing at your best in work and life, I’ve developed the Personal Performance Barriers Inventory. It includes several questions to help you reflect on your results. If you would like a copy, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
You have many things competing for your time and energy. I agree with Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz’s take on balance: “Full engagement begins with feeling eager to get to work in the morning, equally happy to return home in the evening and capable of setting clear boundaries between the two.”
Greenblatt, E. (2009). Restore Yourself: The Antidote for Professional Exhaustion. Los Angeles, CA. Execu-Care Press.
Loehr, J., & Schwartz, T. (2003). The Power of Full Engagement. New York: Free Press.