Working Less Is More Productive

Most of us are familiar with the importance of time management and possibly have taken a couple of helpful courses on the subject. After all, lawyers are working longer and longer hours making them more susceptible to burnout. The problem is, no matter how well one manages time, it is a finite resource (anyone out there who has discovered how to have 25 hours in a day please share!). Energy, on the other hand, can be expanded and replenished. Burnout is when the demands on you outweigh your available resources, so anything that expands your internal resources can be helpful. How can that be done, you ask? Well, join me in the next paragraph to find out.

Simply put, one answer is to incorporate “micro-breaks” - small replenishing practices, throughout your day, every day. They can be simple and free or inexpensive. Examples include: 

  • looking away from your screen and out the window for 30 seconds (while doing that, you can also identify a few things that you see and hear.)
  • listening to music
  • standing up and stretching
  • making your favourite hot beverage
  • walking outside (and using the stairs to get there)
  • connecting with a colleague

Small breaks help us mindfully upkeep our well-being throughout the day and encourage long-lasting changes. The emphasis is on repetition so it’s important to come up with a prompt or trigger to make these behaviours routine. One way to do that is to set regular reminders on your phone.

Micro-self care is often a one person activity so here’s another recommendation to bolster your well-being plan. As corporations have boards of directors to guide important decisions, you can enlist a group of trusted individuals to be on your “well-being board.” This group is invested in your best interests and each person can have a different skill set to offer. Some may provide their presence when you solely need to vent, while others could be better problem solvers. Some are lawyers and others are outside the law. Having folks who are not lawyers is important since your law colleagues may have unhealthy views on what is “normal” based on the culture in which they are ensconced. 

Another suggestion is to keep track of your personal and professional energy replenishers and depleters. In other words, identify the roles, tasks, activities and relationships that positively or negatively impact your energy. For example, while reviewing your calendar at the beginning of a work day you notice there is a meeting with a client who tends to leave you drained at its conclusion. Therefore, it’s a good idea to identify something you can do to replenish yourself after the meeting. It could be one of those “micro-break” activities you identified earlier. Also, if possible (your schedule can often be out of your control), avoid scheduling two energy draining events back to back. You can proactively schedule energy replenishers as well and not just as a reaction to an energy-draining event.

So, remember to take the “less is more” approach to work, take breaks and schedule energy replenishers throughout your day. You will feel better and be more productive.

Michael Kahn
Michael Kahn, M.Ed.,JD joined LAPBC in 2019.