Rethinking the 9-5

I’ve been thinking a lot about how unfortunate it is that we still live in a world where the eight-hour workday is the norm. For lawyers, it’s often much longer than that due to the impossibility of billing for eight hours straight. We spend so much time in an office and at our computers and so little time really living our lives. 

My day used to look like a commute to an office, staying at the office for eight hours with a lunch break often at my desk, and then driving home. I left so little time to take care of myself or my relationships and even less time to participate in activities I love like going to the beach, going for walks, or just doing things outside of the office. 

Now, in my own practice, I’ve redesigned my day to align with my lifestyle and my values. I wake up when I am rested and ready to take on the day, not in a rush. I eat breakfast and read something completely unrelated to law. I log on to my computer and work for a couple hours, frontloading the tasks that require the most mental strength. I’ll take a mid-day hiatus and go to the gym or for a walk or to the beach. I’ll do something in the middle of the day that completely takes me away from my computer and the to-do list. Afterwards, I come back and work for a few more hours or I take my computer to a coffee shop or somewhere different to work. 

The biggest hurdle to creating this new work life was me. After 12 years as a practicing lawyer, I feel pressure to always be available. To always be at my computer and billing. It feels like if I am not immediately responding to a client, I’m failing at my job. There is so much tied into my self esteem that is completely unrelated to who I am as a person and as a lawyer, mediator, or coach. 

At some point, I recognized that pressure to be available and billing all day was leading to significant stress. I was sacrificing myself and my wellbeing in order to please clients and colleagues. I wasn’t putting myself, my goals, or my values, first as I always preach to my coaching clients. So, I stopped. I started telling myself that I was in control of my life and could design my days any way that worked for me. It requires me to literally affirm every time I do something different that “I am in control and prioritize myself”.

I know it’s hard and contrary to the norms of the profession. A lot of us are perfectionists and people pleasers. But, you can do it. You can design your life in a way that works for you, brings you joy, and makes you more productive. If you need help, I’m here for you. It’ll be worth it.