Bar News - May 18, 2012
President's Perspective: Finding the Right Balance – Recharging Your Batteries
By: Jennifer L. Parent
We hear so much about work-life balance. Hundreds if not thousands of articles have been written on the subject. But is it achievable? In a demanding profession such as the law, what constitutes balance?
An NHBA Work-Life Balance Task Force developed these Canons, adopted by the NHBA in November 2006, as aspirational guidelines to assist NH lawyers and judges, both in supervisory or subordinate capacities, in achieving their personal and professional goals.
Read the text of the canons.
Assume Responsibility for Individual Priorities.
Set Priorities and Communicate Them.
Respect Personal Needs.
Prevent Undue Burdens.
Promote Collegial Professional Relationships.
Protect Health and Well-Being.
We live in a 24/7 world with constant demands on our time. Technology has us connected at all hours of the day. Outside factors such as the economy are also putting pressures on our practices and our personal lives. The American Bar Association has reported that the obstacle to a balanced life is the number of hours we work as lawyers. We work long hours on client matters both in the office and at home. Added to this are our volunteer commitments that take up time during the day or evening hours. The ebbs and flows of our schedules create another challenge.
Over the years, the NH Bar Association has provided several articles and seminars on this topic. In November 2006, the Board of Governors approved a work-life balance creed with six canons. This year, one of the projects from the Leadership Academy is on work-life balance. The website (worklifenh.com) provides our members with resources on health/wellness, financial/debt management, and scheduling strategies.
When considering what constitutes "balance," I am reminded that something cannot run forever without recharging. In our technology world, we recharge our smartphones, tablets, and laptops as their batteries do not run indefinitely. Lawyers are no different. Do you take the needed time to recharge yourself? Gadgets tell us when their batteries are low. There is a red blinking light or the battery icon shows up as almost empty. Until they make an app for lawyers, we do not have a blinking light to alert us to our own depleted energy level. We must determine when our batteries need recharging. It is up to each of us to recognize when it is time.
How much time we need for ourselves outside of work to achieve balance is an individual question. Many factors impact such a decision, including family time, time with friends, and time for ourselves. We need to be honest with ourselves when determining what we need to recharge our batteries because the temptation is to underestimate.
Instead of using the term work-life balance, let us use the word "outlet." I do not see myself as very good at work-life balance, but when I think about what constitutes balance in my life, I think about what it is that I do to recharge my batteries. What are the best ways for you to unwind and relieve the pressures of being a lawyer? To reset.
An outlet is personal to you. What works for you may vary due to time constraints and availability. An outlet activity may be something done daily, once a week, or once a year and offers different levels of energy or charge.
An outlet can be cooking a meal to music, watering your garden, or reading a book. It can be talking on the telephone to a friend you have not seen in a while. Or watching your child’s sporting event or dance or music recital. It can be dinner with the family at the kitchen table or other family time. It can be getting to the gym for exercise or hiking or biking outdoors. Some people in my office fly-fish, sail, or train for marathons. Each activity is unique to the individual, varies in the time required, and promotes a better outlook. Those who do not have an outlet for the stress of our profession burn out.
I have discovered that I have several different outlets that I use to recharge depending on my time. One such outlet during the summer is taking a walk on the beach at the end of a long day. The warm sand between my toes and the salt water lapping at my feet allows me to unwind. In complete juxtaposition, the crashing waves upon the shore offer a tranquil calm to the day. Even though work is waiting for me later that evening, this is an outlet that allows me to reset and start anew. On those days when a walk on the beach is not possible, I substitute something else –going to the gym, grilling on the BBQ on weekends, or reading a chapter in a book before turning the lights off for sleep.
Resetting or recharging our batteries through outlets is in everyone’s best interests. It improves our productivity, makes us better persons for our family and friends and better lawyers for our clients, and allows us to achieve and maintain a healthy balance. I encourage you to take an inventory on what you need to recharge. Know when you need an outlet to reset and take the time to do it.
|Jennifer L. Parent
Jennifer L. Parent is President of the New Hampshire Bar Association for the 2011-2012 year. She practices with the McLane, Graf, Raulerson & Middleton law firm.