Attorneys often share certain traits, both by training and inclination. Competitiveness is perhaps the most known and celebrated. Most are also skilled at catastrophizing, to anticipate and avoid the worst outcome in a given situation. Lawyers look for and attack weaknesses. To be as persuasive as possible, attorneys must present themselves as experts on a variety of topics.
These traits make for good lawyers. They aren’t exactly needed at a wedding reception, however.
So how does an attorney “shut it off”? Is it possible to keep the lawyer at work? Here are a couple of tricks for separating your work life from your personal life. (If your first thought on reading that sentence was “what personal life?” read this. Then come back).
You can certainly take pride in your profession. It is important that you are more than a lawyer, however. You can define yourself by your family, a hobby, friends, anything. Just so long as you view yourself as more than what you do for work.
Obviously, the balance will shift from time-to-time. An upcoming trial may consume your life, as just one example. But those shifts can, and should, be temporary.
People are creatures of habit. We can exploit that by creating a ritual to start and end the workday or shift mindsets. Maybe it’s as simple as creating a to-do list for tomorrow so you feel like you can set work aside. Maybe it’s listening to a podcast that isn’t about the law during your commute. Maybe it’s setting time aside for a nightly family dinner. Little rituals can help us to focus on the next task and leave the old one behind.
Practicing getting out of a work mindset is important. It is entirely justified to set aside time for healthy physical and social activities. It’s not doing a disservice to clients or putting yourself behind. Over the long run it will help.
While long hours come with being an attorney, there can still be times you set aside for yourself. For example, one study found that a “workaholic” mindset was a greater contributor to negative health consequences than merely working long hours. Unfortunately, the ABA’s National Task Force on Well-Being found that 25% of lawyers are workaholics.
Being at your best requires cultivating healthy habits, which includes finding time to de-stress and not think about work. Being able to shut off your inner lawyer is a part of that.