No one becomes a lawyer expecting to have every weekend free and to never work past 5 p.m.
But it can still be jarring when you look at the calendar and realize it’s been weeks since you spent quality time with anyone aside from your supervising partner, your legal assistant, or your cat.
And here’s the thing: It’s not just jarring, it’s bad for your career.
Although we’re constantly worried about the next deadline and might be working more than 70 hours a week, lawyers perform better when we enjoy our leisure time outside of the office. The challenge, of course, is figuring out how to prioritize social activities when the temptation to spend any free time napping (or, let’s face it: working more) is strong.
Here are six ways to keep yourself from becoming a hermit as a leisure-starved lawyer.
1. Take Gym Classes
Gym classes allow you to cross two items off your to-do list at once by getting exercise and being social at the same time. As with any workout, you’ll feel energized and refreshed afterward, but with the added bonus of getting to chat with your instructor and classmates after class. Plus, it’s never been a better time to be a gym rat; most gyms offer classes around the clock that can even fit into lawyers’ schedules. Find one that works for you – whether it’s yoga, HIIT, spin or something else – and commit to going every week.
2. Sign up for Something
Take a weekly ceramics class, sign up for a recreational sports team, or join a monthly book club – scheduled events like these save you the time and effort of having to find something to do, and allow you to plan your work around them instead of vice versa. Having a recurring block of time on your calendar to do something fun will give you something to look forward to, as well, which can help boost your mood when you’re in the thick of a seemingly never-ending work week.
3. Be an Object in Motion
It’s probably been a while since you had to take a science class, but Newton’s First Law can apply to lawyers, too: Objects in motion stay in motion. What that means for overworked lawyers is that when it comes to being social when you’d probably rather curl up on the couch, momentum is everything. If you signed up for a class or made plans with a friend, resist the urge to go home and nap or “regroup” first. Slowing down will make it infinitely harder to kick back into gear, and you’ll be tempted to cancel your plans.
4. Keep Your Non-Lawyer Friends Close
When you’re spending most of your time at work, it can be easy to spend most of your time outside of work with your colleagues, as well. After all, they understand the pressures placed on you by the firm and will get it when you vent about a senior partner. Friends at the firm are great, but it’s also important to keep your friendships with non-lawyer friends strong. They’ll bring balance and perspective to your life while reminding you that there’s a world out there beyond your office.
5. Team Up for Your Commute
It obviously won’t work for every lawyer, but if you can commute to work with a friend who lives nearby and works near your office, try it. When you’re as pressed for free time as most of us are, it’s great to be able to accomplish two things at once (just like with taking gym classes, above), and turning your commute into an opportunity to catch up with a friend is a great way to do so. If you live in a city, consider walking or taking public transportation together. If you’re in a suburb, you can take turns driving and dropping each other off or parking at a location accessible to you both.
6. Don’t Limit Fun to Weekends
We know what you’re thinking: Work days are for work and weekends are for work … with a little time for fun factored in. The happiest and most fulfilled lawyers don’t look at it that way, though. Instead, they find balance even during the week. We recognize that free time is particularly short during weekdays, but it will benefit you to squeeze in some leisure time before Friday. This can include work-related fun, like networking events, or even simply meeting a friend for coffee.
Pick at least one of the six suggestions above and make it a part of your routine for the next month. We’re willing to bet you’ll feel more refreshed, motivated, and maybe even a little less stressed out.