We’ve all said it at one point or another: I’m just so burnt out. It’s not just us—workplace related burnout is so commonplace that the World Health Organization (WHO) classifies it as a syndrome, and Harvard Business School estimates that it is responsible for generating up to $190 billion per year in healthcare costs.
The face of burnout isn’t just being overworked, stretched too thin, with not enough resources (though that certainly is ONE of the faces of burnout). Burnout can mean that you’re simply overloaded—you’re engaged with the work, but just have too much of it on your plate, with no prioritized to-do list or “how to” manual for getting it all done. Burnt out employees may be feeling under-challenged and apathetic to their task lists. And still, sometimes burnout manifests as a feeling of neglect or impostor syndrome. Am I an effective leader? Am I doing this right? Should I just give up? When you’re burnt out, you’re tired, cynical, unfocused, and—honestly—inefficient.
Running a solo or small law firm is far from easy, and, in fact, lawyers are at a higher risk of burnout than many other professionals. How many times have you lost track of when your last day off was? How often to get to enjoy dinner with your family instead of while staring at a computer screen? How often do you miss dance recitals or baseball games or engagement parties or social events that add value to your life as a human?
Maybe you don’t see a way around burnout. But we do. For more than 20 years, we’ve been helping attorneys and law firm leaders to mitigate burnout through effective staffing and employee empowerment…and we’ve done this for thousands of firms. Here are 9 pieces of advice to help you and your team avoid burnout:
You do NOT have to be the only rain maker at your firm. Delegate tasks to your team members—you hired them because they’re capable, right? Trustworthy? Dependable? Well, let them shine, then! Give them clear instructions for taking specific tasks off your plate, and start breaking free of burnout while simultaneously making your team members feel trusted, appreciated, important and engaged.
2. Get to know your team members
No, you don’t have to be besties with every person on your team…and you shouldn’t be. But developing positive relationships with each and every member of your team—learning the names of their kids, asking them about hobbies outside of work, or remembering their birthdays—instills loyalty and job satisfaction, and makes your team want to do a good job for you.
3. Get organized
This is simple: don’t waste time trying to figure out where things are in your office. From client files to supplies, have a place for everything and keep everything in its place. Adopt a very clear and consistent filing system, so that all team members can navigate your file system without doubt.
4. Build a supportive professional network
Get to know some other solo practitioners or small firm leaders. Okay, this doesn’t make your workload any less…but having people who know what you’re going through—who you can vent to—can greatly reduce your stress levels. Make sure you repay the favor and let your friends air their grievances to you, as well.
5. Get out of town…even if only for a few days
So that two-week vacation in Bali is unlikely at best and completely impossible at worst? Fine. But can you sneak away for an extra day on an already long holiday weekend? Can you work from home for a few days? Setting aside time to detach—even if you’re only detaching from the sound of rising phones in your office—is important to managing burnout and keeping your stress levels down.
6. Factor new business development into your schedule
Solo practitioners and small firm leaders oftentimes forget that part of running their own firm is business development. Some attorneys will block off Fridays for biz-dev activities. Others will block off an hour at the end of each day. Whatever works for you is fine, but just remember that business development is a priority…don’t let it fall to the wayside, or you’ll never reach your business goals.
7. Have a plan
When are you most productive? Plan your work day accordingly. If you know you need a few cups of coffee to get the old brain going, schedule appointments for mid-morning and after. Being strategic about when you work and when you don’t can help you get more work done in less time…
8. Learn to say NO
If a client comes to you at the very last minute with an urgent, needs-to-be-done-yesterday kinda problem, and you truly don’t have the bandwidth…say no, especially if the client isn’t willing to pay for the rush. When a project increases your stress levels, there is a premium associated with it. More stress=more money. Period.
9. Set aside time for yourself
Call it self-care. Call it family time. Whatever you need to feel fulfilled as a human—not as a lawyer—you need to make time for it. It can’t be work-work-work 100% of the time…you WILL burnout. Make time to hike that mountain, go to that family reunion, have dinner with college friends, visit that amusement park with your kids…the distraction will keep burnout at bay, and ensure that you enjoy all aspects of your life, professional AND personal.
Avoiding burnout isn’t rocket science—it just requires a few small changes to the way you’re already doing things. Need someone to help guide you through those changes, and hold you accountable for sticking to them? Our 66-Day Law Firm Turnaround program might be just what the doctor ordered. In just 10-weeks, we can help you turn around your firm’s people, profit and productivity, ultimately leading to less burnout. Schedule your qualifier call by clicking the button below and find out of your firm is candidate for this unique and highly-effective program.