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For this month’s column, we continued our discussion with one of the primary derailers of a successful long-term legal career – burnout. Building on my 2021 article on How Positive Practices Help Reduce Burnout, I asked GCs for their practical tips to avoid burnout. While there are practices to support people recovering from burnout, adding some of these simple practices into your daily life could be enough to insulate you from burnout in the first place.
What are your tips for lawyers to help prevent burnout?
Health before wealth
She also says you need to know when saying no is the right answer and not feeling guilty about it. Smith is a strong believer in the importance to taking rest and time away from work.
Resting and unplugging is “vital to long-term health because it heals your body, reduces stress, boosts creativity, improves productivity and enhances decision making processes,” Smith says. However, she thinks the real challenge for most lawyers is making sure that a break is a true break from work, “which means no checking emails or other work-related duties, which can be very challenging in our 24/7 world.” If she can find the time, Smith tries to focus on “idleness” which she finds “indispensable to my brain and functioning.”
McGregor understands the need to find a balance to counteract the peaks of work, saying “you can only run hard for so long before you need to refuel and reset. Then, once you have had that break, you will be ready to go again with fresh energy.” For McGregor, this rest includes taking small breaks and celebrating small milestones during long projects as well as taking a longer rest and bigger celebration at the end.
Nature is one of her resets: “Being outside, in nature, in the mountains or close to water is a great way to mentally rest and recharge. I may be running or skiing or participating in some other high energy activity but for me the relaxation comes from being outside and moving my body in nature.” McGregor also finds travel, even somewhere relatively local as a way to take a break from the everyday.
Cleary is a proponent of scheduling “regular breaks and holidays, even just long weekends. Even when working from home, you need a break from your home or a break from your desk!” This could include walking in your local park, taking a long weekend up the coast or planning a “well deserved holiday to fully disconnect and avoid burnout.”
Whatever you choose, she suggests it should be something that brings you joy. Cleary argues that, in reality, “everything at work can wait and you’ll be surprised how organized people can be when they know you are taking a week or two of leave!”
Cleary argues taking time away from work to focus on yourself and your loved ones will help to recharge you “so that you can perform your best when you are at work.”
The importance of rest also resonates with her, “I know that when I work 12 hour days on a regular basis, my productivity declines but if I pack up my day a bit earlier and address those outstanding items the next day, tasks can often be finished quickly and the quality of my output is better.
Communication is key
As an example, I knew I needed time out of the workforce after the last couple of years and quit my job in February to focus on myself and my family. I was fortunate to be able to do this but it has been really important for me to do some to do so.”
Step back to find time
Keen on running in the woods three times a week to get away from his urban environment, Aboud finds it allows him to “generate creativity and find peace that I cannot find elsewhere.” In addition, Aboud also listens to a podcast on mindfulness or relationship dynamics during his run which we thinks helps to “fuel ideas for managing and engaging effectively.”
Extend the mindset to others
Bryant describes how, while working remotely, members of the team “took it upon themselves to check in with people who lived alone and/or were foreigners to Australia, meaning their family were all overseas and they did not have any ability to travel and see them. I think this was appreciated on both sides particularly during the second lockdown.” Following the lockdowns, she has seen a shift in the business and people are “no longer expected to be on unnecessary calls, particularly after hours.” She thinks that “this has allowed people a better ability to take control of their working and non-working hours, which were blurred during the remote working component.”
Cementing her more recent habit of spending time exercising outdoors and moving away from sitting down at her computer, Bryant thinks she has made a big difference.
She also believes that, “spending quality time with family on the weekends, or evenings, rather than being focused on work during that time period (unless there is a particular requirement to work on that evening) can also be a good break from constant legal work."
These useful suggestions can be included in our everyday lives with little effort but great effect. Later this month, a bonus Positively Legal, will further consider how taking time to rest and travel and spending time in nature can supercharge our wellbeing.
Disclaimer: The information in any resource in this website should not be construed as legal advice or as a legal opinion on specific facts, and should not be considered representing the views of its authors, its sponsors, and/or ACC. These resources are not intended as a definitive statement on the subject addressed. Rather, they are intended to serve as a tool providing practical guidance and references for the busy in-house practitioner and other readers. Information/opinions shared are personal and do not represent author’s current or previous employer.