Here’s how you can stay productive and sharp – even in the face of burnout.
Everyone experiences burnout at some point in their career – but if you work in law, you’re even more likely to get burned out than people in other industries. Lawyer and paralegal burnout is becoming increasingly common as law firms adjust to an ever-growing legal workload during a hiring crunch. With fewer legal professionals handling more legal work, many are choosing to leave the industry altogether rather than continue burning themselves out. The legal industry is facing a mental health crisis.
But just because the law industry is a demanding one, that doesn’t mean you have to let burnout force you out of your profession. There are several ways you can cope with, avoid, and recover from burnout so you can get back to doing the legal work you love. Here are just a few strategies for managing burnout as a legal professional.
Burnout tends to become worse as it progresses, and the more burned out you are, the more time and effort it takes to recover. That’s why it’s important to understand the signs and stages of burnout – so you can take action at the first hint that you might be feeling burned out.
The first sign of burnout is usually a feeling of extreme fatigue. No matter how much you sleep or how many cups of coffee you have, you just can’t shake that feeling of deep and profound tiredness that seems to accompany you everywhere. As a result, everything you work on seems to take much more effort than it should.
You’ll likely also notice that, as you begin to feel burned out, you start to lose the joy for your work. Things that previously excited you about your job now muster little enthusiasm. No matter how hard you try, you just can’t seem to care about any of your work.
Finally, you’ll start to feel that you have trouble concentrating. Processing client documents seems to take hours instead of minutes. Entering seemingly simple information into a word processor or entity management system takes much longer than it should, and you have to take several breaks along the way.
If you notice any of these signs or symptoms, you’re burned out – and it’s time to do something about it.
The problem with self-care is that it’s very easy for us to de-prioritize ourselves and to downplay the impact that burnout has on us.
“It’s not that bad. I can push through. My firm needs me.”
But trying to push through burnout will only prolong the problem. That’s why it’s important to tackle burnout immediately and to keep addressing it until the burnout resolves. Half-measures don’t work, and neither does ignoring the issue.
If taking time off is an option for you, that’s your best way to recover from burnout quickly and get back to work as soon as possible. This strategy typically works best if you’re able to anticipate your own energy flow and you can estimate in advance when you’re most likely to be feeling burned out.
But if you’re not in a position to plan ahead, then you’ll need to find ways to reduce your burnout and get through your workday without taking time off.
One strategy you can use is time-blocking. One of the worst aspects of burnout is the feeling that everyone needs everything from you all at the same time. Moreover, jumping between tasks in rapid succession is especially taxing on your brain, which can exacerbate feelings of burnout.
Instead, build out a daily schedule that details what you’ll work on and when. Make sure to build in breaks in between deep focus work. By setting up these time blocks, you’ll give yourself the freedom you need to get your work done without feeling pressured from other tasks. If you need to, you can even build a “911” block into your daily schedule that you can use to tackle any immediate emergencies that crop up.
Once the immediate threat of burnout has passed and you’re feeling recharged, it’s time to get proactive and create a burnout prevention plan. The best way to stop burnout before it starts is to have systems and rules in place that you can quickly enact when burnout starts to rear its ugly head.
First and foremost, create a list of self-care activities that you can engage in to start feeling better as quickly as possible. This could involve things like running, yoga, and meditation. The more you can practice self-care before burnout starts, the better-positioned you’ll be to address it.
Second, create a list of burnout resources at your firm. Who are your go-to people who can help pull tasks off your plate? Which lawyers, paralegals, or legal assistants can you rely on to help you with your work when you’re too tired to see straight?
Third, leverage technology to reduce or accelerate your workload. Lawyers and paralegals often end up doing a lot of tedious and repetitive tasks – tasks that are often better handled by legaltech software. Identify tasks you can outsource to an automated software solution like Appara.
Can you accelerate your incorporations with an AI-powered system that auto-populates forms with the required data? Is there a way to streamline your transactions by using an organized user interface that tracks your documents and steps for you, instead of doing everything by hand or in Word docs? The more you can use technology to tackle the tedium, the better-equipped you’ll be to avoid burnout in the future.
Burnout is something that afflicts every lawyer and paralegal at some point. But just because you’re feeling burnt out, that doesn’t mean all of your work has to stop. By planning ahead, leveraging technology, and setting boundaries, you can deal with burnout while still accomplishing your necessary work.
How are you using technology to avoid or recover from burnout?
Has burnout derailed your professional plans? Are you investing too many hours in admin work? We can help. Book your free demo of Appara today to discover how much time AI-powered entity management and document automation can save you.
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