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Working Hard Enough or Too Hard

April 22, 2010

In my years of practice, there have been times when I haven’t had much work to do, and there have been times when I have way too much to do.  There have been months when the number of billable hours I have is low (either due to lack of work or being unproductive), and there are months when I have more work that I know what to do with. 

The last few months have been the latter.  It’s been work, work, work, day and night, weekdays and weekend, on the road and at the office, at depositions and arbitrations, and while preparing briefs and discovery.  There is a fine balance though between working hard and working too hard.  Sure it’s nice to bill a lot of hours, but you can’t let your work consume your life as well.

So, in no particular order, the following are signs that you may be on the wrong side of the divide and working too hard:

  • You have no clue when the sun goes down now because you haven’t seen it in a while – Working past 7 p.m. is almost a way of life for many attorneys.  You just can’t do it every single day.  Go home early (like 6:30 p.m.) at least a couple nights a week.
  • You go home and do two things: eat dinner and more work – Theoretically, you should be able to go home and leave your work at the office.  A lot of folks, such as myself, can’t do that and still do some work at home every night.  At least leave time for tv, playing with your dog or something.
  • Your DVR is all backed up with tv shows you haven’t had a chance to watch – Self-explanatory.  DVR is a great invention, but you gotta make time, at some point, to watch the shows.
  • You’re working past midnight on routine work (rather than on deadline) – Working past midnight sometimes can’t be avoided, especially when you have a brief due or a deal you’re trying to close.  But even if you’re doing just regular work at home, I think midnight is the absolute latest you should work. 
  • You’re starting to lay awake at night worrying about deadlines, problem files, etc. – I sometimes spend more time tossing and turning while worrying about whether I blew a statute or how to finish a project.  The solution is to ensure you’re organized and have a good calendar system.
  • Your “To Do” list doesn’t seem to be getting any smaller – Don’t be afraid to request a temporary, lessened work load from your superiors SO LONG as you have the hours to prove that you’re busy.  If you’re asking for less work and yet you’re only billing 160 hours a month, that’ll be frowned upon. 

Right now, I definitely am working too hard.  So someone please catch me up on what’s going on with my Thursday tv shows. . .

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