Washington Lawyer - August/September 2018 - 8
CAREER AND PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT
& STILL MEET YOUR GOALS
By Geoffrey B. Gilbert
This can help to reduce stress when you are trying to get work done but feel
stuck or aren't making progress. Since stress is a feeling, it can be lessened by
doing something physical. A quick workout, a brisk walk (even in cold weather),
or doing stretches or yoga poses on the floor are all ways to beat stress. Some
lawyers use breathing exercises or meditation. Lawyers who use this strategy
report being able to come back to their tasks feeling better and able to get
WRITE IT DOWN
List every task in front of you, its priority, and the estimated time it will take
to complete the task.
When I managed my own law office with 17 staff members, lawyers or other
staff members would come into my office and complain of having too much
work. I would ask them to make a list of their tasks, the time it would take to
complete each, and each task's priority so we could sit down and discuss it.
s an executive coach and attorney, I work with
lawyers to achieve their goals and become more
successful. The stress lawyers experience often gets
in the way of achieving their goals. If you are serious
about reducing or preventing stress, start with these
tactics that can provide short- and long-term solutions
and are easy to incorporate into your work life, whether
you are a solo practitioner; a small, medium, or large firm
lawyer; or an attorney in a nonprofit, government, or
When you have a larger project to complete, do your work in a different
location in your office or, better yet, outside the office. Lawyers who try this
report getting more work done in less time.
Moving to another location makes interruptions less likely, which increases
productivity and progress. Since stress can be our response to our long list
of tasks, getting more tasks done goes a long way toward reducing stress.
If you can't go to another location, try closing your door to limit interruptions.
Ask yourself: What is the best place possible for you to complete as much work
as you can? Think of how you'll feel when you get a whole day's work done in
a half day.
My staff rarely returned for a discussion. Instead, when I saw them later, they
usually would say something like, "I'm okay." What I learned was that when they
had a precise, prioritized list, they felt better and more in control.
Brainstorm and implement solutions to the problems in your practice that
cause the most stress. When I coach lawyers, we methodically brainstorm how
to solve business problems, and then schedule the steps necessary to implement the solutions. As lawyers eliminate practice problems, their stress levels
TRACK YOUR GOALS
I ask my clients not to hold back. Once goals are written down and prioritized,
we brainstorm what steps are needed to achieve those goals. Not surprisingly,
as steps are taken and goals are met, clients report reduced stress levels.
A new coaching client once came to me at a time when it was so stressful in
his office that he was going to a satellite office for most of the day just to avoid
conflict with his staff and the attorneys who worked for him. Together, we set
a goal of making the office a place where he would enjoy working. Within three
months, he was spending half his time in his main office. Within six months, he
was back in his main office all of the time. He accomplished this by methodically
working on one stressful problem and one goal at a time.
Over time we fixed problems and achieved goals in billing, customer service,
marketing, the process of signing up new clients, setting clear expectations
with staff and with clients, reducing accounts receivable, and improving staff
relations. Fixing these problems and reaching his goals reduced his stress.
Needless to say, he is more successful and now enjoys practicing law more.
Geoff Gilbert is a member of the D.C. Bar and a long-time executive coach for
attorneys. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.