Living in a post-pandemic world leaves us all vulnerable to paralegal burnout. In the legal profession specifically, many paralegals work day and night to adapt to the new challenges exposed by the pandemic. Workers across the world put together strategies that allow them to remain physically and mentally healthy while reaching their professional and personal goals.
The work of a paralegal or secretary is oftentimes not time-bound because we work to meet the goals and workload of our law firms. Although our boundaries can feel less defined, it is important to create a barrier or separation from the stress and pressure of our working environments for the sake of ourselves and our families. Here are some tips to avoid paralegal burnout and remain sane and healthy while completing your day-to-day tasks:
1. Setting Time Boundaries
It is common to hear that most law firms set a schedule from 9 to 5, but the firm’s workload sometimes dictates that additional time is needed. An occasional late assignment is normal, but it is crucial to clearly communicate your needs with peers and supervisors and set limitations over when and how you will work. Certain things about work should be considered non-negotiable for many reasons, the main one being your personal time.
When your work schedule intrudes into your personal time – the time you are meant to spend with family and friends – we tend to lose balance and in a worst-case scenario, we hardly distinguish the feelings we have towards work and towards our own time. This can blur the lines and lead to paralegal burnout more quickly. The job that provides so well for you and your family might be the reason why you do not see your family, in which case, one can ask: how many nights do you come home late? Is this time being considered for salary increases or promotions?
Communicating our time limitations and family engagements can do wonders for our schedules. With the massive resignations seen during the last few months of the pandemic, many employers are seeking ways to keep their employees happy. Remember that firms and attorneys gain nothing from paralegal burnout. Here are some tips for improving the situation when working for a difficult boss. Considering this, make this a time to speak about your personal goals, family needs, and future engagements. Setting a stable schedule can also help you sleep better and ultimately be more productive.
2. Setting Physical Boundaries – Leaving Work At Work
One thing is to stay at work an additional hour, and another is to bring the work stress home. Bringing law cases to dinner is not a good idea and work, if boundaries are met, should remain within the boundaries of your office. A major naysay of this is the concept of remote work where work meets no physical boundaries, in which case, it is hard to determine when and how our work ends and our personal life begins.
Taking this into account, many experts recommend having a separate physical space in the house that is dedicated entirely to remote work. Consider these tips for setting up your home workspace. If a physical boundary is not well defined by your employer, take initiative and design your own “work area” where only work-related things are handled. Communicating with family members about this physical space will help them understand when you will be working, concentrating on a task, or simply not available.
3. Using Technology As An Aid To Avoiding Paralegal Burnout
If you have established a defined set of boundaries (of both time and space) there is a third step to take: use technology to stick to these habits. One could, for example, activate the computer alarm to be mindful of your lunch break or set up a quick alarm to remind you that it is time to go home.
Let’s say that boundaries are set, but a very stressful situation has happened. You are anxious and unable to work or continue performing your duties, which is causing more delays in your normal work. If this has ever, been you, consider meditation.
A free meditation app that contains both guided and instrumental meditation with a timer is Inside Timer. Sometimes an issue is easier to analyze if it can be easily deconstructed. Meditation allows people to disconnect from stress and analyze it from a point of view where it can be managed easily. It reduces the risk of burnout. Set aside some minutes of your lunch break to breathe, disconnect, focus, and pursue a solution that satisfies you and your firm.
If the problem is a lack of concentration, an app called Forest might be the solution. This app lets you plant a digital tree and remain on task until the tree has grown on your phone. You can set chunks of time in which you will remain free of distractions so you can concentrate your energy on the problem to solve.
Technology can help you turn a stressful situation or environment into an intentional experience.
Our physical health is a huge factor to consider, especially if we rely on our minds and bodies to go to work. If meditating does not help, consider setting an exercise schedule with activities of low impact, which can lead to stronger and more energized exercise habits.
Many people enjoy walking midday on their lunch breaks. Others enjoy simply going outside to catch some sun, if either of these is you, think about the wonders that movement is doing to both your physical and mental health. Performing a physical activity can help you clear your mind, concentrate, and sometimes bring up creative and intuitive solutions while exercising.
5. Scheduling Free Time
Our bodies need rest. Rest that is both for the mind and the body. It might sound illogical to try and schedule a time to do nothing, but with a busy schedule as a paralegal it is important to have available time to do other activities that have nothing to do with work. Having this time is essential to avoiding paralegal burnout.
People invest time in social media, working extra hours, cooking, and commuting. How much of this time is spent doing things you actually enjoy? When was the last time that you spent three hours devouring a book or painting? Design this no-work part of your schedule to do that. Explore hobbies and things that are often left behind because of your work duties. Paralegal burnout can often come when there is no outlet to get away from the day-to-day stress.
6. Personal Stimulation
Following this idea, choose the kind of activities you’re going to perform in these chunks of free time. Use this time to set your personal and career development goals. What is an exam or license you hope to earn? Would it benefit you to take your state’s notary exam? Do you want to pursue more certifications and expand your paralegal education?
Use free time to pursue activities that offer some degree of positive stimulation. Stimulating activities are all those that make life feel easier, brighter, or at the very least, entice sensations of calmness and serenity in your life. Visiting a local park, taking photographs of friends or family, bringing your children to the water park, enjoying some alone time, scheduling a massage session, or going to the gym are all positive stimulation that reduce stress.
These 6 strategies all offer some kind of emotional, physical, and mental relief from the stress of daily life as a paralegal or legal professional. You can read more about getting a better work/life balance here.
Meet the Author
Ana is an immigration paralegal with six years of experience in the field. Her interests encompass the areas of education, technology, and human rights. She is currently pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology, and she is a member of the APA and Psi Chi.