This month’s Wisconsin Lawyer magazine features an article by Paula Davis-Laack on burnout. When I think of the word “burnout,” the first thought that comes to my mind is “I don’t have time for burnout.” Maybe other lawyers and law students feel the same way–burnout is not an option.
The article suggests five tips for preventing burnout:
1. Increase your self-efficacy.
2. Have creative outlets.
3. Take care of yourself.
4. Get support where you can find it.
5. Identify your values.
What I like about these tips is that Ms. Davis-Laack comes at the problem of burnout from a constructive, positive angle. The law profession is time-intensive and demanding, even though it is hugely rewarding. The same can be said of law school. Putting these tips into place seems fairly easy–simple habits to avoid big problems.
By increasing your self-efficacy, the article says, you can help yourself to feel in control, and feeling in control reduces stress. If you are in law school, start working on your outlines now–not at Thanksgiving.
Practicing creativity, whether at work (and law is very much a creative endeavor), or outside of work, makes you better at what you do. I am sad to think that in my first year of law school, I read only one “for fun” book. I thought I had to put my usual reading away to focus better on my textbooks. In retrospect, I think I would have gotten through my class reading assignments with more vigor and speed had I given myself some additional breaks to do fun reading (of course, I did find my legal writing textbook to be especially engaging–I still have it).
Make a game of taking care of yourself. Reward yourself for eating right, getting enough sleep, etc.
Getting support where you can find it to me means staying in contact with your family and friends. Yes, you have time to call a friend or make lunch plans with a family member. One good thing about technology is that you can text or email someone in about 60 seconds to let them know you are thinking of them. It’s ok to say “I have 10 minutes to talk because I have to get back to studying/working,” and then stick with that.
To me, identifying your values speaks to knowing who you are, what you care about. If you care passionately about a certain subject, pursue it–find a way to work it into your studies and your career. You will be happier, less likely to burn out, and more successful–because you’ll be doing something you really want to do.