One of the easiest, most empowering steps you can take to improve your relationship with time as a lawyer is to recognize how much you actually have — before it’s filled, anyway.
We thank Jamie Jackson Spannhake, Esq. for this helpful guest post.
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One of the realities in life is time. Time is what it is. You can’t “make” time. Knowing that, we often get caught up in the belief that we “just don’t have enough time!” But the real problem with time is not that we don’t have enough, it’s that we are trying to do too much. If you are pushing back against that statement, hear me out.
Don’t get me wrong, more time would be nice, but since we can’t create time, it makes sense to focus on creating a solution that we can actually implement. We must transform our relationship with time. How do we do this? One way is to narrow our definition of what we must do, so that we have less to do in our time. You can transform your relationship with time by reframing the way you think about time and using language that helps you express that thinking. By changing the way you think about time, and the way you talk to yourself about time, you can transform your relationship with it.
The reality of time is that we have quite a bit of it. Each week has 168 hours. ONE HUNDRED SIXTY-EIGHT. That’s a lot of hours! Assume you sleep 56 hours a week (because that is really what you need) and work 40 hours each week. That still leaves you 72 hours each week in which to handle everything else! That’s almost like two additional full-time jobs’ worth of time for your other priorities. Even if you work 60 hours each week, that still leaves you 52 hours, which is more than another full-time job.
Even when we know this, it still feels like there isn’t enough time, so change your thoughts about time. Change your thoughts of “I don’t have enough time,” to “I have too much to do.” We cannot control how many hours are in a day, but we can control, at least partly, what we must do. This is true in other areas of life too: how you think about something affects your perception and the outcome. For example, if you continually think that you are overweight, it can make you feel depressed. Feeling depressed can lead to lack of motivation. Lack of motivation prevents you from exercising, which makes you feel more depressed. So, you comfort yourself with chocolate ice cream, which makes the problem worse. The point is, whether you are truly overweight is less important than how you think about your weight. Even if it is true that you have more body weight than you desire, by changing the way you think about your weight, you can change the outcome. Your thoughts define who you think you are and what you do. Sometimes your perception of reality is more important than the objectively true reality.
Another part of the problem is how we talk about time. Many people would say this is semantics, but I disagree. I am a lawyer, so there are no “semantics.” Words have meaning, and each word means something different than another, even if only slightly. That’s why we have so many words in the English language. The words we use can be chosen to help or hinder us, used to say exactly what we mean, or sort of what we mean. So stop saying “I don’t have enough time” or “I’m just so busy.” Those words don’t help you.
When I stopped saying “I don’t have enough time,” my life totally changed. I lost the feeling of constantly having to run from one activity to another. Maybe I am still running from one thing to another, but I don’t feel the negative effects of it.
You have the power to control one thing in this world: yourself. In order to transform your relationship with time to improve your life, you must transform your thoughts and words. With your transformed relationship to time, focus on using your time for your priorities and values to narrow your list of “must do’s.” Make sure you have more things you want to do, fewer things you don’t want to do, and more tools for handling those things.
Read Next — Part 2 in Transforming Your Relationship with Time: 3 Guidelines for Planning Organized Time.
Now On Demand! My presentation of Webinars for Busy Lawyers explores tools and actionable techniques to manage competing responsibilities.
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Jamie Jackson Spannhake is a lawyer, writer, speaker, and coach. She practices law as a partner at Berlandi Nussbaum & Reitzas LLP, serving clients in Connecticut and New York. She is author of the book The Lawyer, the Lion & the Laundry: Three Hours to Finding Your Calm in the Chaos (Oct. 2019, Attorney at Work), which was named by Bigle Legal as one of the Best Books for Lawyers to read in 2019, specifically in the category of Personal Growth and Happiness. Jamie received her certification as a health coach from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition in New York City. She regularly writes and speaks on issues important to lawyers, including “mind management,” stress management, work-life integration, and time management.
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