Being a legal assistant is a high stress position. We are the last step in a long line of steps that ensures pleadings and documents get filed and out on time to whomever they need to go. Everyone wants everything done yesterday, even if they only got their part of it to you ten minutes ago. It’s commonplace for us to take on all responsibility for a project and get it done in an unreasonably short amount of time. We, simply, are magicians; however, it sometimes comes at a steep cost.
Those of us worth our salt don’t simply do as we’re told, we also think through the entire process to make sure it goes as smoothly as possible once it leaves our hands. It is demanded of us to be all things to all people: courteous, friendly, omniscient, error-free and, most of all, F-A-S-T. With the never-ending lightening pace, it’s not uncommon for us to come in early, stay late, skip lunches and breaks, and continually accomplish the seemingly impossible. Following are five suggestions that may help you maintain your sanity:
- Don’t Come in Early or Stay Late
Unless it’s a true emergency, there is no reason for any of us to work more than our required scheduled hours. If it starts getting to the point where you can’t accomplish everything being thrown at you by its deadline, it’s time for you to suggest that the company hire on another assistant to help with the workload. It is not your duty to continually take on more and more responsibility until it gets to the point that you are no longer able to maintain your usual work hours. Stop being a martyr.
- Take Breaks and Lunches
All states require regular breaks for lunch as well as specified breaks in the morning and afternoon. It’s most important to take those breaks on extremely busy days – it helps tremendously to step away from the chaos, regroup and re-energize. While the breaks won’t keep the stress from creeping in once you’re back at your desk, at least nobody will be demanding anything of you so you can breathe easier for some portion of your day.
Make it your number one priority to keep watch over what deadlines are approaching and inform your supervisor about your needs to be able to accomplish what will need to be done. Make sure to build in a cushion for things to go wrong too. Many attorneys (and clients) only focus on when an actual deadline is and won’t account for the amount of time needed to prepare and disseminate the required documentation. It’s your job to be your own advocate so stop being shy and start speaking up!
- Don’t Forego Vacation Time
We all need to get away from time to time. It’s good for the soul and will reinvigorate your passion for your chosen field of work. The U.S. seems to value working over taking vacations, but it’s an incredibly shortsighted view. If all we ever do is grind and hustle, we’ll eventually have no more grind or hustle left. Every so often we need to refill our own coffers by getting off of the merry-go-round that is our daily existence. Relax. Go see people, places and things that excite you. You’ll appreciate your job and workplace more after you do.
- Leave Work at Work
Most importantly, do not take work home unless it’s absolutely necessary. This includes answering emails and phone calls too. There is very little that can’t wait until the next workday to be accomplished. You’ll have more energy and optimism if you let work live at work alone. Your friends and family will thank you too.
Make sure you put your most important needs first. Speak up, rest and define/maintain your boundaries. In the long run, it’s for everyone’s benefit because, when you regularly follow these steps, you’ll keep making magic happen!