Struggling to come up with a New Year’s resolution? You’re not alone. After the year 2020 has been, it’s hard to get too enthused about another unpredictable year. But even if you’re not in the mood to go on a green smoothie cleanse or start journaling every night, it’s still a good time to think about and set some professional goals. When you’re a lawyer, there are, no doubt, some areas you can improve—this is a tough profession, and no matter how good you are at it, there is probably something you can work on. Here are five resolutions you might consider for 2021.
Is your office covered in random stacks of paper? Do you have binders and documents lying around from matters you’re not staffed on anymore? Is your computer desktop a cluttered mess of shortcuts and random files you no longer need? Sounds like it’s time to do a clean-up to start the new year off on the right foot. Even if you think you’re one of those attorneys who can work just fine amongst your “disorganized chaos,” face it: A messy work area does nothing but add unneeded stress to your life. Investing a few hours now will be worth it in the new year. Get out the shredder, set up a new filing system, and delete old files you don’t need. Imagine how much easier it will be to focus when you’re surrounded by clean work surfaces and you don’t have to click 20 times to find the file you need.
Take a Vacation.
Many lawyers are guilty of working year-round without a break—not surprising, since client demands never seem to cease. But to perform at the highest level so you can provide those clients with the best representation possible, you do need to take a break every now and then. If it’s been awhile since you’ve put in a vacation request, make it a priority in 2021. A week or two off can serve as the reset you need to give your brain a rest, refocus on your goals, and restore your motivation. And just because travel might still be questionable for the foreseeable future doesn’t mean you can’t still take some time off. Consider taking a staycation in your city or another city within driving distance—lots of hotels are offering great specials these days. Or, heck, just take some time to lounge around the house guilt free. If you’ve been grinding non-stop, some time to catch up on the shows you’ve been wanting to binge might be just the break you need.
Lawyers are supposed to be good citizens, but let’s face it, the pressure of billable hours can get in the way when it comes to doing good deeds. This year, make it a priority to fit in some volunteer work when you can. That could just mean putting in more pro bono hours at your firm, or it could mean looking for an opportunity outside of the office. Consider joining a board or junior board of an organization that has meaning to you. Or sign up for a free-standing volunteer opportunity you’re passionate about. Most organizations would be thrilled to have help, even if it’s only for a few hours each week or month. Whether that’s working with animals at a local shelter, helping children in a nearby school district, or serving the elderly population in your neighborhood, there are plenty of places where you can make a difference in a small amount of time—both virtually or in person.
Networking is one of those things you know you should be doing, but let’s face it, it gets shoved to the backburner when you’re busy. When you’re swamped with work, there’s not much time or extra energy to worry about meeting new people. But never forget to prioritize your long-term goals and the people you want to meet to get there, even while you’re swamped. That might mean making a connection with a partner you hope to work with someday. It could be reaching out to someone from an organization you’re interested in joining. Even if you don’t have a specific goal, it’s always in your benefit to meet new people and maintain relationships with the people you already know. (You never know who your future colleagues or clients might be!) If you’re at a firm, go to the affinity group events or practice group happy hours. If you’re in a community organization, attend the monthly meetings and social events. And don’t forget the people already in your network. Check in on connections, including old colleagues and classmates, with a quick email or LinkedIn message. Everyone is busy, but that shouldn’t preclude you from maintaining a strong professional network.
Refresh Your Online Presence.
When is the last time you updated your LinkedIn profile or cleaned up your social media? If it’s been a while, now is the time. With so much of our professional lives still operating virtually, it’s important to have a strong online presence. Get a new, updated headshot if you’re still displaying that picture you took 10 years ago. Update your LinkedIn to reflect any job changes or new skills acquired this year. Consider writing some glowing reviews of your coworkers (maybe they’ll do the same!). Then, check out your social media. What can the public see? Do you need to delete any old pictures or questionable posts? Google yourself. Is there anything you’d be embarrassed for a client to see? Knowing what people find when they look for you—and changing it to reflect the professional that you are—is a great way to set the tone for a successful new year.
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