What we need to keep in mind as we work yet another Sunday

Is that it doesn’t need to be this way.

Many of us may have worked yesterday. Or are working right now. Or have a few hours of work to do tonight after the kids get to sleep. Our weekend can often times be full of work.

And don’t get me wrong. Some of the most exhilarating, productive, meaningful, passionate work can get done on a Saturday or Sunday. The office (or home office) environment is more relaxed, quieter, less pressured. There may be an exciting event (trial, negotiation, client board meeting) in the coming week to prep for. Or you could just be working on a project you really like with people you really like and use the weekend to collaborate in ways that the busy weekdays do not allow.

But a lot of the work we do on weekends is just that – work. It’s catching up on an inordinate amount of emails. It’s making sure your billable hours are on track. It’s ensuring the partners view you as “dedicated” when you show your face on a Sunday in the office. A lot of the work on the weekends can be monotonous, grueling, boring, and empty. It can be about just keeping your head above water. And this works keeps us from being with our friends, spouses, kids, and pets. It keeps us from good, quality time with ourselves. It keeps us from exploring our Unique Genius. Work on the weekends forces us to make excuses and back out of social commitments and to never be able to really settle down from the work week. Work on the weekends ensures that there is really no break from the week. Work on the weekends all but ensures that we will become run down.

This regular work on the weekends is a major reason of discontent for lawyers looking to leave law behind. Here are two things to keep in mind:

1. It doesn’t need to be this way. While there are many industries where working on the weekends is de rigueur (finance, banking, advertising, management consulting), there are so many segments where working on the weekends is not required. It’s not really even considered or expected. There is no need to show up in the office on a Sunday afternoon as a means to get a head up on others in climbing the corporate ladder. Of course hard work, smart work, dedication, self-starting, discipline and follow-up are all required to succeed, but the various business models and structural requirements and client expectations of other (non-law firm) organizations do not require consistent work on the weekends. In other words, there is a whole new world out there.

2. There are a lot of different ways to make money in the world nowadays. Of course you know this, but it bears repeating: People make money in other ways than billing hours. Whenever you find yourself going into the office in order to bill 4 more hours of work to stay on pace, remember that most of the world does not function this way. There are so many other ways to make money (a lot of money) than billing in 6 minute increments.

It’s good that you may be working today. And may have worked yesterday. And may be working all of next weekend. Really, it is. Because just like the person at the gym who feels so much lighter on his or her feet after taking off their ankle weights after a long workout, so too will you appreciate, enjoy and find new uses for your weekend once you’ve left the weight of law behind and experienced first-hand and close-up the other ways to be productive and make money that our glorious world has in store for you.

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