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By Lisa Caplan

Many lawyers I have spoken with have found  working from home challenging. Some found it challenging at the beginning, and others found it became more difficult  as time passed. They have all especially found it difficult to maintain their motivation and energy. 

When the pandemic started everyone moved to remote working very quickly, which  caused stress and anxiety as well as a disruption to work routines and schedules.  It was not an option, but a necessity for our health and the health of our community;  therefore, there  was not  time to prepare for the many distractions that can come with working from home.  

Now that we have been working remotely for a while, and are not sure when or even if we will return to our offices, the question I get most often is:  “What is the best way to maintain motivation and energy?”  

Here are some helpful strategies:

  1.  Practicing  self-compassion goes a long way in feeling productive and being your best.   Be patient with yourself if you are not always at your best, not as motivated, or have low energy.  Talk to yourself with kindness, like you would a friend, rather than using energy to beat yourself up. This  will go a long way in getting your motivation and energy back. Ups and downs in motivation and energy are normal. Recognizing this in a healthy way will help you get back on track quickly.
  2. Create a Schedule and plan your day. Before you begin in the morning, or the night before, take a few minutes and prioritize. Build in short breaks. Without a structured workday, you may find that time slips away or you can get distracted easily. Set a time to begin and end your day and try to stick to it as much as possible. 
  3. Stop multitasking to cut down on distractions. We think we can multitask, but the reality is that no one is as effective when multitasking. Stay focused on what you are doing and schedule time to answer calls, emails, etc. Schedule time outside of work for household chores so you don’t get distracted during your workday.
  4. Get dressed.  You don’t need to put on a suit, but showering and getting dressed can help you wake up, energize you, and put you in the right frame of mind to start your workday.
  5. Create a dedicated workspace.  Working in bed or on the sofa might be comfortable, but it is usually not the best place to be your most productive.  Find a space at the kitchen table, desk, home office, corner of your living room, etc. that will be a consistent place to work.
  6. Have you ever found that the less you  do the less you  want to do, and that getting started is the hardest part? 
    1. Break tasks into manageable pieces. You may find that you are more motivated when you have a small task to complete as opposed to trying to tackle  a big project all at once. Breaking something big into small pieces helps increase your energy to move onto the next task. 
    2. Ask yourself, “What is the first thing I need to do?”
    3. Once you start, you may find that you have more energy, creativity and motivation to keep on going. 
    4. Tell yourself you only have to work for 10 minutes and you can stop if you choose to. Most of the time, this is just enough time for you to get started and keep going.  This especially works well when you don’t want to start a task that is challenging.
  7. Just do it. Procrastinating causes more anxiety and leads to more procrastinating. It can be a vicious cycle. When we are concerned about something, we tend to have long conversations in our head that just cause more anxiety. If you are concerned about calling a client, just call the client. The sooner you get it off your plate, even if it is difficult,  the better it will be for your self-care and mental health.  You can then come up with a plan on how to move forward.
  8. Avoid quick fixes to feel better.  Binge watching your favorite show might seem like a good idea and  help you feel better in the short run,  but soon you may feel guilty that you are not working. Avoid solving problems by using alcohol, drugs, or other unhealthy behaviors.  The quick fix will backfire and cause a lot more problems.
  9. Reward yourself when you have completed the task. The reward can be your favorite show, checking social media, a cup of tea, playing a video game, a bowl of ice cream, or checking in with a friend.    The reward will feel special when you have completed something to get it.
  10. Set challenges for yourself. Write so many words for an article in a certain amount of time or return five calls in the next hour. Finding ways to challenge yourself can increase your energy and motivation.
  11. Self-Care is more important now than ever.  During stressful times, building in self-care through exercise, eating healthy, staying in touch with friends and hobbies can help your overall health and wellness.
  12. Try different strategies.  One strategy doesn’t work for everyone. 

For more tips on wellness check out the Wellness Portal https://www.msba.org/wellness-portal/

For assistance, please contact the Lawyer Assistance Program for free, confidential counseling. We can assist you in any state that you are living in. Lisa Caplan, LCSW-C, Director, (443) 703-3042, lisa@msba.org.Toll Free 1(888) 388-5459.  We offer financial assistance for mental health and substance abuse treatment. Please feel free to reach out to our LAP Committee Members and Volunteers https://www.msba.org/health-and-wellness/

Lisa Caplan, LCSW-C has over 20 years experience in her field, and extensive experience working with lawyers and judges in the areas of mental health, substance abuse and trauma. In her free time she enjoys spending time with family and friends, paddle boarding, sailing, rock climbing and doing triathlons.