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Treat yourself to some free time

Shutting the phone off is a good career move

I’ve discussed the importance of extracurricular activities such as conference networking, article writing and pro bono efforts. Those columns fall within a category some may view as eating your professional vegetables. Career-oriented extracurriculars should be enjoyable, but they can also feel like work.

So, as I pen this summer column by a swimming pool, I choose to indulge in the topic of fun. I believe that fun is critical to your success in the stress-filled role of inside counsel. You must shut the damn phone off on occasion. Give yourself the gift of truly free time.

I sent out an email to twenty of the attorneys we have placed as inside counsel since 2010, asking how they enjoy their free time. My conclusion is that many of you have a funny way of relaxing. A ridiculously high percentage of you seem to be building something: fixing up a second home, tinkering with crafts, creating art, etc. The most extreme example is an inside counsel in Wisconsin who is building a small private plane from a kit. Yes, from a kit.

My free time choices usually involve a beach chair. Your responses are far more interesting, and may even point to a need for a very specific kind of counter-balance among inside counsel. Your daily professional efforts don’t always lead to immediate or concrete results, and outcomes are not necessarily within your control. Ironically, attorneys are usually detail-oriented control freaks.

Creating a work of art, or building a shed, can satisfy that desire for outcome control. Simply seeing a finished physical product can be very rewarding, and absolutely good for your health and spirits.

So, this will go down as one of the touchy-feely columns. No advice here that will help you land a promotion. But if I can encourage even a few of you to turn off the iPhone or Blackberry when you get home today, and carve out some real personal time for yourselves this August, then I think this will prove to be a very worthwhile read. I’ll end with Nike’s classic tag line, as is remains the best advice out there: Just Do It.       

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