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The Cost of Being a Perfectionist or a Workaholic for Attorneys


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Are you a perfectionist and/or a workaholic? In todayís world most attorneys and other professionals are working long hours. Doing a good job of course is essential to winning and keeping clients but some people go a bit overboard. Do you attend to the smallest detail yourself, work at your desk through lunch and stay at work late into the evening? If you said yes, you are not alone.

I recently heard a speaker refer to workaholism as the only addiction that can appear on your resume. Iíd add perfectionism to that too. People (Maybe just Americans?) today brag about workaholism and perfectionism. Both seem attractive to those managing the practice who believe they are getting a lawyer who will produce mountains of perfect work! Dream on!

What happens to the attorney who works incredible hours or the one who is never satisfied with the quality of the work? These lawyers are candidates for burn out, unrelenting stress and illness and will always be unhappy about lack of time for fun and family. If they have any extra time to consider alternatives they may be the people who leave the law to find other occupations. Otherwise they run on empty and feel that way too!

Is this you? Do you have a critical inner voice that tells you, you never do your work well enough or fast enough? Does your critic tell you your work will only be worthwhile if you make it perfect? The problem is that that fault finding critic is NEVER satisfied and your days just get longer and longer. There is no satisfaction.

My time management tips might be helpful initially but sooner or later there just arenít enough hours in the day. Sometimes too the work ethic in the law firm creates pressure to continue these bad habits. Law firms whose practice management philosophy encourage this give up more than they realize.

Creativity only comes when the mind is allowed to rest. How many of us get lots of wonderful ideas as we lie down to go to sleep at night? It may be the only time our minds are quiet enough.

The Boston Globe ran a story a couple of weeks ago about a repair foreman for the public transit system who found a solution to a problem that had plagued the system. The foreman found the solution by observing the butcher in a butcher shop on his day off! Wonderful ideas come when a person has time to relax and be a creative.

Iíve just had my own experience with perfectionism. In the singing workshop I did a couple of weeks ago. My goal was to sing a song in an on stage in front of an audience. The night of the performance I was extremely nervous. Iíd practiced and practiced but occasionally I did forget a lyric and it usually happened when I was scared.

Sure enough when I got out on the stage my mind went blank! I took a couple of breaths and miraculously the words came back so I could start. As I continued singing some of the words escaped me again but I managed to get through the song by putting in other words.

No one else seemed to notice and the audience acknowledged me by clapping vigorously. My colleagues congratulated me and told me how wonderful I was. Iíd accomplished my goal to perform in front of an audience but I didnít get the feeling of satisfaction that I expected because it wasnít perfect.

The choice to be a workaholic and/or a perfectionist is in the hands of each individual. I know perfectionism is hurting me and I want to change. Making a conscious effort to change my inner messages is a first step. For those of you working long hours and hating it. There is a solution for you too. How do you figure out what the steps are? A Practice Advisor and coach can help!

Take Action

1. Do you have a tendency to be a perfectionist and/or a workaholic? Is it negatively impacting your life?

2. Make a list of activities you wish you had time for. Choose one activity and plan to do spend some time doing it in the next week. Do this weekly for the next month and then revisit your list.

3. Take an exploratory bike ride or walk. Get lost! Really!!! Is there a benefit? Think about how this might apply to the work that you do?

4. What do you need to do to get out of your comfort zone and stretch? What can you do to enjoy your mistakes?

About the Author

Alvah Parker works with successful attorneys who feel overwhelmed by their work and are willing to take action to create a more profitable practice and a more fulfilling life. Alvah also helps attorneys and others who want to change careers and find the work that is more meaningful and fulfilling. Alvah has 15 years of sales, marketing, coaching, and management experience with AT&T. At AT&T Alvah won numerous awards including several Account Executive of the Month Awards, the Grand Slam Award, and the Catalyst Quality Award. She was selected twice for the prestigious Council of Leaders, an honor reserved for the top 3% of the Sales and Marketing Division. Alvah is found on the web at She may also be reached at 781-598-0388

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Article Published/Sorted/Amended on Scopulus 2006-10-12 17:25:32 in Personal Articles

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