Working Smart for a Living: why freeing up your time can make you a better professional
February 2, 2018
“There is no substitute for hard work.”
The famous musing of iconic American inventor and businessman Thomas Edison, remains as true today as it did a century ago. Edison however, neglected to mention that, although there is no substitute to working hard, there is a crucial accessory to it; working smart.
It’s become fashionable these days to push a ‘work harder’ agenda. Social media is plastered with ‘inspirational’ quotes extolling the benefits of hard work, high profile business people never tire of reminding us all how hard they work, even pop-stars have taken to singing about it. It’s enough to make one feel guilty for setting aside 10 minutes for an Earl Grey.
Working hard can easily spiral into just working constantly, and for all manner of reasons, this is not healthy. Furthermore, it’s not good for professional development.
In the pursuit of working smarter to become a more rounded professional, the following should all be aimed for…
The legal profession is an organic, continually evolving entity. As change happens, educators respond by organising training programs to ready practitioners for the future. Such training is important. Indeed, a survey conducted by e-Learning company Softskill, discovered that across all working age demographics, over 70% of workers regarded training as being essential for developing skills that directly relate to the job in hand.
Training though, requires time. Consultants that bury themselves in their work, attaching stacked ‘to-do’ lists to each day fail to make the time to research, book themselves on, and undertake training opportunities. Over time, this leads gaps in knowledge and skills.
The power reflection has towards achieving professional development has become a hot-topic in recent years. In education, they make regular reference to the ‘reflective practitioner’, and current teacher training involves heavy focus on guiding trainees towards reflecting on practice as a standard. It’s a lesson (pardon the pun) that lawyers both office-based and self-employed could learn from.
Getting the most out of reflection necessitates doing it regularly. The hard part is making it habit-forming. Be steadfast about setting aside time at the end of each day to reflect on events, do it for a couple of weeks and it will become a habit. Regular reflection on practice allows one to consider things done well, and things not done so well, and improve practice accordingly.
Unless you’re an Mi6 secret agent in a busy Wetherspoons and five pints to the good, it’s good to talk. Talking is therapeutic, helps organise thoughts, and provides the opportunity to learn from others.
Unfortunately, consultants often find that they seldom have the time to talk with each other about anything other than the tasks directly at hand. When they do, work is usually the last thing they want to talk about. Talking about work and the profession however is healthy and beneficial to practice.
Such is the manic way of the world these days, rarely do working people find the time for proper relaxation. When they do, it is marred with feelings of guilt. With good reason. After all, how dare you watch a couple of episodes of Game of Thrones after your 11-hour day?
Relaxation, however you choose to take it, is vital for resetting your thoughts and recharging your energies. Though it may not lead to enlightenment and learning in the same way as the other pursuits, relaxation means you can undertake the other pursuits with a frame of mind more conducive to erudition and development.