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pepper123

Falling apart during quarantine

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I feel like my practice is slowly falling apart ever since I have been in quarantine. I am struggling so so much with concentration and organization, and just motivation in general. When we initially went remote it was ok, I felt like I wasn't as productive but it was alright. Then I had a huge, really time-intensive file blow up and take up all of my time back at the beginning of the summer. I was very stressed out, not sleeping, etc. I basically put all my other files on hold during that time to concentrate on this intensive matter, and I feel like I have been trying and failing at catch up ever since. I am starting to miss deadlines (not filing deadlines or things like that but internal ones), be slow to respond to emails, etc. just because I am feeling so overwhelmed and not on top of things. I get to the end of the day and I've only done like 1/3 of the things on my list and then I am ashamed and feel like shit and the cycle starts again the next day, but worse because I am already behind. I know that this is unsustainable but I just don't know what to do.  A couple partners in my office have asked me what is going on with me because I am normally very on top of things, and I just don't know what to say. 

Anyways I am not sure what I am looking for, maybe a bit of commiseration or advice? I got in touch with a therapist a couple months ago which was not that helpful. 

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I am really feeling this these days. I'm in house, so the stress is not the same, but I am definitely subject to the cycle of feeling a lack of motivation due to the lockdown/winter/etc., then getting behind on my work and feeling so overwhelmed that getting started on the backlog seems impossible. I'm not missing anything critical, but my responses are way slower than usual, which leads to delays and is probably annoying some of my colleagues from time to time. 

I manage to keep on top of it all by trying to do short bursts of high intensity work where I get a lot of little things off my plate (sort of like a pomodoro method, but often I can't even stomach 25 minutes of high intensity work, so I do 10 or 15 to get started), which gives me some momentum to tackle something bigger. I try to make myself one or two reasonable goals for every day that I really need to get done. Taking breaks to eat is important, and I find that when I'm sleeping better it's much easier (I have seen studies that say that being short of sleep can cause effects very similar to ADHD).

Anyways, maybe some of these will work for you. But you are definitely not alone.

 

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I feel the same way. I am so productive in the office, but at home things are kind of slipping and it certainly doesn't help when the news cycle is hitting me with all sorts of catastrophes and coups. Further, there are just SO MANY emails with people working remotely.

I am sorta in the same position in terms of my to do list and responding to clients, but I've started to set small goals for myself/switch things up a bit:

1. Put EVERYTHING on the to-do list, that way I can cross off even menial tasks. Gives me a sense of accomplishment... 

2. Bill 2.5 hours before taking a lunch break. 

3. Don't spend more than 30 minutes eating lunch. It's very easy to sit on the couch at home and say "I'll get back to work after this episode is done..."

4. Take a weekend and get your legs underneath you. You'd be surprised how easy it is to get up to date on your files by just focusing on them during one weekend without any interruptions. 

5. Set times when you answer emails. I like to do this in the morning. If I get an email in the afternoon and it's not urgent, I'll respond tomorrow. The afternoon is reserved for making progress on my files. 

6. Close the door in your home office. 

Otherwise, I think I'm going to ask if I can go back into the office, lol. I really don't like working from home.

 

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My sleeping has been a mess which has led to a lack of focus and less productivity at work. You're definitely not alone. 

 

Be kind to yourself.

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2 minutes ago, setto said:

Further, there are just SO MANY emails with people working remotely.

Any time any province issues any sort of changed covid regulation my inbox is immediately flooded with hundreds of emails and reply-alls. It's impossible to read them all even if I wanted to.

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I'm a huge proponent of a clear inbox, with tasks or follow-up flags where necessary so I don't have to dig through folders to find what is needed. It's obviously easier if you aren't already underwater, but even starting today and try to get to "zero" unfiled emails for this week may add a sense of control. You can worry about the backlog later.

I had a small breakdown a couple of months ago, which I temporarily resolved by getting into the office a few days a week. That helped separate "work" from the living room, though obviously is not an option anymore. If there's something you can do to create that home/work barrier that's always a good option. Close the computer down when you aren't using it, don't be living with Outlook open in the background.

Normally I'd also say get outside for some fresh air at the end of the work day. It helps add separation between work and home, similar to the commute. But that raises the 'essential' nature of that, which is a whole different discussion.

Hang in there everyone. 

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2 minutes ago, TKNumber3 said:

I'm a huge proponent of a clear inbox, with tasks or follow-up flags where necessary so I don't have to dig through folders to find what is needed. It's obviously easier if you aren't already underwater, but even starting today and try to get to "zero" unfiled emails for this week may add a sense of control. You can worry about the backlog later.

I normally do this and keep something like 20-30 emails at most in my inbox that I know need my attention when I leave the office every day. I usually know exactly what is in there and how long it will take me and what the deadline is.

I currently have 287 emails in there. I know there is nothing that is going to sink me if it's not done in the next few days (and any actual external deadlines are in my calendar), but that's about all the handle I have on it.

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7 minutes ago, TKNumber3 said:

Normally I'd also say get outside for some fresh air at the end of the work day. It helps add separation between work and home, similar to the commute. But that raises the 'essential' nature of that, which is a whole different discussion.

Exercise is expressly permitted as it's considered essential!

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Thanks everyone. It is good to know that I am not the only one.

I unfortunately don't have a home office (well I do but my husband uses it; his job requires that he have more of a "set up" with screens and charts and graphs and stuff) and can't go into the office right now. I was managing better when I was able to go in a couple days a week over the summer but that isn't going to be able to happen for the foreseeable future.

I like the idea of implementing very specific rules about being on vs off work -- I had those rules when I was at the office too (no lunch break until 3 hrs are billed etc) and I don't know why it is so much harder to follow them at home. 

Edited by pepper123
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25 minutes ago, pepper123 said:

Thanks everyone. It is good to know that I am not the only one.

I unfortunately don't have a home office (well I do but my husband uses it; his job requires that he have more of a "set up" with screens and charts and graphs and stuff) and can't go into the office right now. I was managing better when I was able to go in a couple days a week over the summer but that isn't going to be able to happen for the foreseeable future.

I like the idea of implementing very specific rules about being on vs off work -- I had those rules when I was at the office too (no lunch break until 3 hrs are billed etc) and I don't know why it is so much harder to follow them at home. 

I'm in the same boat - SO has the office so I'm stuck at the kitchen table which is right next to the couch and TV. Means the computer is ALWAYS THERE! It's horrible.

Big thing for me is that once I call it a day - the computer and monitor get shut off. Pile stuff at the side out of sight if you have to. It's always easy to fire up and be back up and running if really needed, but this way if something comes in on my phone that can wait, there's no "ok let's just pull that up / open that attachment and check" guilt due to ease of access.

Also as mentioned try to get outside right around when you shut it down. The 3s switch from the desk to the couch seems nice, but I'm a big proponent that the "commute" home (here a quick walk for a few blocks) tricks my brain into actually switching over to personal time. 

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1 hour ago, setto said:

I feel the same way. I am so productive in the office, but at home things are kind of slipping and it certainly doesn't help when the news cycle is hitting me with all sorts of catastrophes and coups. Further, there are just SO MANY emails with people working remotely.

I am sorta in the same position in terms of my to do list and responding to clients, but I've started to set small goals for myself/switch things up a bit:

1. Put EVERYTHING on the to-do list, that way I can cross off even menial tasks. Gives me a sense of accomplishment... 

2. Bill 2.5 hours before taking a lunch break. 

3. Don't spend more than 30 minutes eating lunch. It's very easy to sit on the couch at home and say "I'll get back to work after this episode is done..."

4. Take a weekend and get your legs underneath you. You'd be surprised how easy it is to get up to date on your files by just focusing on them during one weekend without any interruptions. 

5. Set times when you answer emails. I like to do this in the morning. If I get an email in the afternoon and it's not urgent, I'll respond tomorrow. The afternoon is reserved for making progress on my files. 

6. Close the door in your home office. 

Otherwise, I think I'm going to ask if I can go back into the office, lol. I really don't like working from home.

 

Conversely, sometimes taking a weekend (or day) where you do not work is very helpful. 

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Not to derail this this thread (and perhaps mods should start a new one on this topic if they feel it best) but is there any way someone can relate this advice to articling specifically? Obviously, the feelings mentioned apply but with the stress of not really understanding the work I'm doing. 

Edited by woodyhey
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41 minutes ago, TKNumber3 said:

Also as mentioned try to get outside right around when you shut it down. The 3s switch from the desk to the couch seems nice, but I'm a big proponent that the "commute" home (here a quick walk for a few blocks) tricks my brain into actually switching over to personal time. 

When the weather was nicer, most days I would meet my wife and the baby outside for a walk at the end of the day. But now that it's cold and dark by the time I stop working, it's not nearly as attractive an option. So there may be some SAD or at least winter-related to it. I was definitely doing better through the summer and fall, but my workload was also quite a bit less back then.

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6 minutes ago, woodyhey said:

Not to derail this this thread (and perhaps mods should start a new one on this topic if they feel it best) but is there anyway someone can relate this advise to articling specifically? Obviously, the feelings mentioned apply but with the stress of not even fully understanding the work I'm doing. 

I always found the biggest articling stress was not being in control of your deadlines. So much of the above hopefully still applies. Another big benefit/help during articling was being able to chat with other students to talk through questions. If there are other students at your firm, it can help to set up some quick video/phone calls to talk through ideas and projects. Sometimes you need to explain the thought to someone else to fully grab it. That doubles with a good social aspect, which is hopefully helpful.

If it's just you as a student I'll default to others as I don't have experience as a lone student. 

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7 minutes ago, TKNumber3 said:

I always found the biggest articling stress was not being in control of your deadlines. So much of the above hopefully still applies. Another big benefit/help during articling was being able to chat with other students to talk through questions. If there are other students at your firm, it can help to set up some quick video/phone calls to talk through ideas and projects. Sometimes you need to explain the thought to someone else to fully grab it. That doubles with a good social aspect, which is hopefully helpful.

If it's just you as a student I'll default to others as I don't have experience as a lone student. 

Thanks so much, this forum has always been incredibly helpful. Unfortunately, I am the only student and I've been made very aware of the fact that lawyers are short on time and not to be bothered unless absolutely essential. Again, this is not to derail the conversation. I guess I, along with obviously many other people, feel touched by this conversation and wanted to ask for advise specifically to articling. 

Edited by woodyhey
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17 minutes ago, woodyhey said:

Not to derail this this thread (and perhaps mods should start a new one on this topic if they feel it best) but is there any way someone can relate this advice to articling specifically? Obviously, the feelings mentioned apply but with the stress of not really understanding the work I'm doing...

...Thanks so much, this forum has always been incredibly helpful. Unfortunately, I am the only student and I've been made very aware of the fact that lawyers are short on time and not to be bothered unless absolutely essential. 

This is actually not that different from practice. Lifelong learning and all that... a lot of the stuff on our desks = first time tasks or things we haven't done in a while that require refreshers.

Just take a deliberate approach knowing that learning is often one of your tasks. Is this something I know how to do? If no, then you need to learn. Is this something I can self-learn? If yes then budget time to read up on it, if no then talk to your principal. Is this something I should self-learn? (if you can replace two hours of research with a ten minute discussion with your principal you probably should). A good principal will always have time to help you figure out if you should self-learn something or not. 

In practice this same cascade happens, it just happens less often as you gain experience and you're just phoning a peer instead of talking to your principal. Sometimes it's worse though - if it's very complex your peer might not even know the answer! And if it's a gray area there might be no answer!!!! Arghhhhh 

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2 hours ago, BringBackCrunchBerries said:

the USA - the greatest reality TV show ever made

so true

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55 minutes ago, woodyhey said:

Not to derail this this thread (and perhaps mods should start a new one on this topic if they feel it best) but is there any way someone can relate this advice to articling specifically? Obviously, the feelings mentioned apply but with the stress of not really understanding the work I'm doing. 

I don't know if it directly answers what you're asking, but this is a very good @Uriel post on being a stressed-out articling student: 

  

Edited by realpseudonym
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