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pepper123

Falling apart during quarantine

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Like many others, I completely relate to the above situation(s). Last month was my most stressful of my career and I had a lot of thoughts about whether I could afford to buy a property and live in the woods and support my family on selling the timbers on-site (for real. Like, I was weirdly fixated on this fantasy). I'm leaving things sitting for too long, am not on-top of a number of files, and am taking much longer than normal to get back to clients. Things are better this month as there's less work, but motivation is still tough and I completely relate to feeling like I'm operating below standards. I agree with @BringBackCrunchBerries's characterization of everything as being just so...tiresome.

The only good thing about it is that lots of other people are in the same boat, are just as tired, and as a result people are generally being forgiving of this right now. I haven't heard a lot of complaints about my response time because a lot of the people I deal with, including clients, are taking forever as well.

Since I went solo, I've always missed being around colleagues during the day (having a fellow associate stop in the office for a chat, going to lunch last minute, having someone to bounce ideas off of, etc.) but I definitely feel this more keenly these days. I'm generally working in-office these days, so that helps a bit with focus but it's still lonely work all the same.

This may not be suitable for everyone, but one of the ways in which I'm dealing with emails is that I'm just not replying at all. I immediately forward to my assistant and ask her to set up a call in a few days. By the time the call happens, the client and I both have organized ourselves and have obviated the need for a chain of emails back-and-forth that would have transpired if we didn't have a call on the horizon.

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Thread hits home, literally. 
 

I was going to post something, but somehow ended up taking a 3pm nap, instead. 

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I am so glad this thread exists! I am having such a difficult time with one particular assignment I'm working on. No important deadlines have been missed or anything but I just cannot find the motivation to complete it as quickly as I should be. I forced myself to sit at my computer until I'd finished parts of it this afternoon.

I try to remember that I am working through a pandemic so I need to me kind to myself and others when it comes to productivity. It is challenging though.

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Too real. I'm exhausted.

Remember a while back when I said my industry, once up and running again, would be absofuckinglutely bonkers and my firm would be busier than ever? Yeah, it's happening. I put time in on 20 separate files yesterday, and that doesn't include the ones that I pushed off to today (which are the ones that I keep pushing off in order to put out fires), or any of the potential clients who contacted me. I worked through the whole holiday, and didn't get to take the vacation I'd scheduled for last week because of a surprise Friday client deadline. I desperately need a bit of time off to reset, but I can't relax because of the flood of work that comes in every day.

Any time Present Berty tries to take off just makes Future Berty's workload even worse. But I also know I can't be effective and do good work if I keep running on empty.

Plus also the puppy is a teenager and has started to do jerk teenager things and I love him but oh boy is he getting on my last nerves. At least he drags me outside a few times per day, and the weather was glorious in Vancouver today.

I have confidence that we will make it through this, but it feels sloggier every damn day. Sending everyone a bit of extra strength. I don't know if it'll help, but maybe we could do a LS.ca social event? Zoom trivia or some shit? Just to keep spirits up?

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I did have a blissful week off between Christmas and New Years where I hardly thought about work at all.

Of course, I have a little toddler running around, so it was less relaxing than just hiding in my office and working.

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As others have said... When I’m done, the computer goes all the way off. I’m fortunate to work in the office/2nd bedroom (ha!)/gym room, so I leave it and never come back in unless it’s to hop on the exercise bike. 

Speaking of, I am trying to get on the bike at least every other day, which has been helping... it’s something to do at least! 

I’m also making a point of being in bed, lights out, screens off before midnight. I’m usually a late night guy and end up with way too few hours but I think we need all we can get these days so I’m trying to change that. 

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27 minutes ago, BertyBewp said:

Too real. I'm exhausted.

SNIP

I don't know if it'll help, but maybe we could do a LS.ca social event? Zoom trivia or some shit? Just to keep spirits up?

Excellent idea. If this gains traction I would have no trouble organizing. To maintain anon status everyone can join with someone else's alias (to keep it fun)! Honestly, that's just fun any time! 

Given that the pandemic has hit me slightly more favourably than the others, I felt it best not to post until it became clear that the OP was not alone (oodles of people struggling including usually A-type, usually high productive personalities). My own experience bears this out as until recently I lived with a die-hard extrovert in downtown Toronto and her pain was obvious. But, I think we've hit that point, and perhaps the perspective of an introvert who rather enjoys the current state of affairs may offer some ways for you extroverts to cope.

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Strat 1: Mentally and physically partition work (including spaces) from home life as much as possible

This has been mentioned above but I cannot stress the importance enough, even for someone like myself. George had it right and you cannot let your worlds collide. Humans are natural mental partitioners and we tend to treat things differently if we mentally compartmentalize them. That's why we are okay to gamble with the "house's money" even though, at the point before we lose it in the roulette table, it is really our money (and it's fungible...except for monopoly that's for keeps). 

I live by myself and have not seen a human in 3 weeks (other than zoom). Even still, I make my lunch for the next day the night before or in the early morning. I could just make it at the time I need it but I prepare it in advance because that's what I would have done going into my shop. Keeping these habits (however silly) can help us maintain that compartmentalization.

The same is true of clothing and anything else you would do naturally at work. Keep it the same at home. I am mostly doing engineering design calcs these days, which involves zero zoom/video chatting, but I still wear pants! Again, silly, but it's crazy what a pair of pants can do to your productivity when trying to figure out forces in a complicated truss connection!

Similarly, keep a separate work space. That is, have a place dedicated to just work. That's your work zone. You walk into that room and it's pants on! If this isn't practical, because you have kids / multiple people working in a small space than just do your best. Setup a fold-up table in the living room or something similar. Why not use the dining table? Because that's home life! If you are going to work make it a work table (see world's colliding video above)! Make sure everyone knows that when you are at that location it's a do-not-disturb sign, no exceptions.

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Strat 2: Care Less

This may be a hard one to swallow but your own inability to distance yourself from your work product is a real problem (....okay mine too I admit). Now, when people say "care less" we usually scoff because we just cant right? It'll just eat us away if we knew something wasn't checked or done appropriately. That's fine for "others" or even most but not for us. Here's the thing, I don't really mean care less about your work product but rather care less about the things that you can, with a reasonably objective lens, discern as not critical. Think about it: how much of what you do is super critical that it absolutely needs to get done that moment or even gets attention in a few days? Not a lot probably...if you think it is urgent it is likely only because others who have said it is urgent. But just because someone calls a frog a duck, doesn't make it so.  

Care about your work product. But give less fucks about the bullshit that comes with it. The fun thing with this is that while it seems like you will be less productive, you are likely to be more productive. By giving less fucks about the BS your mental anguish might just diminish considerably. And if you have space freed up you will be able to use that for other productive things (you darn A-types)!

Example: I have projects where the engineer is off their rocker and sends correspondence dictating what we should be doing (incorrectly) / other nonsense. Usually, this would bug me to no end because they are technically "in charge" and are overseeing my work (despite them not having a clue). Plus, they invite me to bid work...so it's a business thing not to insult their intelligence by pointing out textbook 101 issues. Now? I just document the work, get manufacturer sign offs, and have my own engineers review; basically...saying thanks and not doing one fucking thing different. Caring the same about the work product but less about the BS people create, has done wonders for me. Honestly I think it's only because of Covid that they are okay without the hand-holding but I ain't going back after this ends! 

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Strat 3: Get out of the Cabin...Seriously, OUT OF THE FUCKING CABIN

Like I said, I am quite content without having had human contact for about 3 weeks now. I enjoy it. BUT even I need to get out of the joint once a day for a non-trivial period of time. This is obviously harder for us now that new restrictions are in place but still, it's important just to get the fuck outside.

In the summer, it wouldn't matter what time but in winter the early nights can be a depressing time to go out. If possible, try to scoot away during the day or in morning. 

If you like workouts you can combine these get away times with those. But if to you a workout...is a workout then dont you dare treat them as the same. Get out, breath air, and enjoy the snow!

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Strat 4: Talk to your partner about alone time

I suppose this is odd coming from a guy who...yeah, well, see above! But for half this pandemic I was in a relationship with a very extroverted individual. It was CRITICAL in a 600ft2 condo to discuss needs for alone time. I did not have kids, so I can't speak to that dynamic, but I imagine it's even more important there. You don't want to go from "work" every day to "home" where home is really just another form of work. Chillax time (technical term) where you are able to say fuck it is huge for both partners. Ask your partner if they need an hour for themselves. Likely they will scream YES. And try and give it to them (where they can be free of all other things). It'll do wonders for them and by extension, for you.

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Strat 5: Know when not to force it

Sometimes things aren't jiving and you have an off day. Always happened when you were at the office, but you had our distractions (e.g. office politics, office gossip, other shit) to keep this from weighing too much on you. But now when it's plainly obvious that you are not up to par it's hard to hide it...well, because the only person to really hide it from is yourself. Sometimes it's okay to tell a day that you just aren't going to make the most of it (if you could talk to a day...I wonder how that would work). It's better to be honest than it is to force it because if you force it, you will still feel like shit and be only trivially productive at best. We are human and have off days. That doesn't change working at home. 

When these days crop up I try to switch my focus from tasks that demand critical thought (such as design calcs) to more menial ones, like invoicing where at least I am doing something. I don't feel great about the work (because who likes invoicing) but at least I am not forcing myself to do something that'll probably be sub-standard and I will need to redo tomorrow anyways. Switching to less thought intensive tasks can be productive in a sense while being less taxing on our mental capacity during these days. And going easy today can help prime you for tomorrow.

Anyways, these are by no means anything rigorous or profound in any way. But as someone who is coping pretty well with the current situation, I thought I might jot down a few things I find useful in case someone else might find them so.

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Glad you posted this, as I've been feeling exactly the same way and am glad to see I'm not the only one. I'm not sure I have any advice apart from what others above posted. Make sure you have sort of hobby, preferably involving some degree of physical activity, to help you decompress and stay at least somehwat sane. I'm just trying to take it one day at a time and keep going until things hopefully get to a better place.

Edited by QuixoticLawyer
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23 hours ago, pepper123 said:

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. 

Other better advice has been stated already. And I think this has too, but it bears emphasis: go easy on yourselves.

To OP specifically: everyone is struggling. The evidence is right here in this thread. Senior counsel are struggling. Judges and other decision-makers are struggling. Court officers, administrative assistants, teachers, doctors, frontline workers, your friends, your neighbours...you are not alone, we are all trying our best but the difficulty level has been boosted across the board. And for some, the slider was already set to "hard" mode; now it's reached "god" mode. The very fact that you're reaching out means you still care about your work, which means you are still at an operating level in this context. Controller's still in your hands and you're still mashing the buttons. Keep at it. And go easy on yourself. 

Don't give up on therapy. If you don't like your therapist or you genuinely feel it isn't helping, try another therapist. You're not helpless in this, at the mercy of whoever you land on. Reach out to colleagues, friends, and family you feel comfortable with and seek recommendations--more people than you think will be able to point you in the right direction (and anyone who would stigmatize you for asking about therapy is in the wrong and I know what I'd say to such a person). Find the therapy that gives you what you need. 

 

Edited by FineCanadianFXs
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I cant really speak to any experiences as a lawyer but as a student, compartmentalization is absolutely necessary! For me, thats basically dividing the place, setting, and time I do work vs play. For example, I work and play games at the same desk and computer, BUT when I am playing games, all of my books and notes etc are put away and out of sight. Additionally, I have a cut off time for when I stop thinking about work and answering emails etc. I'm not sure how practical this would be for you but this has been useful for me. 

Heres a great video I found helpful: 

 

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I am in no way qualified to give you practice advice, but if you want to talk mental health stuff, feel free to PM me. 🙂

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Great thread to help break some of the silent self-loathing and embarrassment. Reminds me of this thread, but more specific to practising:

I can't tell you how many times I've been told, "you're certainly Articling in interesting times!" by other lawyers, but I can't say it helps alleviate the guilty associated with experiencing the same problems mentioned above. 

1. Communication and file management is an ongoing challenge. There's a high number of phone calls, e-mails, Skype/Slack messages, and senior counsel (who are used to physical mediums) have been frustrated. As a clerk, (I perceive) the expectations to be accommodate senior counsel, follow direction, and take initiative where possible. Believe me, I'm trying but it's tough straddling the line between helpful prodding to nudge files along and being a pest (and when the lawyer's scrambling as-is). 

2. How will this experience translate to my ability to practice law? This is a constant, nagging worry. Since the work-from-order was made, the past year has eroded working confidence, as workloads ebb and flow from busy to barren, and everyone scrambles to push matters along and shift working arrangement themselves. Not to mention grappling with diminishing capacity to focus when you have to demonstrate productivity as a clerk.

I acknowledge that, in a sense, clerking now is "lucky" because the need to address habits etched in stone is less than seasoned veterans, but what's going to happen when "things return to normal"? Learning doesn't stop, but it feels like post-corona employability will effectively equate "you need to redo articles". 

3. Is this what practice is like? Simply put, is this what my career's going to look like? I get that this career is a lot of quiet, focused work. In fact, I need periods of quiet isolation to really hammer through tough assignments, but this is just lonely. I feel like I don't know my ass from a hole in the ground, and there's no one around to socialize after work with, to bounce ideas off of, to shoot the shit with... If I've learned anything, it's that I can't take working alone, in a room, with no human contact for months on end. 

As a side note, sitting on the arraignment line waiting has been rewarding. Listening to a Crown get politely reminded to "stop breathing so heavy into [their] phone" made me chuckle.

 

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@Phaedrus re: is this what practice is like.

Could be, depending on what sort of practice you have. In general, legal work is done during long periods working alone (unless you’re like duty counsel at a busy courthouse or something). 
 

Sounds like you’re doing criminal defence articles? Many criminal lawyers work alone. You can share office space to have colleagues to bounce ideas off etc., but that’s about it. 

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Oh, and in terms of bsing with colleagues, I like that fine, but with the nature of the job, I just want to get home to my family/SO (when I’m in office), so i keep it short. 

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5 hours ago, prospective said:

just wait till you guys get kids…

I can't imagine how parents who have to home school their kids right now and work are keeping up. 

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10 hours ago, pzabbythesecond said:

I can't imagine how parents who have to home school their kids right now and work are keeping up. 

That's what extensions are for! I adjourned hearings, got extensions on written submissions and, like Douglas Adams said, listened to the whoooooshing sound that deadlines made as they flew by.

We had our 2 year old home while daycare was closed from mid-March to August. My spouse is a health care professional and she still had a full client-load seeing them over video. Our compromise was that she had to give up Monday so she could be full-time toddler duty Saturday-Monday. The rest of the week, she worked 9-5 doing video sessions and I was on toddler duty. I would work evenings and weekends just to keep up. I only managed (to keep up with work) because I would put in 15 hour days Saturday-Monday and then got in 4-5 hours on days I was on toddler duty after she went to bed. It was an awful grind. It feels like we may be trending back in that direction with cases going up and I don't know how we could manage like that again. It feels harder now - at least when EVERYTHING was closed, opposing counsel, the courts, tribunals, etc. could relate because their kids were home too. Our toddler is back in daycare but we are debating pulling her out with cases on the rise. However, we both feel that people are less understanding now (in terms of extension requests or rescheduling client sessions for her) because it would be our choice to keep her home and they may not relate.

 

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Can't speak to your work, and that doesn't really sound like your primary concern anyway, but rather dealing with a lack of organization, concentration, motivation, and an overarching feeling of everything falling apart. 

I've seen a few replies and already can guess the rest of the replies follow suit in the fashion of "go easy on yourself" or something along those lines. Not to say these aren't helpful replies, although admittedly I've never really found them to connect or be helpful but thats probably just me seeing as everyone generally participates in sharing such sentiments. 

Instead I will offer some simple anecdote to tackle what I consider to be your primary concern as mentioned. 

Your day is only as good as your morning: Wake up early, head straight into the shower, get dressed (even if you're not leaving home), have breakfast, coffee, get to doing what needs to be done. 

 

All my good days begin with a strong morning that follow these steps. If you're not doing this, do it. 

 

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On 1/13/2021 at 1:27 PM, pepper123 said:

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. 

Assuming you are in Ontario, have you contacted the Member Assistance Program? It's a great way to speak with someone about your issues and get counselling and access to professional resources. 

Edited by timeisticking

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On 1/13/2021 at 1:27 PM, pepper123 said:

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.

Have you tried taking vacation days (perhaps in addition to a weekend) and then using those days to catch up? It sounds like the problem here is the downward spiral and associated negative emotion that only aggravates the issue. Perhaps if you make some real headway in getting yourself out of the tunnel by working on days when you don't have an obligation to docket the usual hours in addition to catching up, you'll be able to get back on track.

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