Alvah Parker

Article Summary:

What is the true cost of being a perfectionist and/or a workaholic attorney, and how can you overcome these ultimately destructive traits?

What Is The Cost Of Being A Perfectionist Or Workaholic Attorney?

Are you a perfectionist and/or a workaholic? In today's 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 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. I'd add perfectionism to that, too. People 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.

Sooner or later there just aren't enough hours in the day. Sometimes 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.

The choice to be a workaholic and/or a perfectionist is in the hands of each individual. Making a conscious effort to change your inner messages is a first step. For those of you working long hours and hating it, there is a solution for you:

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? Do you know how to enjoy your mistakes?

Alvah Parker is a Practice Advisor for attorneys and Career Transition Coach as well as publisher of Parker's Points, an email tip list and Road to Success, an ezine. To subscribe send an email to join-roadtosuccess@ Parker's Value Program � enables clients to find a way to work that is more fulfilling and profitable. She is both a Practice Advisor and Coach to attorneys, sole practioners, and works with people in transition to find a fulfilling career. Alvah is found on the web at She may also be reached at 781-598-0388.

Read all advice by Alvah Parker; Find more Career Advice experts

More advice on Career Advice
» Job Rejection: Accepting Judgment
» Retaining Your Personal Value While Unemployed
» all Career Advice articles