By: Candess Zona-Mendola
I have worked remotely for several years. So, when the stay-home orders hit, my firm did not have downtime. We continued as if it were any other day. But there was something new going on at home. I still had to work. I still have an attorney and clients who need me. When I am working, I need to focus. I cannot work distracted. But how was I going to find focus during crisis panic, homeschooling, mothering, and isolation? It has not been easy.
I have one mantra: I will survive and thrive. Why do I tell you this? Because I want you to know that you still have control over your work. You still have the ability to be productive during this time.
Here are tips to help get you through this:
1. Create a dedicated workspace.
I have learned that without one, I never “leave” work to be “home.” Instead, I am working from the moment I wake to the moment I go to sleep. By having a dedicated workspace, I can walk away from work (even if I’m just walking to the next room). I can go outside for a break. I can leave work to make dinner for my kids. I can sleep.
Whether you have an apartment or a multi-bedroom home, you too can do this. Take over the bedroom or the kitchen table. Go outside and work in the fresh air. Create a workspace and hours where no one will bother you.
If you don’t communicate with your attorney every day, now is the time to start. I’ve established “morning check-ins” where I email my attorney a list of what I’m working on for the day. We set up calls or video conferences when there are projects we’re working on together. He also keeps me posted on what he’s doing.
Communication is not just about work. You need to be real with your attorney about what is going on at home. You have been told to leave your personal life at home, but that does not work here. Your bosses need to know what is going on. They can’t help you or make creative solutions without this knowledge.
3. You have Control.
Many paralegals have lost their jobs recently because they (or their law firms) haven’t found a way to make it work. There have been many reasons for this. “I just can’t focus at home.” “My house has slow internet.” “I don’t know how to use the software the firm wants me to use.” These are excuses, not solutions.
You can make this work. You need to take control. It is okay to change or reduce your work hours because you need to care for kids. But it is not ok to assume you’re going to get paid to “not work.” There are solutions out there as long as you are willing to look for them.
4. De-Stress and Prioritize.
You are likely overwhelmed right now. I get it. I was too. If you feel anxiety coming on, try meditating: Stop what you are doing, set your alarm for three minutes, and breathe deeply in and out. Your brain will wander but bring it back to now. Feel what your body feels. Listen to what is happening around you. Do this often. It helps relieve your stress.
Now, let’s talk priorities. If your plate is like mine, it is overflowing. But not everything is pressing. And you can’t do everything at once. You have to prioritize. What deadlines are coming up? Do those first. What does your attorney need? Do that next. Ask yourself what matters now and what can be done later. Prioritizing makes it all more manageable, and it helps you focus on one thing at a time.
5. Be Productive Amid Chaos.
How do you eat a whole elephant? One bite at a time. Productivity will come as you find your workflow. Be flexible. What works one week may not work the next one. That’s okay. Just don’t give up. Continue to look for creative solutions until there’s normalcy again. You will find that you are able to be as productive, if not more, than you were before.
Remember, you can do this!
About the Author:
Candess Zona-Mendola is a Trial Paralegal at a national law firm that helps victims of food poisoning outbreaks. She is the author of The Indispensable Paralegal—Your Guide to Getting It All Done, a paralegal guidebook published by Trial Guides. She has been featured on several paralegal media sites and podcasts, including The Paralegal Voice through the Legal Talk Network, and NALA’s webinar series.