Trainee blog: How to manage busy periods at work (and avoid stress)

Most trainees will appreciate that by embarking on a legal career you will sometimes have, along with the varied and stimulating work you get involved with, a demanding schedule.

It is vital to successfully manage busy periods to avoid stress, especially given the undeniably negative effect stress can have on your mental and physical wellbeing. I have put together a list of things that will help to make busy periods at work more enjoyable, and less stressful. 

Be organised

Working from a single to-do list, whether for each day or week, and whether it is electronic or hardcopy, helps to visualise your work load. A single list is one of the best ways to remember and prioritise your outstanding tasks. By taking the time - either the night before or first thing in the morning-  to list out what you need to  achieve will help you manage your time and avoid becoming distracted from the job in hand, especially when you inevitably receive an email marked as 'High Importance' with 'Urgent' written as the subject! In short, being organised will make you more productive, save you time and, hopefully, make busy periods more manageable.

Communicate

Depending on the business area, trainees can often find themselves juggling work from numerous fee earners across the team. This is great because it means you can experience the multiple areas of law that any one team specialises in. However, with these benefits comes the potential to take on too much work. To avoid this, ensure that when taking instructions, you are clear with your supervisor what work you already have on, and ask how best to prioritise the  work you are being asked to do. If there is a conflict of deadlines, the relevant lawyers can allocate the work appropriately, leaving you with a more manageable schedule.

Take breaks

It might seem counterintuitive to take breaks when you are busy and working to strict deadlines, but doing so will help you to work more effectively. You will have to judge what is appropriate, and suitable in these circumstances, but making sure that you take regular breaks will help to prevent feeling overwhelmed by your workload.

Ask for help

As a trainee at Michelmores I am lucky to work not only with experienced lawyers but also a network of individuals in the business services teams, and this is important to remember when you are experiencing busy times at work. When taking on new tasks and working close to capacity, it is worth considering who the most time and cost efficient people are to carry out each part of the job.

For example, if you are working to a strict court deadline and preparing bundles, it may be appropriate to enlist the support of the reprographics team and office assistants. Or, if you have been given a complex research task, the knowledge and library team could steer you to some relevant sources for you to then analyse. It helps to discuss these kinds of steps with the instructing lawyer and the support teams so that everyone can work collaboratively.