Working as a lawyer takes a lot of time and dedication.  Yet, so many of us, despite our heavy workload, understand the importance of becoming involved in our community, charitable organizations, professional organizations, etc.  This involvement provides many benefits such as social connections, networking opportunities, and professional development.  Nonetheless, there are only so many hours in a day and so many choices.  So how does one decide where to spend the little free time that they have?  The following tips will provide some valuable guidance:

Follow Your Passion

There is no point in becoming involved in an organization simply because you believe it is the “right” place to belong or the place where you “should” be.  If you are not interested in the organization, the likelihood is that you will not sustain your membership.  If you do force yourself to attend meetings or events, it will be an unpleasant experience and because of this, you will not show your best self.  Eventually, you will find yourself making excuses as to why you cannot attend meetings.  As a result, your involvement in the organization becomes a stressor in your life as opposed to a meaningful experience.  Instead, of wasting your time and energy, choose an organization in which you are truly interested even if it is not the most popular or one that you are “supposed” to join.  You will want to participate, and it won’t feel like a chore to belong.  As a result, you will connect with others who have the same passion and will develop more meaningful relationships with those who have a common interest.

Less Is More

Spreading yourself thin and being involved in a lot of different organizations will make you very busy, but this is not the way to achieve maximum value for your time. It is better to be more involved in fewer organizations. Strive to become a leader in the organization or groups with whom you choose to associate.  This will make you be a more integral part of the group. From a business development perspective, it is also likely that you will gain more recognition as an involved participant in a few key organizations rather that simply an attendee in many different organizations.

Make Your Time Count

Along the same lines as tips one and two above, you should value your time away from work and not feel that you must fill it with events and meetings just for the sake of belonging.  There is something to be said of having some downtime to be with family and friends without the pressure of networking or having to be your professional self.  This time away will also rejuvenate you and give you more energy for your work and the organizations in which you choose to get involved.

Know Your Goals

Before you devote your precious spare time to an activity or organization, know why you want to be involved.  For example, if you are looking to expand your knowledge base in your practice area and find colleagues with whom to discuss ideas, you may want to get involved in the specific practice section of your local or state bar association.  If your goal is to contribute to the community, a local charitable organization or political organization may be a wise choice.  If your goal is networking or business development, a group that does not involve lawyers who practice in the same area and the same location would allow you to expand your network of possible referrals.  Most importantly, it is worthwhile to think through your reasons for getting involved before you do.

Know When to Move On

As you grow professionally and personally and develop new interests and goals, you can expect to change the organizations with which you want to become seriously involved.  While it can be difficult to move on from an organization where you have become a leader and into which you have poured your passion over possibly years of involvement, doing so allows you to expand your interests and provides room for others with fresh ideas and new energy to move into roles you once occupied.  This is not to say that you need to leave organizations that you still enjoy and feel excited about, but simply that you should not feel that you have to stay involved in a group that you have outgrown or that has changed in a way that no longer suits you.  Allowing the choice to move on gives you the opportunity to find a new group to which you can devote your time and energy and expand your network of contacts.            

Thinking about the foregoing tips before simply saying yes to every organization available will help to maintain some sanity and prevent burnout.  It is better to say no to an organization or membership that is not right at this time then to join something and not follow through.  Being involved certainly has its benefits – it not only makes us feel good about ourselves, and allows us to make important contacts and build friendships, but it also benefits the organizations to which we belong, especially if we are active participants.  That is why choosing thoughtfully and wisely about where we devote our time is a win-win for us and the group or groups where we spend our time.