This is a message for all of you cognitive athletes out there—thinking is hard work.
But wait, you already knew that, because at the end of the day, you’re drained, and your mind is muddled, and often, you’re frazzled too, so you drop into happy hour before heading home or back to the office for a few more hours of work.
Wouldn’t it be helpful though, to know how to turn a nonstop, draining, brain-numbing day into one that’s efficient throughout, so that more gets done in less time with better quality and fewer errors, and so that work can be set aside at a reasonable hour, and you can head out for, well, wherever, feeling energized, rather than lagging, after hours of focused work?
Here’s a PSA from your brain that will help you keep it functioning optimally—thinking clearly, emotionally stable, focused, alert, recall ready, and available to problem-solve.
I’m the organ housed primarily (but not only) between your ears, and I...
With nonstop, and ever-increasing demands on our time and attention, productivity is at a premium.
What does productivity mean to you? Hours billed? Work out the door? Number of matters resolved? Is it enough that we’re meeting our deadlines, even if they’re taking a toll?
One major benefit to being productive is that productivity increases energy and lowers stress. To get there, though, we need to understand what that means.
The dictionary defines productivity in two ways:
By virtue of the first definition, every lawyer is productive.
But the question that we really want to answer is this one: Is our effort effective? To get to the answer to that question, we need to understand that productivity:
You awake to a dozen or more new emails demanding immediate attention and you feel stressed before you’re even out of bed. That may translate into muscle tension, shallow breathing, a racing heart or other physical manifestations of a stress-response run amok.
Or, you may experience mental hijack by your now activated fear center, sending your thinking brain offline. We’ve all seen or experienced this at some point—a minor event triggers a verbal tirade from an overextended colleague, or an overworked associate goes numb after a sleep-deprived week.
Adversity is the norm in the high-stress, high-demand environments that lawyers inhabit—adverse rulings, difficult clients, obstructive opposing counsel, long hours, looming deadlines, demanding colleagues, and so on.
Whatever the adversity, these events call for nimble thinking and the ability to pivot, without extracting an adverse toll on our mental, emotional or physical health.
We are obsessed with happiness. We listen to songs about it. We read books about it. We long for it. We revel in happy endings. The U.S. Constitution even guarantees our right to pursue it. Yet many of us are trapped in the pursuit, with only fleeting moments captured.
So what is this thing called happiness, and where do we get some?
Before we go further, as you read this, reflect on moments when you felt happy. I admit that I actually find this request to be quite annoying, and always felt dismayed when asked to do the same. For many of us, this isn't easy. Happiness as it appears in ads and on social media feels remote. Our personal happy times or experiences may have been fleeting, few and far between, or associated with desirable feelings other than what we perceive as happiness, which is why it's important to recognize what happiness means to each of us personally, so that we can cultivate more of it.
Let's dive in.
What positive psychology says
We lawyers spend a good deal of our time in our heads, thinking--and worrying--about the work on our desks, and the time we don't have, and the "what-ifs," and the "if-onlys," yet when take a moment to gaze up at a star-studded night sky, the awe and wonder that we experience is not in our heads and our thoughts, but at our core and in our hearts. Even just imagining a starlit sky can evoke a feeling of amazement, sending warm ripples of excitement coursing through us.
I just finished reading the March 2019 feature article in National Geographic--an extraordinary and awe-inspiring piece on our search for life on other planets. According to the article, "new discoveries reveal it's almost certain we're not alone in the universe." The Kepler telescope's discovery of thousands of exoplanets has shifted the conversation from "if" to "where." Using highly sophisticated instrumentation, researchers are now expanding the search beyond radio signals to look for "biosignatures" and...
What is THRIVING anyway? And why a Center for Thriving in Law?
I'm going to take a circular path to answer those two questions.
I don't need to tell you that law is a high-intensity, high-demand profession. To sustain a long-term career, or more immediately, to get through a tough trial, a traumatic client event, or a difficult deal, we need tools and strategies that keep our thinking clear, and that sustain our energy and motivation over the long haul.
Let’s take a little trip down evolutionary-biology lane. When humans first roamed Earth, we were nomadic, on the lookout for predators and food, and we synced our activities with the rise and the setting of the sun.
Yet, fast forward many millennia, we live in a technologically advanced world designed by humans, but in a sense, not for humans.
Over the past century, since the advent of the industrial revolution, we’ve moved further and further away from our innate design. Unlike our ancestors, we sit for hours...