Feeling overwhelmed? You’re not alone. Lawyers suffer nearly quadruple the depression rates of other professions, and lawyer stress and anxiety within the legal profession are well documented. Increasingly, the demands of the workload are catching up to attorneys from firms of all sizes, contributing to the aforementioned depression rates, as well as professional burnout.
While there are no quick fixes for the depression epidemic afflicting lawyers, there is some relief to be found through the practice of mindfulness. Below are five quick tips (courtesy of Jeena Cho, author of The Anxious Lawyer) in which can help lawyers achieve stress relief, focus their thinking in the moment and boost productivity.
1. Start with your priorities – not someone else’s
Do you spend your morning hours trapped in your Inbox? When you’re responding to emails, you’re allowing other people to set priorities for you. Carve out no-email time in the morning when you’re most productive to do work that requires focus.
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2. Set your intention the night before
Before you go to bed at night, set your intention to do whatever it is you want to accomplish the next morning. It’s helpful to have reminders, such as placing the file you need to work on in the morning on the desk before you leave for the day. If your intention is to meditate each morning, consider putting a sticky note on your bathroom mirror reminding you to meditate.
3. Identify. Prototype. Test. Rinse. Repeat.
This idea is borrowed from Design Thinking. Identify the thing that makes you unproductive. This can be anything from constantly checking Facebook or Twitter to your secretary interrupting you every 20 minutes. Come up with “prototypes” or potential solutions and try your ideas as quickly as possible. The idea isn’t to get it right or to do it perfectly. It’s all about experimentation. Test your theories. Gather data – what worked, what didn’t, what could be improved?
One attorney shared that she was constantly getting distracted by staff needing her attention. In order to reduce interruption to her work flow, she put a timer on her office door. When she needed a block of time to work, she would set the timer. This let whoever visited her office to see that this was her “no distraction” time and also knew when they should come back.
Think creatively and have fun!
4. Shut off bells and whistles
Things that pop up on our desktop or makes noise pulls us away from what we’re focusing on. Consider turning off auto-notifications on your computer as well as your smartphone.
5. More fun, more play
Lots of research shows that fun, play, relaxation and rest are key components for us to perform at our peak. You could be at the office for 16 hours but there is a point of diminishing returns. We can’t constantly be on. We can’t constantly be connected. Consider practicing digital sabbath where you have no device time.
About Jeena Cho
Jeena Cho is a partner at JC Law Group PC, a bankruptcy law firm in San Francisco, CA. In addition to her law practice, she teaches mindfulness and meditation to lawyers. She regularly speaks and writes about wellness, self-care and mindfulness. She also works with lawyers and law firms on stress management, work-life balance, career transition, increasing productivity and overall wellness.