Byte of Prevention Blog

by Jay Reeves |

Five Tips for Becoming the Captain of Your Ship

jay reeves headshot How often do you pause during your workday to notice what you’re noticing?

If you’re like most lawyers, the answer is not very often. You’re in the eye of the storm, busy with cases, clients and staff. The day rushes by, and you do your best to keep up.

But taking a few moments for mindful self-observation can change that dynamic. It can also make you a happier and more productive lawyer.

Where Did The Time Go?

Often we are only partly aware of where our attention is directed at any given time. We act out of habit. We react to events.

At the end of the day, we sometimes find ourselves shaking our heads and wondering, where did the time go? And therein lies the problem – and the solution.

Time slipped away because we weren’t fully noticing what we were noticing. We were bobbing along like a cork on the rushing river of the workday, instead of steering our own course.

See if the following scenario is familiar: You’ve got a mediation coming up next week (or a trial, important appointment, whatever). You arrive at the office on Monday morning intending to spend a little time each day in preparation. That way, you will work up to the big event gradually and avoid a last-minute rush. Even better, you block out specific chunks of time on your calendar to do just that.

But then something comes up. Or, more typically a lot of things come up. A prospective client walks in. A friend invites you to lunch. A quick personal phone call stretches out to half an hour. Your email alert keeps ringing.

And so the scheduled prep work gets pushed back to the next hour – or the next day – because other, more urgent matters beckon. Besides, you’ve got lots of time. But then it’s the day before the event and you find yourself once again stressed and scrambling.

How did this happen? Where did the time go?

The Solution is Right There

It happened because your attention was pulled away from your intention. You weren’t noticing what you were noticing.

Here are five tips for being a captain – not a cork – on the flowing rapids of your worklife:

  1. Practice mindfulness. Mindfulness has become a thing. Colleges, medical centers, recreation departments and even churches are offering courses – often for free. Sign up for one today.
  2. Visualize it. Have you ever been thinking of a particular song and you turn on the radio and – Bam! – there it is. That’s the Baader-Meinhoff phenomenon at work. Science has shown a positive correlation between what we picture in our brains and what we experience in the world. In a sense, we really do create our own reality.
  3. Take periodic timeouts. Close your eyes and focus on your breathing. Feel how the air is cool as you inhale and slightly warmer as you exhale. Or do a mental scan of your body. Place your attention on your toes and work your way up. What you’re doing is training yourself to notice what you’re noticing.
  4. Observe things closely. When you pick up a pen, feel its weight and texture. Notice how you hold it in your hand.
  5. Keep a journal. It will help you see exactly how you are spending your time.

Mindfulness can be difficult to maintain in the law office, where the pace is frantic and distractions abound.

What helps you to notice what you’re noticing?


About the Author

Jay Reeves

Jay Reeves practiced law in North Carolina and South Carolina. He was Legal Editor at Lawyers Weekly and Risk Manager at Lawyers Mutual. He is the author of The Most Powerful Attorney in the World, a collection of short stories from a law life well-lived, which as the seasons pass becomes less about law and liability and more about loss, love, longing, laughter and life's lasting luminescence.

Read More by Jay >

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