Byte of Prevention Blog

by Jay Reeves |

Law Career Challenge #15- Have Controlled Attention

law career fitness challengeWhen you face a challenging situation – something lawyers do every day – you want to bring full attention to the task.

This is sometimes hard to do.

Our lives are so busy. We are pulled in different directions. Our phones are blowing up, our devices beeping.

Often our bodies are here, but our thoughts are elsewhere.

“Turns out, human brains are in the moment for just over half of our waking hours—a sad 53 percent – according to a study from Harvard University,” says this source. “The other 47 percent of the time we’re zoned out, thinking of something else. Unfortunately, mind wandering can happen at the wrong moment – like when your boss is giving a presentation and asks you a question.”

Turning Intent into Action

Riches await those who control their attention. We’re not talking here about a flitting, casual sort of attention, but one that is deliberate and sustained. Full attention that draws a bead on the target and does not waver.

Attention keeps us focused. We hit the bulls-eye, ace the exam, nail the winning shot. We are able to proof-read and edit a complicated legal document so that it does exactly what you want it to do.

We get in trouble when we allow our attention to hop up and wander about like an unsupervised toddler.

Feed Your Brain by Sitting Down

One way to improve your attention span is to meditate.

A study at UCal-Santa Barbara showed that students who took a mindfulness class and meditated for 10 to 20 minutes four times a week for two weeks scored higher on attention tests than students who changed their diet and focused on healthy eating.

Another tip: start taking notes manually, using paper and pen (preferably Uni-Ball black, medium-tip, just saying).

Here are some other tips, courtesy of FastCompany:

  • Exercise
  • Stay hydrated
  • Ask questions
  • Listen to music
  • Drink tea

Even chewing gum can help. “Chewing itself is arousing because it tells the body that nutrients are on their way to the brain, and gum can reduce hunger pangs. So grab a stick of Doublemint and improve your breath and focus.”

Five Training Tips

  1. Vision first, then action. Come up with a mental picture of what you want to do or where you want to go. Focus your attention on the steps required to get there. Come up with a plan – to-do lists, calendar items – and get going.
  2. Get adequate sleep. We live in a sleep-deprived society. We walk around like zombies, functioning at half-speed. Our brains don’t work well when we’re tired. Our attention wanes. Practice creating time and space for restful, undisturbed sleep. Your attention will sharpen as your energy grows.
  3. Turn off machines. These distractions are easily avoided. Just hit the off button.
  4. Practice uni-tasking. According to the latest research, multi-tasking not only causes stress, insomnia and other health problems, it also doesn’t work. Take a kinder, gentler and more effective approach by sticking to one thing at a time, doing that well and then moving on to the next item.
  5. Remember this adage. Keep your eye on the sparrow.

 Did you miss last week's challenge? You can find it here


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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