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3 Steps to a Fresh Outlook in 2014

by Jay Reeves |

Nobody wants to eat food that is old, stale and lacking in nutrition.

But many lawyers run their practices in ways that are just as unhealthy.

2014 could be the year to change that.

Here are three ideas for adopting a fresh outlook at work.

Become Time-Affluent

We are servants to time. We keep track of it, organize our days around it and charge money for it.

And usually we complain that we don’t have enough of it.

Twenty years ago, psychologists coined the term “time famine” to describe the stress and anxiety of sensing that time is running out. These days, they are writing about the powerful benefits of “time affluence.”

Time famine puts us in a state of perpetual personal crisis. But time affluence is powerfully uplifting. Recent studies show it improves personal happiness, physical health and civic engagement.

How to attain this blissful state?

It’s easier than you think. You don’t have to rush out and buy new time management software. And you don’t have to make a major change like quitting your job or giving your children away.

Instead, all you have to do is focus on small acts and simple emotions. Take a walk. Listen to beautiful music. Be grateful for things we too often take for granted, like good health and great friends.

Most powerfully, bring awe into your life. Consider the majesty of a sunrise. Look up at a billion stars at night. Imagine standing on Table Rock and gazing down at the beauty of Linville Gorge.

“With awe, the researchers concluded, people become more present, living in the moment, not rehashing the past or fretting about the future. Our usual frame of reference has been altered and time seems to expand,” according to one source.

Break The Tantrum Cycle

Do you work with someone who throws tantrums?

Are you prone to throwing them yourself?

Tantrums are no fun. They are sometimes terrifying. And they are always non-productive.

When we are on the receiving end of a tantrum, our first instinct is to do whatever it takes to stop it. Bad idea.

Instead, try this three-step strategy from business and marketing guru Seth Godin:

  • Listen to the person, not the tantrum.
  • Realize that tantrums want to deal with tantrums.
  • Create systems to avoid tantrums in the first place.

Example: let’s say you get an irate phone call. First try to lower temperature, Godin suggests, by remaining calm and not yelling back. Ask the caller to write down everything that is bothering them, along with what you are expected to do about it. Request a call-back when the list has been completed. Better yet, schedule a meeting to discuss it.

Similarly, if you receive an email tantrum, don’t respond point by point. Instead, consider ways to de-escalate – not by giving in, but by refusing to argue in the first place.

The most important rule: do not fight fire with fire. An emotional, defensive response will only reward the rotten behavior and increase the odds that you will say or do something that will be used to justify the tantrum in the first place.

Remember, says Godin: the reason we throw tantrums is to get people to respond in kind.

Sleep On It

Want a happier and more productive office? Send everyone home and tell them to get a good night’s sleep.

New research indicates that many of us stagger through our days in varying states of sleep-deprivation.

This is partly a result of our jet-paced, plugged-in, 24/7 world. But it is also due to the fact that our internal clocks are not necessarily synchronized to a 9 to 5 (or 8 to 6, dawn to midnight, whatever) work schedule.

Some studies show that two 4-hour stretches of sleep might be more beneficial than a consecutive eight hours. Others reveal the benefits of catnaps, siestas and quiet time.

Human resource managers are hiring so-called “sleep accountants” to measure and assess the alertness of their workforce. A sluggish staff can drag a business into the ditch. Judicious use of flex time, telecommuting and other techniques can keep folks sharp and motivated.

At your next staff meeting, let your employees know you appreciate the importance of sleep. Tell them you want to make sure they are getting enough of it – not just for their benefit, but for yours as well.

The bottom line: sleep is as vital to our health as nutrition, exercise and companionship.

Take a fresh approach to time, tantrums and sleep, and who knows? 2014 might blossom in ways you had never before imagined.


Jay Reeves a/k/a The Risk Man is an attorney licensed in North Carolina and South Carolina. Formerly he was Legal Editor at Lawyers Weekly and Risk Manager at Lawyers Mutual. Contact jay@lawyersmutualnc.com or phone 919-619-2441.

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.

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