So, what made you decide to get into law? Was it an innate desire to find and deliver justice? Perhaps you have a natural ability to ascertain fact from fiction, to problem solve, to find answers, to chase deadlines, to relish in the thrill of the chase, to perform under pressure. Maybe one or all of these things, and even more.
Missed part one? Read our first Mindfulness March article here!read now
Whether a student of law, or a practicing professional, you will probably find that the more results you deliver, the more you want to deliver results. This, my legal friends, is a form of action addiction.
The accomplishment of a task, big or small, superfluous or essential, initiates a flurry of that wonderful naturally produced hormone dopamine. This hormone is highly addictive and, when released, creates an experience of gratification and enjoyment, so who could blame you for wanting more of the stuff?
And your brain does want more. It seeks new dopamine kicks for further instant gratification. This gratification can come not only from the completion of a major case, but from smaller fixes such as replying to an email or signing paperwork.
For all its wonderful happy feelings, dopamine kicks can distract our focus from a task in hand. If not kept in check, our attention can be easily led astray which in effect slows down our productivity and performance.
So how can we keep it in check?
The best way to keep your dopamine kick in check is by identifying a ‘choice moment’. These are moments during a day when you’re interrupted mid-task – this might be a passing thought that breaks your focus or perhaps you are confronted with a new priority.
The key is to not fall prey to these distractions. Note them, make a choice as to whether it requires immediate attention, if it doesn’t then add it to your to-do list and revisit it later once you’ve completed the task in hand. You consciously decide on the direction of your focus and what aligns best with your primary objective.
Some time ago, I turned off all notifications of new emails and social media alerts on my mobile phone. I could be happily ensconced in a creative flow of writing when ‘ping’, I see an email with an outstanding invoice to settle, or ‘ping’ I see a new project offer come in or ‘ping’ I see that my friend’s baby has just shoved a pea up his nose – I mean, really?!
That desire to respond, or act upon what I read was strong and often lead me away from my writing. They presented too many ‘choice moments’ for my liking and, since the deactivation of these alerts, I can tell you my productivity is far greater.
To help resist an automatic response, you might also want to try turning off all email and social media notifications. You can allocate designated time during your day to give your attention to your emails, at which point you can give them your full focus.
It’s about diligence – when we work with diligence, we are setting clear our intention to complete a task to our full productive potential without being led astray by that alluring dopamine fix, or information on a nasal pea.
The good news is that mindfulness practice can help you control your dopamine levels. It increases serotonin levels in our brain which balances the dopamine kick and as such helps you to overcome your action addiction.
By practising Mindfulness for just 10 minutes each day, it will enhance your ability to detect ‘choice moments’ and increase your awareness of when your mindscape is feeling too busy or cluttered.
As well as a formal practice of mindfulness, you can introduce shorter mindful ‘blipverts’ to your day. These are 45 second breaks taken regularly throughout your day where you briefly check in with yourself.
You allow for an awareness in that moment of your thoughts and feelings – consider it as reset button for your mind. This helps break the action addiction cycle and keeps you on track for completing tasks in hand.
You can set your phone alarm to remind you to do this hourly; it will support you in remembering.
Although 45 seconds doesn’t seem like much time, considering we have approximately 40 thoughts per minute it really is ample.
For lawyers, with multiple shifting priorities on a daily basis which are constantly developing – even when you’ve clocked out – mindfulness will help by providing you with breaks and improving your focus so you can stay productive.
By checking in with yourself, you will find that you will not get distracted by small tasks and perform better at the right times!
Over the past few weeks we have explored a few ways in which Mindfulness can help you both in your work and your life as a whole. The main pointers to take away with you are:
As Mindfulness March draws to a close, don’t let it be the end of your mindful journey. I have all the belief that these blogs can help you, and every hope that they will.
“Be mindful. Be grateful. Be positive. Be true. Be kind.” – Roy T. Bennett
Published: 26/03/18 Author: Liz Davies
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