In a previous post I talked about the importance of working less in order to engage in different activities (working less and playing more). One such enjoyable activity might be the popular game Sudoku. If you have never played it I encourage you to check it out. In addition to being a fun activity (if you enjoy such things), the benefits of Sudoku on your brain range from improving your concentration and memory, improving analytical thinking, practicing “if, then” thinking, increasing awareness of the interdependent relationships among various factors, and it has been said that it can decrease the chances of developing Alzheimer’s Disease.
It can be quite difficult to see another person’s perspective on an issue when you feel they are attacking you personally. Conflicts encourage us to feel defensive and defensiveness makes it very difficult to understand another person’s perspective. So how can you fight against defensiveness when it feels like you need to defend yourself?
Getting regular, quality sleep is one of the most important factors in good physical and mental health. Our bodies need sleep in order to repair and refuel our energy. While many of us use caffeine and sugar to replace the energy we should have gotten from a good night’s sleep, nothing can replace the benefit of a night of quality sleep. And while it seems simple, regularly getting quality sleep is difficult to do. Any parent can tell you that a full night’s sleep is more of a fantasy than a reality. However, there are some practical tips (generally called Sleep Hygiene) that can help you improve your sleep experience.
A new study published this month in the Journal of Addiction Medicine confirms that lawyers have higher than average rates of alcohol abuse, depression and stress. The Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation and the American Bar Association Commission on Lawyer Assistance Programs (CoLAP) collaborated in a survey of over 12,000 attorneys in 19 states (not including Massachusetts). We know that the legal profession is a stressful profession with prior studies showing higher rates of alcohol abuse and depression than the general population, but find it gravely concerning that the levels of substance abuse, depression and stress remain so high, particularly among younger attorneys.
Let’s be honest, everyone would like to be perfect at what they do. After all, if you were perfect, no one could ever criticize you for anything. And let the honesty continue, we all hate being criticized and judged. It just doesn’t feel good. But I assure you, you too can survive criticism (even harsh criticism). The first place to start is to reject the idea that you need to be perfect. You don’t. You’re not. No one is. And somehow we all find a way to go on surviving despite lacking perfection.
Growing up we all learned that games have rules and you have to play by those rules, otherwise you are cheating. And cheating is bad. If you cheated you were considered a poor sport, someone who couldn’t play nice with others, or someone who just always wanted their way at all costs. Again, all bad. So it’s no wonder that we resist the idea of breaking the agreed-upon rules. So how does this translate into a tip to fight against anxiety? Stay with me.
To address procrastination, it helps to understand that it comes from the desire to avoid discomfort.
As I write this blog entry, I am thinking about what words to use next in order to express my intended message in the most succinct way possible. When I feel that my choice of words is successful, I feel good. I then want to write more with the hopes of repeating that experience. However, when I stumble over the words or it seems like I am hitting a barrier, I feel discomfort. My first tendency is to stop writing (to end the discomfort) and shift my attention to something else, something more pleasurable (email, coffee, the next thing on my to-do list, staring at the ceiling, etc.). This, by the way, is the recipe for procrastination.
While the title might sound like the newest diet craze, I assure you it is not. It is, in fact, a technique to fight procrastination. As mentioned in a previous post, procrastination is simply avoidance. We avoid things that are unpleasant. We put off tasks on our to-do lists until later…or until never. As humans, we are motivated by two basic goals: 1) Seeking pleasure, and 2) Avoiding pain. While seeking pleasure can be very motivating (rewarding myself with a cookie after doing a difficult task can help me increase my motivation), we are actually more influenced by avoiding pain. Given that many of our work tasks are unpleasant, dare I say painful, we are given many opportunities throughout our day to decide to avoid something that is unpleasant or to confront it. A pattern of avoiding such things is called procrastination.
One of the more common issues that professionals struggle with is the all-too-common procrastination. Procrastination, just like salsa, can be mild (putting off a simple task that you eventually complete within a few days), intense (developing a pattern of avoiding certain activities or tasks that one day lead to serious consequences), and everything in between. However, unlike salsa, there is no mango version of procrastination.
Simply put, procrastination is avoidance. We avoid things that make us uncomfortable. We avoid things that we fear. And the more you avoid something, the harder it is to confront. It’s like that email you got from an old friend that you were meaning to reply to. At first you put it off because you weren’t sure what to say (avoidance), then maybe you forgot about it, then you remembered that you hadn’t responded, you then felt bad, and then continued to avoid responding because it was now more uncomfortable because you still don’t know what to say AND you feel bad about it.
Multiple times throughout our day we are all faced with decisions to make. Some decisions are easy and do not require much energy, while others are quite taxing and require considerable mental fortitude. Understanding the factors involved in these tougher decisions can help break through the barriers that often keep us from making a decision. One unhelpful tendency that can occur is the experience of over-thinking or over-analyzing a decision. This involves spending too much time considering the options (the pros and cons of potential choices) to the point where a decision is never made, aptly referred to as “Analysis Paralysis”. A desire for perfection and a fear of failure often fuel this tendency. It’s important to recognize that when we are faced with options, it is inevitable that each option will have both pros and cons associated with it. In other words, there is no perfect option, so stop looking for it. It’s important to recognize the pros and cons of each option, to accept that whatever you choose might not work out, try to see failure as a learning opportunity to embrace and not something to avoid at all costs, and try to see your decision as one step in the process and not the final step.