Energy is defined in the American Heritage Dictionary, in part, as, “The capacity for work or vigorous activity; vigor; power.” When you think of your days in the office, do the terms “vigor” and “power” come to mind for you? How can you increase your energy level, bringing those qualities into your practice?
1. Wake Up Rested. According to Mayo Clinic general health specialist Kenneth Berge, M.D., “For most adults, seven to eight hours a night appears to the best amount of sleep.”1
Why is sleep especially important for a lawyer? Sleep helps us solve problems in a vigorous and powerful way. Dr. Tamer Fouad provides the following example, based on a study conducted by German scientists at the University of Luebeck:
[C]reativity and problem solving appear to be directly linked to adequate sleep. In the study, which was published in a recent issue of the journal Nature, scientists found that volunteers taking a simple math test were three times more likely than sleep-deprived participants to figure out a hidden rule for converting the numbers into the right answer if they had eight hours of sleep. The study involved 106 people divided into five separate groups. One group slept, another stayed awake all night, and a third stayed awake all day for eight-hour periods before testing following training in the main experiment. Two other groups were used in a supplemental experiment. The group that got eight hours of sleep before tackling the problem was nearly three times more likely to figure out the rule than the group that stayed awake at night.2
2. Eat Breakfast. A lawyer needs energy all day, not just in the afternoon. According to Kindy Peaslee, registered dietitian and nutrition consultant, and Katherine Streeter, a nutrition specialist:
Breakfast was designed to rev up your body for the rest of the day by boosting your energy, keeping your eating patterns even and stimulating your body’s metabolism. … Focus on a blend of protein and carbohydrates at breakfast. Hearty carbohydrates will give that boost of energy to jump start your day. A mix of protein will be the staying power to keep your body going strong over the next three to four hours until lunch.3
3. Hit the Gym Before Hitting the Office. Greg Landry, author and exercise physiologist, states, “When you exercise in the morning you’ll be energized for the day!” He continues, “Research has demonstrated that exercise increases mental acuity … on average it lasts four to ten hours after exercise! No sense in wasting that while you’re sleeping.”4
4. Show Up to A Clean Office and Desk. When you get to the office, you need to start work, rather than getting organized to get started.
If you are like most lawyers, your “to do” list is overwhelming and looking at it produces a profound desire to simply go back to bed. So, rather than tackling the whole list, start your day with a clear sense of priority. You can probably get through the top item on your list and — if you are feeling the energy mojo from your breakfast and workout — maybe you can do your top three “to do” items.
5. Take Lunch. Stepping away from your desk and taking a short and nutritious lunch break may increase your productivity, and let you put in less hours in the long run.
“Your brain needs to rest,” says Deborah Brown-Volkman, a career coach. “Sometimes, in order to concentrate you have to think about something different, get away from the problem. Sunshine is good for the body, mind and soul.” # In addition, eating nutritious food for lunch gives your body more energy and helps you avoid the time-wasting and less-than-healthy habit of an afternoon coffee break.
6. Complete Your Most Horrible Project. Are you dreading returning that call from your cranky, unreasonable and borderline psychotic client? Although procrastination is common among lawyers, it can significantly decrease your energy level. “Delaying things take time and energy — because you know when something needs to be done and you’re not doing it — it stays in the back of your mind and silently drains you.”5
Good choices increase your energy level, which in turn creates more time and allows you to bring a vigorous and powerful “A-Game” approach to tackling your day.
Stacey L. Romberg, attorney at law, when not eating whole-grain toast with peanut butter for breakfast to achieve a healthy mixture of proteins and carbohydrates, practices law in the areas of small business, estate planning and probate. She can be reached at www.staceyromberg.com.
1 Mayo Clinic Staff, December 5, 2006, found at http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/how-many-hours-of-sleep-are-enough/AN01487.
2 Dr. Tamer Fouad, February 9, 2004, found at http://www.doctorslounge.com/primary/articles/sleep/.
3 “The Importance of Breakfast: Fuel Up and Start the Day Right,” by Kindy Peaslee and Katherine Streeter, found at http://www.adksportsfitness.com/back_issues/august2001/articles/nutrition.html.
4 “Exercise in the Morning,” by Greg Landry, M.S., 1999, found at http://www.fitnesszone.co.za/exercise2.htm/.
5 “Why the Lunch Break is Going Extinct,” by Eve Tahmincioglu, MSNBC contributor, August 20, 2007, found at http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/20265063/.
6 “Five Ways to Kick the Procrastination Habit!” Julie Plenty, December 2002, Mental Health Matters, found at http://www.mental-health-matters.com/articles/article.php?artID=583.
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Reprinted from May 2008, King County Bar Association Bulletin, by Stacey Romberg