I’ve been a corporate lawyer for 17 years and these are some of the mistakes that I made, especially in my early days.
Mistake 1: Multi-tasking
I used to have all of the files that I was to work on that day on my desk. I even had them lined up in the order that I was going to work on them. Organised? Yes. Distracting? Yes! As I worked I could see that stack of files, bluntly announcing to me that I had a lot of work still to do and I was going to be in the office until late.
Have on your desk only what you need for the task at hand. Clear everything else away from your work space.
Mistake 2: Getting distracted
Let’s face it; if you have constant pings then you aren’t fully concentrating on what you are doing so switch off your email and social media notifications.
The same goes for open plan offices. They aren’t always the best place to work as there are constant distractions. Hunt out other places where you can concentrate fully on your one task.
Mistake 3: No breaks
There were days when I worked in London when I’d come to the office at 9am and not leave it until 14 hours later. Meetings, drafting contracts, emails, more meetings.
I would get to the weekend and collapse.
We aren’t robots who can work non-stop. We have our maximum concentration time of between 40-50 minutes. Work out what yours is then take a break. Get a coffee, stand up and stretch.
Mistake 4: Stay inside all day
Eating lunch at your desk doesn’t make you more productive or mean you get more work done. The opposite is true because you get to the middle of the afternoon and your brain just isn’t working as well as it did.
Getting outside isn’t always easy to do; especially in the middle of winter in London when it was COLD! But it is essential to do this as much as you can.
Mistake 5: Sitting all day
Your body isn’t designed to sit at a desk all day. Stand up and stretch. Walk the stairs to another floor, rather than taking the lift.
WARNING: Don’t underestimate the damage that you can do to your body by not taking care of it. If I added up all of the trips to the physiotherapist I’ve had because I allowed my work to become more important than taking care of my body I know I would be horrified.
It’s not normal to have tension headaches and aching muscles from sitting at a desk.
Take care of yourself now or it’s only going to get worse. That I can say from painful experience.
If you are in Wellington I would highly recommend getting along to a Body Mechanic class run by the very knowledgeable Greer Robertson.
Mistake 6: Allowing the tension to build
Have you been concentrating so hard on something that you forgot to breath? When you take in that first deep breath you feel your body relax and muscles melt.
When we are tense, rushed or stressed our breathing becomes shallow.
Take a moment or two in your day to close your eyes and breath. Feel your muscles relax and your jaw unclench. I only wish I’d done more of this in my lawyering days as it could have reduced the levels of stress that I had.
Mistake 7: Keep an eye on the time
Okay so this isn’t actually a mistake rather a handy tip.
As a lawyer in a law firm I was expected to record my time. This comes from the billing model that you charge for the time that is spent on a client’s file. I quickly grew used to recording my time in 6 minute units and allocating each of those units to a particular code e.g. billable client file, administration.
My non-lawyer friends had a lot of questions about my new habit:
“What if someone drops by to chat?”
“What do you do when you go to the bathroom?” (I used to amuse myself by telling friends that there was a special code that we had to use for that).
It might seem like a crazy system from the outside but it does make you very conscious of how you are using your time, especially when I worked out how much each 6 minute unit was worth to my clients.
Try it this week. Keep track of your time and see how you are spending it.
Are you are wondering if you’ve got all your legal ducks in a row? Grab your free copy of the Legal Health workbook and find out.