I am terrible at meditation. This is likely true for many Type A corporate types whose natural inclination is to go and do. But because I’m Type A, I push myself to do most things that will improve business performance. Enter short form meditation and my new practice of simply repeating a recently heard meaningful phrase as I get my afternoon coffee.
The short form meditation of today comes from Priya Parker’s book The Art of Gathering. In it she mentions learning from a Japanese tea ceremony the phrase “ichi-go ichi-e“. This roughly translates into “one meeting one moment in your life that will never happen again”. The Japanese are taught to be very mindful during tea ceremonies, be present in the moment and be present with those you are with.
I may never be able to turn off the running list of to do’s in my head. But for a brief moment as I pause to get my much needed cup of coffee, I can think ichi-go ichi-e. This moment will not happen again. Now back to billing I go.
“We all need champions who are willing to advocate for us when we cannot speak for ourselves. And when your boss doesn’t do it, it can be downright challenging. But it doesn’t have to stop your progress and career advancement.”
In biglaw, the work demands are either feast or famine; some days you twiddle your thumbs as you bill a paltry 2.5 hours and worry that you will never meet your billable requirements. Other days (like this entire last month for me) you are glued to your screen as you bill 15 hours each day and worry about every particular of the countless deals you’re staffed on. One thing I’ve realized is that try as we might, it is near impossible to control the work demands. Billable work comes and goes and we just go with the flow. That uncertainty can be hard for lawyers and I know that I’ve personally struggled with that. I try to find solace in areas I can control. Here are 3 tips for lawyers to feel in control even when you’re not:
Tip 1: Feel in Control by Controlling Coffee Quality at Home
Coffee for me is essential. I love going out for coffee (See my Palo Alto Coffee Guide), but when work is at an all time high, finding even 15 minutes to detour for coffee can be challenging. I can’t always control when I can take coffee breaks at the office, but I can control the process for how I make coffee at home. I take the time to use filtered water, use a grinder to grind up some fresh beans, and enjoy my cup of coffee in a nice cup or coffee tumbler. Being able to control how I make my morning cup of coffee makes me feel like my mornings are just a little better.
Tip 2: Feel in Control by Controlling Your Running Speed
Running for me is therapeutic. Even if I only have 15 minutes between conference calls I will change into running gear and do a quick run outside. I can’t always control when I will be able to run or for how long, but I can always control my running speed when I do. I use the short running sessions for sprints, running as fast as I can back and forth on the block where my office is. I use the longer running sessions for pace runs, running at a challenging pace but not one where I feel out of breath. Being able to control how fast I run during each session makes me feel like I have more control over my exercise regiment and my therapy time.
Tip 3: Feel in Control by Controlling the Last Thing You Read
Like most attorneys, I find myself logging in a few hours of billable work in the evening after I get home. With cross border transactions and rush deadlines, the emails and drafting never really seem to stop. I can’t always control how late I work, but I can control the last thing I read before it’s lights out. I like to ensure that the last thing I read isn’t a work related email. Rather, I read an article from a magazine or flip open to a random page of a book of quotes on motherhood my parents gave me. Being able to control the last words I read make me feel like I have ended my day on my terms and I’m ready to face the next one.
Lawyer life can be stressful. You get so busy that sometimes you wish you were still a kid, enjoying recess, summer vacation and of course, nap time. We may no longer have the benefit of a forced break, but that doesn’t mean that us lawyers can’t take a break from the billable hour to channel our inner child. Sometimes all you need is a Point One break- 0.1 hour or 6 minutes off from the billable hour to be a kid again and bask in the simple joys reminiscent of childhood.
Did you know that adult coloring books are a thing now? And a popular thing at that! Buzzfeed features 16 coloring books that are fitting for adults (although there’s nothing wrong with snagging a page from your kid’s coloring book). Aside from being an activity that can be accomplished in as much time as you desire, coloring books are relaxing way to take a break and to channel some of the free spirited creativity we may have lost along the road to adulthood. So grab a coloring book and get to coloring. And now that we’re adults, there is no one to tell us we have to color in the lines or that a giraffe can’t be pink. Adulthood does have its perks.
I remember people telling me that lawyers are never as smart as they are on the last day of the bar exam. After the last performance test, many of the subjects tested on the bar exam unrelated to one’s future practice area become nothing more than faint memories. We become very focused on our specialties and forget just how much we used to know about other subjects, and not just those covered in law school. Sometimes all you need is a Point One break- 0.1 hour or 6 minutes off from the billable hour to test your smarts.
Enter Sporcle, the online trivia website. Although not as exciting as trivia night at your local bar^, it’s a great way to see just how much you remember about long forgotten subjects like famous art, geography or world history. My favorite are the minute morsel quizzes, which are 1 minute quizzes that test your knowledge of things like country names that include a given set of three letters. Sporcle is a convenient way to take a billable break without leaving your office plus challenge your smarts in a non-law related way. As Sir Francis Bacon said: ipsa scientia potestas est- knowledge itself is power.
^ Side Note: If you haven’t done trivia night at your local bar, add this to your livables list of things to do. Fair warning, if you do decide to partake in Tuesday Trivia at Rose & Crown in Palo Alto, get ready to compete against some seriously brilliant minds as this bar tends to draw in the Stanford PhD and graduate student crowd.
Mother’s Day is around the corner. Despite that acute awareness, I haven’t been able to get out of the office to buy a token of my appreciation for my wonderful mother. Thankfully nowadays we rarely have to leave our desk to procure anything. Here are 5 suggestions for a mother’s day gift for working moms from working moms.
Fun Print for Her Office
Given how many hours she spends in the office each day, a fun print to provide motivation and humor is well deserved. The above print is from Etsy which has countless prints for sale or even for download and print if you have a nice printer at the office.
In case your favorite working mom haven’t caved to the joy that is Amazon Prime, this is a perfect gift. Not only does she get free two day shipping on countless items, but it comes with music and movie/tv streaming.
Coffee Gift Card
For the coffee dependent working mom, you can’t go wrong with a coffee gift card. Whether she’s tired from a 10 hour drafting session or from a teething toddler, a caffeine boost can go a long way to brighten her day. And bonus for you, you can pick up the coffee card while you’re stopping for your own needed cup of coffee. Here’s my list of favorite coffee places in Palo Alto.
Snack Box Subscription
Subscription boxes have been all the rage for awhile, but my favorite is still the snack box subscription. Who doesn’t love getting a box of delicious snacks. Send your favorite working mom a monthly gift she can enjoy each month and which saves her from having to resort to vending machine snacks.
In Home (or In Office) Beauty Session
Every mom loves to be pampered but sometimes it’s just impossible to get out of the office or the house. Bring the beauty session straight to her by scheduling a stylist or manicurist to do an in home or in office beauty session. There are apps like GlamSquad (operating in Los Angeles, New York and Miami) which is like an Uber for beauty, or salons who directly send a member of their beauty team.
The corporate life can get monotonous at times. We get into a routine and it can be easy to forget to appreciate the little things. Sometimes all you need is a Point One break- 0.1 hour or 6 minutes off from the billable hour to appreciate the little things that make you happy.
I like to take a break from the billable hour to do an Instagram happy challenge. I love taking photos of the little things at work that make me happy, like a surprise of chocolate bacon goodness from a colleague who knows that bacon is the ultimate joy. I find that taking and sharing a snapshot of what makes me happy is not only a very relaxing way to take a break from the billable hour, but it also fosters happiness in others when they comment on the photo or decide to join in on the challenge with me. If taking a break to Instagram (and then subsequently devour) a chocolate bacon concoction isn’t happiness I don’t know what is.
Proof that a job is only as boring as you choose it to be.
Daniel Williams made an awesome parody of the GoPro commercials. Rather than using the GoPro to film an extreme sport in some exotic destination, he used it to film a typical office work day. The video has over 1 million views on YouTube with many viewers commenting how their terrible job is just as boring as Williams’ job. I think this video definitely shows how life in the corporate world can involve some mundane and repetitive tasks, but your job is really what you make of it. I’m sure Williams’ day of filming was much more interesting compared to other days he spent in the office. With the right perspective and attitude, any job can have elements of excitement to it. They may not all be GoPro film worthy, but at least you’ll walk out of the office much happier.
Harpers Bazaar recently published an article by Matilda Kahl where the art director discussed her choice to wear the same outfit to work every day and how this choice to simplify her work attire has made her life much less stressful. It is an interesting article, particularly because it seems counter intuitive for a woman in a creative industry with license to wear anything to choose to don the same uniform to work each day. But her choice to simplify her life makes sense.
The article got me thinking about the uniform I wear every day to work. Law firms tend to be a conservative place. Although practicing law on the West Coast means freedom from wearing a business suit, lawyers still have to look professional. I love fashion but have to balance that with the unspoken conservative dress code and the lack of time (and frankly the unwillingness to waste time) to labor over the daily question of what to wear. My solution is a curated work wardrobe of my favorite staple- the dress.
Wearing a dress means I only have to pick one item of clothing. I pick a dress, slip on heels and I am ready to go. If I have a client meeting that day, I throw on the traditional black blazer that hangs in my office. If I have extra time in the morning and feel inspired, I can always experiment with layering jewelry, adding a waist defining belt or sporting a higher heel. The dress gives me some creative freedom but doesn’t have multiple degrees of freedom to result in paralysis by analysis each morning.