It’s okay to slow down.
Basketball coaches have a saying with their players: we want to play quick, but not fast. The point being that, sometimes, players play too fast for their own good, trying to do too much at once. It wasn’t uncommon to call timeout and tell the team “we’ll be fine, if we just slow down a bit. We aren’t going to score 40 points in the next 30 seconds. Let’s focus on getting 1 good shot the next time we have the ball.”
Today, I realized that the same goes for attorney wellness. I didn’t come to the realization on my own. Rather, I came across an interview that Law.Com did with Jennie Fagen Malloy, a wellness consultant whose clients include several large law firms. The interview is here.
Referring to the stress and anxiety that comes with both the profession and the times, Malloy makes a great point: we can’t force our way out of it. Often, working harder is our natural reaction. As Malloy points out, working harder in response to anxiety is okay, up to a point. Referring to lawyers, Malloy notes:
- “. . . anxiety makes them work hard. It allows them to anticipate worst-case scenarios and makes them good at their jobs. But when do you move from productive anxiety to crossing that line into too much anxiety, which is disruptive?”
The answer? I think Malloy’s is terrific:
- “I like to reframe ‘stressed,’ which can sound negative, to ‘moving too fast.’ This is more empowering. People can take ownership of moving too fast.’”
I suggest reading the entire interview.
Remembering not to move too fast is a great tip. I’m not immune to stress and anxiety at work. When it strikes, it typically builds to a point where I list the 10 things that need to be finished pronto, then resolve to complete them even more pronto than pronto.
That’s not good.
A better approach is to “slow down.” Identify one task, finish it, move to the next one. In a blog I posted last spring, I referred to it as “make your bed.” It’s a coping mechanism I used early in the pandemic.
I often found my mind racing with what felt like an overwhelming number of things to get done: complaints to screen, emails and phone calls to return, CLEs to prepare, blogs to post, training runs to fit in, toilet paper to horde. Initially, I’d lie awake at night setting the next day’s schedule in such a way as to be caught up – on everything! – by 3:00 PM.
So, I changed my approach.
I slowed down and focused on starting each day by making my bed.
Corny? Perhaps. But it helped.
Throughout the profession, I sense anxiety rising again. Maybe it’s best not to try to outpace it.
Instead, slow down.