December 01, 2017 Practice Management

Mindfulness 101: Mindfulness and Time

By Melanie Bragg

Well—December is upon us, and the HOLIDAZE are in full force! I hope everyone has a great holiday season and is happy and prepared for a productive and prosperous New Year in 2018!

The year 2017 has been a year of transformation for me. I am excited about 2018! Let’s work on some new things! I'm really deep into this new subject about time. Abraham Lincoln said, “A lawyer’s time and advice are his stock and trade.” Time is all we have as our commodity. For us lawyers, managing and mastering time is a worthwhile goal. And as always, when I am writing and teaching about something, I face every single challenge the subject can bring so I can learn even more from the experience and share it with you. This will be the first of many columns on time. What I have learned so far is changing my life in dramatic ways, and I am excited to share the results and my techniques so you can try them out yourself.

Is anyone pressed for time?

Do you really want to read this short article about time, but feel like you might not actually have time to do it? Keep going. It will be worth it, I hope.

Let me sum up this month’s message in one point: The practice of mindfulness will radically change your productivity level and allow you to get more done each day with energy to spare.

Sound like a magic pill?

Maybe. But it’s true.

Now, that is not to say that developing a mindfulness practice does not take time—because it does. And creating new habits that replace old bad habits takes time, too. The results can be profound, yet they can also creep up on you. The fun part is when you have had a recurring problem, like, for instance, you are always late to court or late on your billing, and then, seemingly without making any big changes, you are on time; you know in that moment that your new practice of mindfulness is effective. It feels good the first time it happens. You realize that it wasn’t the traffic that changed; it wasn’t the rest of the world that altered itself for you and your issues. You realize it was the way you related differently to the situation that that produced the results.

Productivity experts give you all kinds of lists and to-dos to help you become more productive, but did you know that mindfulness can shift your concept of time entirely? And that when your concept and relationship to time changes, you can get a lot more done in less time and with more ease? In other words, you go with the flow. And the flow is so much easier all the way around.

 

Bending Time

Are you ever at the office at the end of the day—your stomach growling, your friends waiting at a venue for a show you have been wanting to see, and feeling like you need another hour or so to finish your work? Do you push it to the limit and walk out at the last possible moment to even be fashionably late? Or worse, not go at all? For years I have sat at my lawyer desk after hours skipping my desires due to the looming filing deadlines ahead of me, or the cases that need to be prepared for the next day. In those moments I think, “I wish I could bend time.” Even though I knew such thoughts are impossible—you can’t bend time or race against it. Still, I wanted to create a way to do so. Surely there was a way.

Ask yourself: Would now be the time to pull over on the five-lane highway of life where you are going 80 miles an hour to “get it all done” and take some time to reflect on the concept of time and how, with a few practice tips, you could literally change your entire relationship to it? Think about how it would feel to be super-productive and calm about how you have spent every moment of each day? Would it be worthwhile to shift into a new level of creativity in your law practice where you are more profitable with less effort?

I think the answer for all of us is YES!

 

How Can You Do it?

First, realize that your old, non-productive thought patterns have been there for many years, and they will take some time to recede and not appear again. You must create some new practices to replace the old ones that no longer serve you.

Second, begin that path to mindfulness by being fully engaged in the current moment all the time. You must harness your thoughts to be in the present moment. Become a “thought catcher.” When you find yourself thinking of something in the past or something in the future, begin to train your mind to let that thought go. Use visual imagery. Picture yourself with a butterfly net, and when that thought pops into your head—that thought that no longer serves you because it is out of the present moment—catch it as if it were a yellow butterfly, look at it, then let it go. Once you train yourself to do this, you get less and less of those useless, time-draining thoughts running through your brain, and you thereby free up more energy for more productive things. Remember, as Oprah Winfrey so succinctly put it, “You are not your thoughts. YOU are the OBSERVER of the thoughts.”

Studies have shown that certain kinds of stress are bad for your health, whereas other forms of stress are not so bad. The kind of stress that is bad is the kind that flows from ruminating on events in the past or events in the future. Worry and stress can literally kill you. The book I have mentioned numerous times, The Telomere Effect by Elissa Epel and Elizabeth Blackburn (Grand Central Publishing, 2017), discusses this at length. Please read it again and understand the physical and harmful effect that worry, fear, doubt, and rumination have on your mind, body, and soul.

The only real thing in life is the present moment. The past is an illusion and the future is an illusion. They are not real in any sense. The present is concrete. Focus on it at all times.

Worry. How much time have you have wasted on things that never happen? We think about what might happen and go over and over the possible scenarios in our brains. We humans create these “stories” about how we think things are, but so often we are way off track. We worry about what could go wrong, what might go wrong, and we end up in knots about things over which we absolutely have no control. This is energy that could be channeled doing things that are in our area of excellence. By focusing on the now, you free up a whole lot of energy. You run cleaner.

Procrastination. Have you ever dreaded doing something, but once you did it you discovered the whole thing was a piece of cake and none of the dreaded problems you worried about happened? If you consider all the time and energy you spent worrying, fearing, and being indecisive, you begin to see how staying in the present moment will actually change your perspective on time. And how it will create more time for you. Because when you are present, there is only clarity.

It is really our false selves, or our egos, that waste all our precious time and energy.

By dedicating ten minutes in the morning to meditation, you will learn how to capture your thoughts and quiet your mind, freeing up more valuable time and energy to do more of the things you want to do. Once you master the ten minutes, you will want 15 and even more. That is how it works.

Commit to a mindfulness practice in the new year. Start slow. Find something that works for you. I am always surprised at how many people fear the practice of meditation. They think they are “not good at it.” They give up too soon. There is no right or wrong, there is no judgment. There is only the present moment. And if you have gotten to the end of this article, thank you. It is my joy to share the exciting things I am learning on my road to mindfulness.

Until next time . . . namaste. Please let me know if you have any tips, sources or experiences with mindfulness you want to share at melanie@legalinsightinc.com.

“You should sit in meditation for 20 minutes a day, unless you’re too busy; then you should sit for an hour.”—Zen proverb

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Melanie Bragg has long enjoyed a reputation as one of Houston’s fiercest attorneys in her representation of children, the elderly, and mentally disadvantaged people. Her firm, Bragg Law PC, is a general civil firm in Houston, Texas. She also writes and produces legal education programs through Legal Insight, Inc. (founded by Bragg in 1993). Her writing credits include Crosstown Park, an Alex Stockton legal thriller; HIPAA for the General Practitioner; chapters in How to Capture and Keep Clients, Second Edition; Effortless Marketing: Putting Your Unique Qualities to Work, Second Edition; and The Conscious Lawyer: How the Practice of Mindfulness Will Increase Your Bottom Line; as well as the forthcoming ABA book, Defining Moments: Insights into the Lawyer’s Soul. When she is not writing, Melanie devotes her time to her work as Chair of the Solo, Small Firm and General Practice (GPSolo) Division and to sharing ideas with fellow authors. She is interested in your feedback and ideas about how solos, small firms, military, and government lawyers can lead richer, happier lives and thereby improve the delivery of legal services to the public. Melanie can be reached at melanie@bragglawpc.com.