Do you find yourself avoiding work? Feeling anxious or stressed? Dreading what you might read in emails or hear in voicemails?
You are experiencing procrastination. And possibly depression. With the upheaval COVID has brought to our lives, getting up in the morning may feel challenging.
Understanding and addressing procrastination is difficult. One of the better explanations appeared in a post on The Productive Mindset:
Procrastination is not a time-management problem.
Procrastinators often have anxiety or doubts about their abilities, or about the perception others have of their abilities.
Many procrastinators would prefer others think they lack drive instead of providing the opportunity for others to question their capabilities.
Underlying fear of failure or fear of success is common among procrastinators.
Depression and procrastination go hand-in-hand.
Fear, Anxiety, and Doubt
While the original Mindset post is no longer available, Googling “the psychology and behaviors of procrastination” reinforces that fear, anxiety, and doubt are major players here. Factor in a major life change – like a pandemic – and the stress ratchets up threefold.
Does This Sound Like You?
Do you put off taking care of important things to the point of jeopardizing relationships, career, finances, or health?
Do you put off doing what you need to do until a crisis develops?
Do you put off doing tasks unless you can do them perfectly or until you can find the perfect time to do them?
Do you hesitate taking necessary action because you fear change?
Do you think about things you’d like to do but rarely get around to doing them?
Do you believe that projects or tasks will somehow take care of themselves?
We all procrastinate occasionally. But if putting things off is affecting your practice, home life, health, or finances – don’t struggle alone. Oregon lawyers are encouraged to contact an Attorney Counselor at the Oregon Attorney Assistance Program (OAAP) any time for help with this issue. The OAAP is free and confidential. They are an excellent resource if you are experiencing depression, which is often the real story behind procrastination.
If you are feeling anxious or stressed, you are in good company. The coronavirus is a triple threat of worry. We are concerned for our health, the safety of family and friends, and the viability of our practices. What can we do?
Don’t Brush it Off
Before you tune out … Are you having difficulty concentrating? Been making small mistakes? Is doing work the last thing you want to deal with right now? Do you sense staff or colleagues might be having some of these reactions?
Please read this post. Even if you’re powering through this like a champ, someone else may not be.
Make Safe Social Connections
Make regular phone calls – to colleagues, clients, friends, and family. Send texts, email, video conference. Do more than conduct business when reaching out for work. Offer support. You’ll get it back in return. It’s not just a saying – we really are in this together.
Once you start the habit of connecting, keep it up. Use your calendar to schedule time for daily calls and contacts.
Get Up and Out
Get out of the house. Take advantage of the uplifting benefits of going on walks with household family members or pets. If the situation dictates, walk alone. Give a friendly wave or exchange a few words at a distance with others who are out and about.
Take Care of Yourself
Walking will help. So will turning off the news and putting down devices. Keep a regular sleep schedule. Eat healthy.
Even when some things are out of our control, there are always things that we as individuals and communities can control.
Wise words from Deschutes County Public Health Authority.
Follow physical health recommendations made by the experts.
Read tomorrow’s post on suggestions for how to work remotely.
Schedule phone calls and other social and professional connections as noted above.
Review and prioritize work to do on specific files. Make a to-do list, then transfer the to-dos to your calendar by scheduling appointments with files to get the work done.
Remember to make time on your calendar to do admin tasks like billing. Set aside dates/times to get statements out. Feeling guilty about billing clients right now? Offer payment plans. You have a family to support as well.
Address concerns about getting new clients by revisiting your marketing plan. People still need legal advice, perhaps more so now. Be creative. Change up how you meet, interview, and collect documents. Use technology whenever you can. When you can’t, seek out alternatives. They may not be ideal, but if they work, so what? For example, sending a non-tech potential client a postage-paid manila envelope to obtain papers. (Remind clients to let mail sit without physical contact to protect their health, then take your own advice. The virus survives on surfaces for varying amounts of time. See tomorrow’s post on working remotely.)
Remain calm and reassuring. If true, emphasize to your children that they and your family are fine.
Make yourself available. Let your children talk and give them plenty of time and attention.
Talk to children in language they can understand. The CDC suggests telling children that, from what doctors have seen so far, most kids aren’t getting very sick. In fact, most people who have gotten COVID-19 haven’t gotten very sick. Only a small group have had serious problems. Keep the conversation going. Make time to check in regularly as the situation develops. Take cues from your child if they become afraid or overwhelmed offer comfort. If you need help, seek professional health.
Avoid language that stigmatizes or assigns blame. Remind children that viruses can make anyone sick, regardless of a person’s race, ethnicity or national origin. Monitor television viewing and social media. Try to limit children’s exposure to media and talk about what they are seeing. Use only reliable sources of information.
Teach strategies to prevent infection. Remind children to wash their hands with soap and water for 20 seconds (or the length of two “Happy Birthday” songs) when they come in from outside, before they eat, and after blowing their nose, coughing, sneezing, or using the bathroom. Find more information, visit this resource.
Maintain healthy behaviors and household routines. Serve nutritious meals, encourage adequate sleep and exercise, and maintain household routines to the extent possible.
When to Seek Help
Seek help if you’re struggling with persistent inability to sleep, increasing drug or alcohol use, an overwhelming sense of depression or panic, urges to harm yourself or others, or an inability to take care of yourself or those who depend on you.
All or most of these activities come with the job of being a lawyer. But we also need time to think and get work done. If you’re looking for answers, consider the following strategies.
Six Steps to Becoming a More Productive Lawyer
Set aside specific time during the day to respond to communications. Don’t allow the rings, dings, and beeps of technology to constantly interrupt your concentration. Check emails, calls, and texts when you arrive and before the end of the day. If a lunch-time check is feasible (or necessary in your opinion), add it in.
On days when your schedule won’t allow for check-ins, set up appropriate auto-replies to manage client expectations. If you have staff, let them screen and manage incoming requests. If you’re going to be gone for an extended period, inform clients beforehand.
Identify your most productive time of day and use it to do legal work. Schedule meetings during “down” time and inform staff of your preference (and when they can break the rules).
Set boundaries for using the Internet if you find that you spend too much time browsing, shopping, or looking at social media. Consider deleting cookies, logins, and bookmarks for pages that eat away at productive time.
Once a quarter, block out one week with no meetings so you can catch up. Don’t wait. Choose for weeks now. Use the time to clean up your desk and workspace, go through your to do list, attend to filing, scanning, or closing files – whatever you’ve been putting off. If you’re caught up, enjoy the uninterrupted time.
Delegate or outsource as much as you can, when you can, so you can focus on the tasks that only you can do. Billable time is precious and should be maximized doing billable work.
OAAP attorney counselors can help you explore ways to reduce your stress, manage your time, and achieve a healthier work-life balance. If needed, they can also refer you to other health professionals to make sure you get the help you need. All contact with the OAAP is confidential.