Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Ms. Theologian Attempts to Be Mindful

Oh workplace guru,

I start law school at night in about a month and I am finding that am having an increasingly difficult time focusing on the day job. Nothing anyone else has noticed as of yet, but I'm just so bored all the time here. I suspect this feeling comes from my excitement over the changes my life is going through and how I'm in a period of waiting for them, but do you have any advice for making myself slog through subpoenas and prepare petitions in the meantime?


-Future Lawyer

Dear First Person Who Has Used Ms. Theologian's Appropriate Title (Workplace Guru),

Trouble focusing? Disinterest in tasks? Totally normal in light of life circumstances. You may have some mild anxiety at work brought on by major life changes (going back to school, and planning to continue the day job). This is totally normal. Did I mention that? Totally normal. And, of course, Ms. Theologian is not a doctor; she just hears lots and lots and lots of work stories.

Ms. Theologian suggests mindfulness, that is being present in your distraction, breathing in and out throughout your clicking on the Internet and billable hours, noting when you're more antsy (Self, I seem particularly antsy right now. I wonder what's going on), and not judging yourself. Most of us are not mindful, so this may take some practice. You don't have to go so far as mindfulness meditation at work, just try to be mindful of what you're doing, thinking, and feeling as you slog through the petitions.

Other "Tricks" for Dealing with Mild Anxiety:

  • Practice the best in self-care. Remember to eat, drink water, sleep, and exercise. Treat yourself ever so kindly as if you were precious in the best sense. Seriously. Ms. Theologian isn't quite sure why we feel we have to beat ourselves into submission at work, but kindness works too.
  • Identify your carrot. This is the small reward at the end of each successive tunnel at work. It might be something like reading a web site after you finish an hour of work. It might be something more complicated in which you earn points for hourly work toward lip gloss (it sounds silly, but Ms. Theologian knows someone who swears by the lip gloss carrot).
  • Inspire yourself. Ms. Theologian has the delightful collage that she keeps on her desk (you could make a smaller version) of all the things she likes (chocolate croissants, coffee, margaritas, ferns, crystal clear waters, red rocks, forests, and mountains). She looks at it throughout the day when responding to an unpleasant email. Perhaps you could do the same with a course catalogue.

Best wishes to you in this new endeavor,

-Ms. Theologian