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Saturday, February 24, 2024

Good Habits make Productive Lawyers (just like rats, really)

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He knows what it's about
He knows what it’s about

As with many scientific breakthroughs, this one began with rats.

You see, at the heart of your ability to be productive is your ability to get more things done with less effort on your part.

The results of this endeavour, if you are successful with it, are that you can effectively produce far more in a day than your peers, and feel happier and less exhausted from it. Sounds pretty good right?

Let’s Talk about Rats

In order to deal with habit we need to understand it better.  You see, scientists studying humans with injuries noticed that certain types of injury resulted in people have significant difficulty with basic, habitual tasks.

Accordingly they decided to test out some rats (this was published in the Annual Review of Neuroscience in 2008). The rats’ brain activity was monitored as it was put into a simple maze with a piece of chocolate at the end.

Initially, the rats sniffed, meandered, twitched, and explored their way through the maze to the reward.  As they did so, their brain patterns exploded – it was in a constant state of activity as the mouse (seemingly casually) worked through the maze. They repeated the exercise with the same rats a number of times.

As you would expect, over time the rats got faster and faster at getting through the maze and finding the reward.  They ceased sniffing, twitching and scurrying around and went straight to the end. What was interesting, however, was that as this habitual behaviour formed, the rat’s brain activity significantly decreased.

There was only one core area of activity left in the basal ganglia.

Who Cares about all this?

You should , because it’s an imperative facet of understanding how to form better habits in your own practice. Exhaustion is a huge problem among lawyers.  Not because our legs are tired, our back is done in or our arms are worn out.

No – it’s mental exhaustion.  It’s constantly having to be on the ball about everything all the time: deadlines, issues, law, marketing, meetings, diary notes, time recording – the list is basically endless and it has a tendency to keep many lawyers on edge.

The result can be stress and fatigue. However, reducing what you need to commit to some fundamental activities can result in:

  • less stress;
  • more energy
  • greater productivity,

through being able to focus on the other tasks of the day.

So Copy the Rats

Well – just in this aspect, take a lesson from the rat for a change, and start recognising habits, and specifically developing them. Happy lawyering!

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