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The Newly Independent Attorney: Know When To Take A Break

Social media and technology allow us to be more productive than ever before. Personally, I enjoy squeezing in tasks whenever possible in order to cross items off my to-do list. I use Evernote on my iPad to draft posts and documents while traveling on public transit or sitting in the back of a courtroom. I’ll even check my email while waiting for the bill at a restaurant. It allows me to increase my efficiency and stay productive during periods when I’d otherwise be unable to accomplish work tasks. But while it’s fantastic to be able to accomplish so many tasks from anywhere and everywhere I go, it’s also more important than ever to know when to take a short, necessary break.

Indeed, studies have shown that without occasional breaks our overall productivity will actually suffer. In my own experience taking breaks helps elevate my mood, increase my concentration, and even improved my physical well-being. Indeed, without taking breaks my productivity and concentration often start to nose dive around 3:00 – 3:30 p.m. However, I discovered that if I’d simply take a short break once I felt the sluggishness kick in, my concentration would return and I’d feel better physically.

There are many ways you can take a small break throughout the day. At the large firm I worked at for many years, the partners weren’t generally concerned with whether and when you took breaks throughout the day so long as you got your work done and your billable hours in. My hours were always near the top in the firm (in part because I wasn’t afraid to take breaks in order to maximize productivity), and as a result I wasn’t afraid to leave in the middle of the day for an hour break. My gym was across the street from my office, and when that 3:00 p.m. lack of focus started to settle in I’d travel across the street for a workout. I’d return feeling energized and clear headed.

Of course, not every firm would smile at their attorneys taking regular hour-long breaks throughout the week. Indeed, there are many reasons why a long break isn’t possible during the middle of the work day. At the boutique firm I worked for afterwards, there wasn’t a nearby gym that I could conveniently walk to in the middle of the work day. Not only that, because it was a new job I wasn’t inclined to test whether or not they’d approve of long breaks. The other attorneys there didn’t regularly leave during the middle of the day. Instead, I’d step outside and go for a walk. Just being away from my desk and out in the sun for 15 minutes could make a world of difference. From my perspective it was either 15 minutes going for a walk or it was the rest of the afternoon performing less than my best work due to a lack of concentration.

Indeed, studies demonstrate that in the increasingly wired world we live in many people are more stressed than ever. High levels of stress on any machine, including the human mind and/or body, eventually will lead to decreased productivity and break downs. If you fail to take occasional breaks you are inviting decreased creativity, decreased concentration levels, poor emotional health, and poor physical health. In other words, taking a break isn’t going to make you less productive, in the long run it actually makes you more productive.

Do you take regular breaks throughout the day? What do you do for your break? Share your ideas in the comments section.

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