Earlier this year, I listened to an episode of the podcast “Invisible Office Hours,” where the hosts, entrepreneurs Paul Jarvis and Jason Zook, shared their morning routines. They don’t begin their days by checking email and jumping on client work but by enjoying their coffee, reading Calvin and Hobbes, and watching the sunrise. According to them, their morning routines allow them to be less stressed and more creative, and more effective as business owners.
My typical day starts with waking up to a blaring alarm clock and strong coffee, followed by checking email, social media and walking the dog. I’m the stereotypical stressed lawyer when it comes to how I start my day, but I know that others take a different approach. What is it that they do when they wake?
A Few Unconventional Morning (and Bedtime) Habits
It took some searching, but I found a few lawyers with nontraditional morning routines. Perhaps some of their approaches will inspire you.
Jeremy Glapion, Consumer Fraud Law, Wall, New Jersey. “Since going solo, my morning routine has really become my morning routine. Some mornings I’m up and at ’em at 7 o’clock; others I keep the blinds closed and sleep until 9. If there’s nothing pressing that day or nothing urgent came in via email in the night, I’ll take my time getting started — watch some TV while slowly eating breakfast, throw on shorts and a T-shirt, then walk the dog. I like to make time for guilty pleasures and breaks to check in with family, cuddle the dog, and do random tasks around the house. If I don’t have any client meetings or court appearances, I’ll stay in my comfortable clothes all day. I’m currently trying to see how long I can go without having to put on a suit. This has impacted my work life in the same positive ways going solo has impacted my work life — the freedom to do, or not do, according to what works best for my own and my loved ones’ mental health and happiness has made me a happier and more productive lawyer. My morning routine might not work for everyone, but it’s part of what keeps me sane, happy and productive not just in my practice, but in my life and my relationships.”
Greg French, General Practitioner, Clarenville, Newfoundland. “I’ve been a father for just over nine months. My daily routine involves getting up when my daughter gets up at 6:30 a.m., and she and I have a 90-minute morning playtime and story time each weekday before I get ready for work. She puts me in a good mood every morning before I leave the house. In a profession that can be so demanding, it’s important to make time for family. I’m thankful to have the opportunity to do so every day.”
Jeena Cho, Co-author, “The Anxious Lawyer: An 8-Week Guide to a Happier, Saner Law Practice Using Meditation,” San Francisco. “When I first open my eyes in the morning, before I check my email, Facebook or Twitter updates, before I let my mind get full of things I have to accomplish, or the annoyances or the busyness of my day gets hold of me, I practice gratitude. I lay in bed and think of three things I am grateful for. As lawyers, we are so trained to look for what is wrong with a situation, and all the ways in which things can go wrong, that we rarely pause to look at all the things that are going well. Gratitude practice is a way I can train my brain to balance the negativity bias. After that, I meditate. I like the ease of going from laying in bed to sitting on a chair or, sometimes, meditation cushion. I love starting my day with a bit of silence so I can listen to myself. This allows me to pay attention to the inner guidance instead of letting external forces — emails, voice mails and other distractions — dictate how I’m going to approach my day.”
And I found one lawyer who made her days better by changing her bedtime routine:
Lindy Stanford, Family Law, Estate Planning and Probate, Scottsdale, Arizona. “I haven’t changed my morning routine — it is still filled with anxiety and email. But at night I completely switched recently from reading The New York Times on my Kindle to listening to BBC Radio for bedtime stories. Right now, I am listening to “Ethan Frome” by Edith Wharton. It is amazing how much better I am sleeping — better than meditation (or medication — pick your poison!). I am sleeping more soundly than I have in ages.”
I love hearing from people who ignore the lawyer stereotypes and customize their days so they can focus on what’s important to them and do quality work for clients. They are living proof that there’s no one way to practice law.
What about you? What do you do to start or end your day that makes you a more effective practitioner or a happier person?