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Major Benefits of the Micro-Break for Lawyers

Cornell University conducted two interesting studies in the past that showed that workers who used their computer to remind them to take a micro-break every 2 hours or so had increased productivity:  13.4% in the 1999 study, and a keyboarding accuracy improvement of 59% in the 2001 joint study with Lockheed Martin. These micro-breaks could be as simple as a posture check, a stretch, standing up, or a walk to the water cooler. The Centered-Aware-Resourceful Button™ aka, the CAR Button™ which I will be describing acts as a productivity-enhancing “micro-break.” The Cornell University studies would suggest that you, too, set your computer, Blackberry or iPhone to alert you every 2 hours to take a micro-break.

Researchers in Finland studied a group of nearly 800 workers for 28 years. Their study reveals, as related by Dr. Mika Kivimaki, the leader of the study, among their subjects, those who failed to find time to relax were more likely to eventually die of cardiovascular disease. The CAR Button™ reminds us to relax, reduce stress, and center our thoughts.

In 2008, the Helen Dowling Institute, Center for Psycho-oncology, released a study in which the subjects who participated in a mindfulness-based stress reduction practice reported a better quality of life, more joy in life, less tension, and fewer negative physical symptoms. These beneficial effects appeared to be even stronger at follow-up. As part of the study, the participants learned a three-minute exercise in which they focused on their breathing as a tool to avoid a negative spiral of thoughts and emotions. “This exercise can be used when one notices that one is becoming absorbed in a stressful situation.” The CAR Button™ micro-break employs a focus on breathing as well.

The Journal of Clinical Psychology in Medical Settings in 2008 published the results of a study introducing mindfulness in the form of brief exercises to clinical psychologists in training. The participants reported the brief exercise was a beneficial coping strategy, giving them the experience of having an increased propensity  to act with awareness. Mindfulness refers to a form of attentional control and paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally. As such, mindfulness can be contrasted with excessive rumination about the past or future, negative self-evaluation and behaving in a reactive or automatic way.[v] The CAR Button™ micro-break also incorporates attentional control.

Why Rainmakers Want the CAR Button™
Operating from fear and anxiety in the workplace makes you unproductive. Whether it’s a stressful train of thought or unhelpful mental “chatter,” the CAR Button™ can interrupt the unhelpful thoughts and create an opening for thinking that is more on task. It is extremely important for rainmakers to walk into every situation as centered, aware and resourceful as possible—your job is basically persuasion, and you cannot be optimally persuasive if you’re experiencing excessive stress or apparent nervousness. Any quick and easy tool, such as a “button” on your hand that helps get you into a more grounded, centered and focused state of being, is an excellent productivity tool to have in your essential Rainmaker tool kit.

Jill Bolte Taylor, a Harvard PhD and brain scientist who Time Magazine named as one of the most influential people in the world in 2008, says that after a fearful or stressful thought kicks in, there is an approximate biologic auto-response for about 90 seconds, and allowing the emotional stress to continue after that period is only due to the fact that we are not re-assuming control of our brain and what we’re thinking.

“After reviewing a Japanese study on the value of six deep breaths, I do this whenever I’m stressed.  It makes me feel calm almost immediately.”

-Travis Stork, M.D. emergency medicine physician, Vanderbilt Medical Center, Nashville, TN, quoted in First for Women Magazine

Creating Your Centered-Aware-Resourceful Button™ aka, Your CAR Button™
Process summary:

1. On the fingerprint pad of your left little finger, imagine that you see a green circle with a “1” on it. Now press your left thumb against the green circle, release your thumb, and

2.   Now replace the green circle with a yellow circle with a “2” on it and press your left thumb against the yellow circle, release your thumb, and

3.   Now replace the yellow circle with a red circle with a “3” on it and press your left thumb against the red circle, and then continue to comfortably press the red circle with your thumb while taking 6 deep relaxing breaths. At the end of the 6th breath, release the thumb and smile inside while imagining the slightest hint of a Mona-Lisa type smile on your lips.

Do this slowly and deliberately—it takes me about 36 seconds to go through the three steps. I’ve set my blackberry to remind me to use the CAR Button™ every two hours. Of course, there are some reminders I just ignore because I’m in the middle of something I cannot interrupt, but for a millisecond I think, “centered, aware, resourceful.” Try this not only when you need to calm yourself in preparation for an important meeting, talk or trial, but also periodically to maintain focus. Sometimes, I’ll just linger on the last part and take a few extra deep relaxing breaths, as the tension in my shoulders melts away and my whole body feels refreshed, yet with more focus, and clear-headed alertness.

David Keller

David King Keller is author of the award winning book, 100 Ways To Grow A Thriving Law Practice. His latest book, The Associate As Rainmaker, Building Your Business Brain, is on the American Bar Association’s best seller list. David is an attorney rainmaker coach, MCLE instructor and business development trainer. He has lectured at UC Hastings College of The Law and The San Francisco Bar. He is a member of ABA, BASF, AAJ and LMA. His company website, www.KBDAG.com, lists numerous client testimonials and provides many free articles, including “Social Media For Lawyers.”

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About the Author: David King Keller is author of the award winning book, 100 Ways To Grow A Thriving Law Practice. His latest book, The Associate As Rainmaker, Building Your Business Brain, is on the American Bar Association’s best seller list. David is an attorney rainmaker coach, MCLE instructor and business development trainer. He has lectured at UC Hastings College of The Law and The San Francisco Bar. He is a member of ABA, BASF, AAJ and LMA. His company website, www.KBDAG.com, lists numerous client testimonials and provides many free articles, including “Social Media For Lawyers.”

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