is the practice of law killing your creativity?

Yes, creativity. And I’m not talking about your cast-aside attempts at pottery-throwing or watercolor.

I’m talking about your ability to be a good lawyer. A lawyer who thinks creatively to solve clients’ problems. Or avoid them in the first place.

A good lawyer is a creative lawyer.

But if you’re a lawyer who isn’t getting enough sleep or finding  (even a little) time to relax and release stress and anxiety? Then you’re more likely to suck at finding creative solutions for problems. Both your clients’ problems. And your own.

Why? There’s a perfectly logical, scientifically-based reason. Of course.

Our creative insights are more likely to come when when our brain is in a relaxed (RELAXED!) enough state to create new neural connections.

Seriously, it’s a wonder that lawyers have any creative thoughts at all, given our level of stress and anxiety depression. But I digress …

Here’s the deal: our brain has two separate pattern recognition systems: the explicit and the implicit.

In the explicit (rule-based, tied to conscious awareness), the neurons communicating with each other are typically in close proximity.

But not so in the implicit. This system, which relies on skill and experience, isn’t consciously accessible and can’t be described verbally. “When the implicit system is at work, far-flung corners of the brain are chit-chatting.” And this, my friends, is what creativity feeds on — your brain’s ability to put information together in new ways.

Before you can try out the hacks to work the implicit system to your advantage, you have to actually create the opportunity for your brain to relax. Yep.

Get enough sleep, e.g. > 6 hours (for most of us). Exercise. Meditate. Disconnect from the constant connection to work.

Not only will you find the brilliant, creative thoughts flowing, I predict. But you’ll also be happier. An added bonus!

[Inspiredlawblog is written by Cat Moon, a lawyer and coach who works with lawyers and other interesting folks who seek fulfilling, happy lives. Even at work. Especially at work?]

*quote by John Steinbeck

links i like. june 20, 2014 edition.

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I highly recommend adding TED talks to your self-development routine. (You do have one, don’t you? A routine for developing yourself?) TED playlists make it easy to find the ones you’ll most enjoy.

Looking for a way to organize all of your favorite online rabbit holes? Try start.me to organize social and other sites, as well as RSS feeds. Organize with different pages (e.g., one for work, one for play). The neat freak in me is enjoying.

The Internet is deep and wide. Everything you need to know? It’s out there. You just have to know how to find it. Become a master information excavator with these courses: Power Searching with Google and Advanced Power Searching with Google.

On the other handle, Google is not the only game online: some other “search engines” you shouldn’t ignore.

Do two or three of the things on this list and you will find yourself with more time for things other than work.

In the spirit of life-long learning, I’ve started using lingua.ly to brush up on my Spanish. I like the word monsters.

Are you a replication creator or a skilled creator? Which one do you want to be? How to let your brain do the work. And create, instead of replicating.

Some practical tips on using codes and naming conventions for digital files.

A little inspiration for today: how to be lucky.

*YOU* should be your biggest cheerleader: read this and find out how to be your own PR person.

Does empathy play a role in how you practice? In how you market your practice? It should.

meditate on this: buddhify 2

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I’ve been intending to write about buddhify 2 for a number of weeks. Today I came across this meditation on meditation by Russell Simmons and realized that today’s the day.

I’ve been meditating consistently for a while now. Crucial for both my profession and my personality. I’ve written about it before, even.

And since I happened upon it and think the thoughts are pretty spot-on, here’s what Simmons has to say about three benefits of meditation, all quite apropos for the legal profession:

1) Meditation improves focus. By relieving you of distraction. Crucial in this age of digital distraction and multi-tasking.

2) Meditation gets you past “success” and “failure.” Our profession is full of success (highs) and failure (lows). Meditation helps you maintain an even keel throughout all.

3) Meditation helps you be more creative. Simmons points to meditation as a vehicle for creativity, much as it is for focus. I tend to agree, since in the stillness of mind, there exists an atmosphere that can welcome creative thoughts. A busy mind may not notice them.

I have a meditation method of sorts but when I came across the buddhify 2 app I thought I would give it a whirl. My conclusion: it’s a great way for a non-meditator to get into the meditation groove, and it can also give a boost to an established meditation practice.

The app offers a series of guided meditations organized around 15 categories, with each category offering two to three meditations.

I’ve relied on the app’s guided meditations in some specific circumstances and found it incredibly helpful. The big one: I have no trouble falling asleep but often wake up in the middle of the night, mind racing. I keep my iPhone (with earbuds) on my bedside table, set to the “Can’t Sleep” series of meditations (Settle, Gentle, and Whack. Guess which one is my stand-by? Whack.). The calm, British voice of the guided meditation consistently does the trick. Sleep finds me.

I also like the “Feeling Stressed” series (Flip, Replace, Rain). Because I’m a lawyer. And I often feel stress.

Each meditation lasts in the five to 10 minute range. A very small time commitment for a big return on focus. And perhaps a renewed, healthier view on success and failure. And more focus and thus fuel for creativity. My conclusion: you’ve got nothing but a few minutes to lose, and much to gain.

buddhify 2 — 1.99 in the App Store.

squirrels support the creative process!

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Questions I’ve pondered often: does technology really support me, my goals, my practice, my creative efforts? Or does it distract me more than support me?

As in: “Look! A squirrel!” I feel that’s often my reaction when I learn of a new app or digital toy I must play with. I get distracted, run off (and away from my present work), and chase it.

The perspective offered in this article  by Greg Satell helped me identify the context for answering these queries. Or maybe not even asking them anymore.

The answer: technology (aka my “squirrel”) does support me, my goals, my creativity. When used to do so. What’s important to understand is how technology functions to support what and how you create, no matter how defined.

Because we all create. Even lawyers stuck in rather dull, uninspired practices create. May I suggest that leveraging technology to handle the dull and uninspiring minutiae may even open up the wellspring of creativity in your practice? Yep.

The Creative Process. Satell offers the following three steps as key to this process:

1. Forming intent. You have a purpose, a problem to solve, a goal to reach. This process of forming an intent to create is inherently human.

2. Searching the domain. As a student of your craft, you search your domain — your toolbox of techniques, approaches and philosophies — to create solutions, combinations, purpose.

3. Tangling hierarchies. When you synthesize across domains [discovering and/or creating connections among the seemingly unrelated], creation rises to the level of innovation.

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So where does technology fit in? A few spots, actually.

Eliminating barriers to creative excellence. Access to new knowledge and information contributes to our creative toolbox. As Satell observes, “The sum total of human knowledge is merely a few clicks away.” Searching this technologically flat Earth makes it much easier, and more likely, that we’ll discover just the connection(s) we seek to create (and perhaps even innovate).

This applies to everything we do, really, but isn’t it absolutely apropos to the practice of law? With so many rich (and mostly free) legal resources online , barriers to discovery in the legal realm are almost non-existent. Not to mention the sheer volume of information about pretty much anything else you may need to know, floating about on the internet, just waiting for you to find it.

Simulating failure. Great work is the result of producing a lot of work. Because a lot of it isn’t going to be great. But the more work you do, the greater the chance you’ll do the great work. Lower the cost of producing the work? It’s easier (and cheaper) to produce lots of it. Lots of it will fail. But the cost to do so can be minimized, if not nearly eliminated, by using the right technology. So we’re encouraged to increase output, thereby leading to a greater likelihood of achieving greater creative success.

I think most every human has a natural aversion to failure. Us lawyers? Especially so. We’re programed (if not hardwired) to be right. All of the time. Technology gives us some breathing room. Using the right software, for example, we can analyze, project, predict. With ease and speed. We can work out options, test them, experience virtual failure. Before we create the bestcourse of action for the client. Whew, isn’t that a relief?

Rise of the creative class. Satell posits that creativity is becoming a daily part of work life for all of us: “The man in the gray flannel suit has been replaced by the hipster with spiky hair and tattoos.” How so? Because technology is taking over the rote, the mundane, the stuff that can be turned into a tech-driven process precisely because it doesn’t rely on the inherently human act of creativity. So what’s left? The work that does.

Yes, even in the staid, traditional legal profession. (Though the tattoos likely will remain concealed under the gray flannel.) Why? Because technology is taking over a lot of the rote stuff for us, too. And freeing up our time and mental energy to focus on the really creative part of solving legal problems. By automating documents, processes, internal and external systems, your brain is involved less in that and more in the part that only a trained human brain can do.

The dangers? I like that technology frees my brain. I know I do better work because I have the tools (and information they provide) at my disposal. But I know that technology can give us a false sense of security and confidence, too. Automate too much, make everything a process, remove yourself from it, and the creative opportunities start to flatten out. You may end up being less creative then you were before technology stepped in to help.

And we aren’t entirely free of the squirrel effect. Every day, some new app comes along, offering to help you do something better, faster, easier. That new app may be great. Maybe you should take the time and mental energy to explore it. Or maybe you should ask if the problem it solves is one that you need to fix? If the answer is not really, then ignore the squirrel. Stick with the one you have. The right squirrels are what you seek, not the shiny new ones.

links i like.

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It’s Friday. And time for another round of links I like.

This week’s links? Inspired by my obsession with books and reading.

The links:

10 books for 21st century presenters and storytellers. (I’ve read nos. 5, 6, and 7 so far.)

5 must-read books for every entrepreneur. (I’ve read no. 5; no. 2 appears on the list above, as well.)

the year’s best books (2013) on writing and creativity, according to Maria Popova. (I’ve read nos. 2, 5, and 8.)

100 free books for Kindle/e-readers. (I’ve read all in the children’s category, and many of the others.)

41 books on time management/productivity, business + more. (A few titles appear on lists above. I’ve read nos. 1, 2, 4, 6, 7, 8, 17, 18, 20, 24, 26, 29, 33, 34, and 36, and a few others are already on my Kindle, ready for reading.)

A random yet interesting list of books on a range of interpersonal communication topics. (Having a BA and MA in communication, I’ve read a bunch of these. Some I’ve never heard of, nor am I likely to read.)

If you read a lot of books (as I do), you may find this helpful (as I did). +1: mind-mapping and implementing.