Clearing The Cobwebs
Bored? Brain-Dead? Solos Share Their Secrets to Getting Unstuck
Posted Oct 29, 2005 5:03 AM CST
By Margaret Graham Tebo
Barbara Kessler has an unusual means of clearing her mind of cobwebs. She starts the day over again--or at least pretends to.
When her mind is stuck in neutral due to the demands of her busy solo practice, Kessler will sometimes throw it back into drive by the simple act of taking herself out to breakfast. That’s right--breakfast. Even if it’s the middle of the day.
“This may sound strange, but the act of eating breakfast puts me back into the refreshed mindset that the day is just beginning, instead of half over,” says Kessler, who practices in New York City.
“Being a solo makes it definitely harder to get yourself out of a mind rut,” says Laurie Redman of Baton Rouge, La. “You can’t just go find someone else in the office to bother for a few minutes. You have to do it yourself.”
Redman has a surefire cobweb clearing favorite. When mid-afternoon creeps up and her pace has slowed to a crawl, she breaks out The New York Times crossword puzzle. “Something hard like a Friday or Saturday,” she says. (The notorious daily Times puzzles start out easy early in the week and get progressively harder by week’s end.)
Kessler is also known to employ some of the more tried and true methods for shaking off the afternoon doldrums, such as exercising and that panacea of 21st century office prisoners, surfing the Internet. She especially likes the ABA’s Solosez e mail discussion list, Chowhound.com (a restaurant and food review site that hosts message boards for several regions) and the travel site Fodors.com.
When her mind is frozen on the brink of a looming deadline, Redman will sometimes try to scare herself into action. But, she says, that rarely works.
“Switching gears in some way, intellectually or just zoning out, is the more positive approach,” she says. Another favorite zone out activity is pulling weeds in her home garden.
The ‘Tookie’ Test
James P. Moriarty has been practicing law in Cresco, Iowa, for more than 20 years. Despite the fact that he loves his work, he occasionally finds himself in a rut.
Moriarty loves to read novels and other material unrelated to the law. He also spends a lot of time outside his office volunteering for community organizations such as Kiwanis, the Boy Scouts and Habitat for Humanity.
Woodworking is another hobby. Moriarty has seen many lawyers come and go through the years. He sometimes teases his younger friends that “I have socks that have spent more time in a courtroom than they have.”
But when it comes taking an occasional break from the daily office grind, Moriarty has a simple formula.
“I ask myself: ‘Will the world stop spinning if I don’t do this today? Will anybody who is counting on me be hurt, angry or disappointed with me? Is my ‘tookie’ on the line if I don’t finish this right now?’
If the answer is no, I set it aside and go do something else. If yes, well, I just dig in, get it done and then take the rest of the afternoon off.” Sometimes, just remembering that being a solo allows a certain flexibility of the schedule is all it takes to relieve the pressure and guilt of feeling intellectually stuck, agrees Glenn Dornfeld.
The New York City attorney and mediator says the mere act of giving himself permission to take a few hours off is enough to relieve tension and put him on a path to getting unstuck. “The occasional matinee at the local cinema has worked wonders for this overworked solo.”