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January 29 2021

How to Keep Productive

Legal Career Tips

James Bosson

James Bosson

A brainish cloud morphs before the Flex Legal branding

Everybody knows that productivity is important. You need a good grasp of productivity to progress towards your goals, after all. However, this is often easier said than done. The current pandemic especially has got many of us struggling to find that right productive balance and keep ourselves moving forwards.

For this reason, we invited the amazing Dominique Ashby from neuro@work to speak at January’s instalment of the Flex Legal Virtual Lunch in collaboration with LexisNexis and Crafty Counsel. Dominique is a qualified lawyer and neuroscientist, and was able to offer us a scientific and law-centred look into the human brain and how we can maximise our day-to-day mental productivity.

We’ve broken down the main takeaways for you below:

What is the human brain?

The human brain is, biologically, a “survival prediction machine”. It makes decisions designed to increase your chances of survival, and throws your brain into fight or flight mode when it needs you to make quick life-or-death decisions. The human brain is still hard-wired to process risks in this way, and maximising its productivity means working with its natural biology.

How is the pandemic affecting our brains?

Your brain expends mental energy when it perceives a threat, in order to increase you chances of survival. A giant global pandemic, funnily enough, will be interpreted by your brain to be a threat. This means it is constantly expending far more mental energy than it usually would be. They key to keeping productive is managing your finite mental energy, and figuring out where you can do more by doing less.

How to keep your brain productive

1) Write things down. There’s a lot of benefits to physically writing things down. Many psychological and neuroscientific studies have demonstrated that writing things down lessens your ‘cognitive load’ by giving your brain more room to focus. Save your mental energy for better or different things, and write stuff down.

2) Prioritise your to-do list. This helps for two reasons. Firstly, it simply helps structure your day, and more clearly see what your most important tasks are. Secondly, understanding your priorities increases your brain’s ‘certainty’. This minimises your fight or flight thinking, and reduces the amount of mental energy you expend juggling what to do. Don’t just write your tasks down – prioritise them.

3) Avoid multi-tasking. This one is particularly hard to do in the legal lines of work. Much has been written about multi-tasking being, basically, a myth. Your brain cannot actually focus on multiple things at once. It can focus on one thing, but flick between different tasks quickly. This expends a lot of mental energy. You can reduce this by minimising distractions, and focusing on one task at a time.

Final thoughts

If you want more advice on keeping productive, and information on the human brain, you could do a lot worse than looking at Dominique’s blog post on Brain Hacks for Getting the Most Out of Your Day.

A lot of this, ultimately, comes down to reducing the load on your brain where possible. Remember, it’s biologically natural to feel stressed and drained at the current circumstances. The pandemic will have an impact on your mental ability to stay productive, so try to hold yourself to account for at least one thing per week to reduce your mental load and stay positive.

Remember, you’re trying to compose a harmony of mind. In a piece of music, the rests and breaks are just as important as the beats and crescendos. Your brain works the same way.

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