The Firm Uninspired at work? Look for ways to shake things up

By Camille Stell

The Daily Record Newswire

If you work in a law office, you are faced with deadlines. Some areas are more deadline-driven than others § for instance, litigation practices have court-imposed deadlines § but every area of practice involves tasks that must be done and time frames for completion.

Do you ever show up and feel uninspired to do what you've been assigned to do?

Do you look at the list and you can't find anything that you want to start?

Or do you keep ignoring the top priority on the list because you don't want to start that project?

I believe all of us experience this feeling. I arrive at work on Monday morning, and while I appreciate having a job, today it feels like just that - a job. The thought of going through the motions is daunting.

For some people, this avoidance is procrastination.

According to www.psychologytoday.com, 20 percent of people identify themselves as chronic procrastinators. They have developed a lifestyle of not paying bills on time, missing opportunities to participate in events because they don't get around to purchasing the tickets and shopping on Christmas Eve.

These individuals have plenty of excuses, but at the end of the day, they don't tend to be any busier than their work mates who are also balancing full lives and hectic schedules.

Psychologists would tell us that procrastination is not a time management problem or organization problem, but that procrastination is a learned response.

A perfect distraction for a procrastinator is e-mail. The ability to check and respond to e-mail under the guise of work makes it hard to discipline an em-ployee for not working even though the projects and large tasks aren't getting done. While procrastinators can change their behaviors, it involves more than buying a planner.

Another reason people are uninspired to tackle their work is boredom. Many employees don't feel engaged at work. They feel under-utilized or they may not feel a connection to the organization. In today's economy, employees are less inclined to leave a job, so they stay put longer than they would have in better financial times.

What do you do to become inspired?

How about making a change in your morning routine? Take a different route to work or go for a short walk or exercise. Turn off the television and read something inspirational before attacking the day. Buy a coffee or bagel for a co-worker or some other small act of kindness.

Remind yourself that you are part of a profession versus a job and that we have clients expecting us to do our best today to help meet their needs.

My friends at K&L Gates were fighting their own battle with being uninspired when they started some firm "morale building" activities. Staff members planned monthly events where the staff and attorneys gather at lunch for food and laughter.

One event was a pancake lunch where they brought in griddles and tried a variety of pancake recipes. Another was a Mayberry-themed party where Goober's grease rags (ordered from the Internet) were the prizes in the Mayberry trivia contest. These are inexpensive yet fun ways to build camaraderie and feel a connection to the firm.

If feeling uninspired strikes often, it may be time to reevaluate your situation. Maybe it's a sign of depression and you need to reach out to a professional. Maybe it's time to find a new job and a visit with a life coach or job counselor would be beneficial.

Camille Stell is director of client services for Lawyers Mutual Liability Insurance Company of North Carolina. She worked as a paralegal for 20 years, taught ethics and law office management in the Meredith College Paralegal Program and served as president of the Raleigh-Wake Paralegal Association, the North Carolina Paralegal Association and as District II Director of the National Association of Legal Assistants. She can be contacted at camille@lawyersmutualnc.com.

Published: Thu, Sep 23, 2010