You’ve just woken up, alarm clock shrieking in your ear.
You turn it off. In the silence that follows, thoughts of the day ahead rush into your mind:
‘Must call the other side on that case’
‘That application needs doing’
‘Have to make sure that’s sent today’
And hundreds more besides. Does any of this sound familiar?
Your day has just begun and already your mind is a maelstrom. You’re not even out of bed and the stresses of the day are mounting up.
Few things hit productivity harder than stress. So how much more productive would you be if you could release some of that mental pressure? If you could nip it in the bud before it has chance to truly impact on your day?
A simple technique holds the answer.
The Morning Pages
The Morning Pages were invented by writer Julia Cameron. They have many benefits, but, for lawyers, they can be used as a way to clear your mind of the ‘noise’ and allow you to concentrate on what’s important. Too many unwanted thoughts buzzing around your head can easily lead to a loss of focus, time-wasting, and the stress of feeling inundated.
The Morning Pages offer a way to take back control of your own thought processes. They allow you to offload everything that’s going on in your brain so that you can sift through for the useful nuggets – trepanning for gold you might say.
The cost? Some time – set aside every morning.
We all know that time is a high price for lawyers to pay. ‘Officially’, you should spend 30 minutes on the Morning Pages. 15 minutes is probably more realistic for most lawyers but, that said, if something you do every morning can make you more productive for the entire day, is that not a time investment worth making?
What are they?
Three pages of writing, every morning, with a pen and paper. That’s it.
It might sound trivial but by writing these pages out by hand, you are forcing your mind to slow down, forcing it to focus on one thing at a time.
This simple act of writing takes your thoughts from your brain and helps you order them. You are putting your thoughts in perspective as an almost unconscious process.
What should I write?
There is no right or wrong way to do your Morning Pages. You can write whatever comes into your head. Depending on your mood, or what’s going on in your life at the time, your pages might be positive, negative, or just a jumble of thoughts.
Alternatively, you can direct your Morning Pages. If you have you been struggling with a knotty problem for days, your Morning Pages could have the answer. You might be surprised at what thoughts are thrown up by simply writing down the question by hand. You might have a potential solution before you’ve even reached the question mark. A great many creative-types use the technique for that very purpose.
But no matter what you write, it is the act of writing, and the effect it has on your brain, which helps.
After you’re done
Once you’ve done your day’s pages, you can just throw them away. They’ve served their purpose.
However, if you’ve uncovered some good ideas through your writing, make sure you keep them somewhere safe!
Variations on a theme
The essential technique of the Morning Pages goes by many different names: brain-dumping, thought-dumping, your morning journal etc, and a multitude of people have put their own slants on it.
Some variations might work better for you than others. For example, you could:
- Change the time you write for – If time is more plentiful, try the full 30 minutes. Is even 15 minutes too much? Writing for a few minutes could be better than not writing at all. Alternatively, you could write for as long as it takes to feel ‘de-cluttered’.
- Use it to plan out your day – A more structured approach could be to create categorised lists of the tasks you have to do today. For example, grouping objectives by priority – ‘Musts’, ‘Wants’, and ‘Maybes’
- Type it out into a phone, tablet or computer – This is likely a more convenient option for many people and some evangelists of the technique are wholly in favour of it. However, convenience isn’t the purpose of the Morning Papers. And there’s something to be said for slowing things down with a pen and paper. As a lawyer, there’s is a good chance you spend most of your day looking at screens in one form or another. Writing your Pages long-hand could help give a sense of division from all of that – adding to its meditative quality. At least with a piece of paper you know that a notification isn’t going to ping up in the middle of your writing.
- Write again just before you go to sleep – You could write down how you got on today or make requests for your subconscious to be working on whilst you are asleep.
- Use it to influence your own thinking – You could try closing your Morning Pages with a positive statement, such as: “I am going to make today a brilliant day”. See if it affects things. After all, what’s the worst that could happen?
Try it for yourself
Try it for a few days and see how you get on with it. The true test will be whether the Morning Pages carve out a place in your morning routine. You may find that making time for them becomes less of a chore and more of a necessity!
If you’ve tried the technique, please feel free to leave a comment and tell your fellow lawyers about your experience.
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