SC Lawyer, Sept. 2004, #4. Create balance in your life by becoming proactive.

AuthorBy Mark Powers, Shawn McNalis and Courtney Kennaday

South Carolina Lawyer


SC Lawyer, Sept. 2004, #4.

Create balance in your life by becoming proactive

South Carolina LawyerSeptember 2004Create balance in your life by becoming proactiveBy Mark Powers, Shawn McNalis and Courtney KennadayAttorneys tend to approach time management by either passively responding to the demands placed upon them by their environment or by proactively creating their environment. We call these two approaches the reactive style and the proactive style.

The reactive style of time management

Those who believe they cannot control their lives, that they are at the mercy of circumstances, are operating in the reactive style. If you arrive at your office in the morning, fully expecting to make great strides on one or two important cases only to be interrupted by urgent requests from clients in crisis or staff demanding your attention, you understand the lure of the reactive mode of operating. If you succumb to the lure, you end most days wondering where the time went as the important cases or matters you intended to work on remain untouched. Not only are they untouched, but they are now buried beneath all the other files that you hastily pulled during your firefighting efforts throughout the day. You suddenly must choose whether you work on the untouched files, now that it is 6 p.m. and the phone has stopped ringing, or work over the weekend and miss your child's soccer game or dance recital or your fishing trip that you continue to miss because you have to play catch-up on the weekends.

The reactive style of operating is a short-term way of thinking, not tied to a larger vision or mission. Attorneys who labor under this short-term way of thinking often feel out of control, lack balance in their lives and don't know how to remedy the situation. Usually, they've given up even trying to control their circumstances. They feel helpless. Most people will give up the effort to assert some order upon their universe when they've decided they can't affect a change.

To see if you qualify as one who labors under the reactive style of operating, take a look at the following list of characteristics in the upcoming exercise, The Reactive Style Checklist. Chances are good that if you check off more than three items you are behaving in a reactive way.

The hazards of the reactive style

Being able to react to circumstances is a highly valued skill. However, it is a problem when the circumstances come at a higher and higher speed. If your only plan is to react faster and faster, you fall into the trap of rating your productivity only on your speed and level of "busyness." In truth, you are doing nothing more than becoming more reactive to a rhythm being beaten by the forces around you. Before too long, you become addicted to this "busyness" through the adrenaline rush that has enabled you to keep your head above water.

Our ability to release adrenaline into our system in order to run faster or fight harder has been essential to our survival as a species. Some 50,000 generations of human beings have relied upon the "fight or flight" instinct when in danger. It is our emergency energizing system, not a system that is supposed to be used every day, all day long, to help us cope with daily life. Yet for many attorneys, it is the push they rely upon every day to get the job done. There is a high cost associated with this mode of operation. Medical studies show an important link between the hormone cortisol, triggered by adrenaline release, and heart disease...

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