Category Archives: The Ethical Lawyer – Legal Ethics Blog

Evening Routines and Rituals to End Your Day, The Incrementalist, Ep. 15

Do you wake up in the middle of the night stressing over what you didn’t get done or what you still have to do?

Are you checking your phone, scrolling through news feeds, and replying to emails as part of your bedtime rituals?

Do you wake up groggy and unrefreshed even if your bedtime began 7 to 8 hours ago?

The evening is your P.M. bookend to your day. Your evening routine is your “me time” at night that helps you to unwind, quiet the nervous system and prepare for sleep. How you end your day is essential to recharging from it.

Your shut-down sequence – before bedtime – creates the environment for you to rest, relax and sleep. Without a full rejuvenation overnight, it’s harder to take charge of your day.    

In episode 15 of The Incrementalist podcast, you will learn:

1. The importance of both productive tasks and restorative tasks in your evening routine. You need to review your day and plan for the next as well as relax and rest completely. If you wind down enough before your bedtime, you will have space for an effective evening routine. 

2. The value of sleep and how the sleep cycle works –

  • Stage 1 – alpha state
  • Stage 2 – theta state
  • Stages 3 and 4 – delta state
  • REM sleep 

3. Ways to create a sleep sanctuary to improve sleep quality and duration

4.  Key things to avoid in your evening routine – 

  • Screens (e.g. TV, computer, laptop, tablet, phone) in the 30 to 90-minute period before bedtime
  • Dinner in the 2 to 3-hour period before bedtime 
  • Vigorous exercise and full workout in the 4 to 6-hour period before bedtime
  • Caffeine intake after 2 to 3 p.m. or in the 5 to 8-hour period before bedtime
  • Alcohol consumption in the 3-hour period before bedtime

5. Key things to include in your evening routine – 

Productive tasks –

  • Review your day and preview the next day
  • Do prep work, e.g. pick out clothes and clean up your work space and living space
  • Learn new information or practice a hobby

Restorative tasks – 

  • Journal
  • Read fiction or other nonwork-related book
  • Enjoy a teatime ritual with noncaffeinated herbal tea (e.g. camomile or Valerian root) about an hour before you go to bed 
  • Do gentle movement or exercise
  • Practice relaxing breathwork
  • Pray or meditate or listen to mellow music

6. The advantage of a maintaining a consistent bedtime, synching with your circadian rhythm, and building good sleep habits

Resources cited: 

To listen to episode 15, Evening Routines and Rituals to End Your Day, click here. Subscribe to The Incrementalist at Apple Podcasts or other apps.

Cheers,
Dyan Williams

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Dyan Williams is a solo lawyer who practices U.S. immigration law and legal ethics at Dyan Williams Law PLLC. She is also a productivity coach who helps working parents, lawyers, small business owners and other busy people turn their ideas into action, reduce overwhelm, and focus on what truly matters. She is the author of The Incrementalist: A Simple Productivity System to Create Big Results in Small Steps

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Morning Routines and Rituals to Start Your Day, The Incrementalist, Ep. 14

Do you find yourself reacting to emails and messages soon after you wake up?

Are you scrolling through online news and social media as part of your morning rituals?

Do you hit the snooze button or need multiple alarms before you get out of bed?

Your morning is your A.M. bookend to your day. A morning routine can help you get the clarity and structure you need every day, wherever you are. How you start your day is key to taking charge of it.

Your start-up sequence – after you wake up – affects your mood and sets the tone for your day. While you can make shifts and practice good habits later in the day, it’s better to get quick wins with your morning routine.

In episode 14 of The Incrementalist podcast, you will learn: 

1. A routine doesn’t have to be rigid. You could have different themes depending on your energy level, the focus of your day, the season of your life, or the season of the year. 

2. A routine may include fixed tasks or variable tasks. A fixed task is what you do every morning; maybe it’s drinking water or tea, or taking a walk. A variable task is what you can move or drop depending on the situation; maybe it’s eating breakfast or going to the gym.  You decide what’s negotiable and what’s not.  

3. The difference between a routine and a ritual. A routine is a sequence of behaviors and habits that you do in a certain order. They are things you do automatically and repeatedly without conscious thought.  A ritual requires focus and attention to the present moment.  Rituals are meaningful activities you do deliberately. 

4. Key things to include in your morning routine – 

  • Movement
  • Sunlight
  • Quick wins, e.g. make your bed, drink water

5. Key things to avoid in your morning routine – 

  • Online activity, e.g. social media, news, emails
  • The snooze button or multiple alarms
  • Sugary foods

6. Hal Elrod’s 6 steps to create a morning routine and save you from a life of unfulfilled potential. They are Life S.A.V.E.R.S.

  • Silence
  • Affirmation
  • Visualization
  • Exercise
  • Reading
  • Scribing

Resources cited: 

To listen to episode 14, Morning Routines and Rituals to Start Your Day, click here. Subscribe to The Incrementalist at Apple Podcasts or other apps.

Cheers,
Dyan Williams

# # #

Dyan Williams is a solo lawyer who practices U.S. immigration law and legal ethics at Dyan Williams Law PLLC. She is also a productivity coach who helps working parents, lawyers, small business owners and other busy people turn their ideas into action, reduce overwhelm, and focus on what truly matters. She is the author of The Incrementalist: A Simple Productivity System to Create Big Results in Small Steps

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How to Make a To-Do List that Works, The Incrementalist, Ep. 13

An effective to-do list helps you take action on the right priorities at the right time. But if yours leaves you feeling overwhelmed and uninspired, you need to change how you make it.

How do you make a to-do list so it brings a sense of calm and keeps you focused on what matters?

How do you make it work for you instead of against you?

If you find yourself rushing through tasks, worrying about things you’re not doing, or having items linger for weeks or months, you might think that to-do lists don’t work.

Your to-do list didn’t appear by itself. You made it. So maybe the answer is not to stop making to-do lists. Instead, you need to be more intentional and organize it around your real priority or priorities.

In episode 13 of The Incrementalist podcast, you will learn 5 reasons why to-do lists might not work and what you can do to make them work better:

Reason #1: You’re using too many mediums or the wrong medium.
Solution:
 Choose one medium that’s right for you or use the lowest number of organizational task management systems that help you do the things you need to get done.

Reason #2: You have too many things on your to-do list.
Solution: 
 Keep it short and simple. Less is more. Use your weekly planning session to set your daily to-dos. 

Reason #3: Your to-do list doesn’t prioritize what really matters.
Solution:
 Be more selective and intentional when you make your to-do list.If you’re not eager to do a task, ask yourself whether it’s vital for you to personally complete. If it is, stop procrastinating and take action. If it’s not, dump it from your list, delegate the task, or move it to your someday/maybe list.

Reason #4: You define your items too broadly.
Solution: 
Break down goals and projects into manageable action steps. Divide big tasks into smaller sub-tasks that are actionable.

Reason #5: You have too many micro steps.
Solution: 
 Switch to macro steps. Tasks like clean the office, write blog post, and prepare notes for podcast episode are macro. You don’t always need to break up projects into small steps. Even though it works to make big changes in small steps, you start with tiny only when it’s necessary to gain traction. 

When created without much thought, your to-do list can make it hard to execute on important tasks or steer you toward low leverage tasks. But when made with intention, your to-do list can help you stay on track, get organized around your priorities, channel your attention, and make steady progress on what matters. 

Resources cited: 

To listen to episode 13, How to Make a To-Do List that Works, click here. Subscribe to The Incrementalist at Apple Podcasts or other apps.

Cheers,
Dyan Williams

# # #

Dyan Williams is a solo lawyer who practices U.S. immigration law and legal ethics at Dyan Williams Law PLLC. She is also a productivity coach who helps working parents, lawyers, small business owners and other busy people turn their ideas into action, reduce overwhelm, and focus on what truly matters. She is the author of The Incrementalist: A Simple Productivity System to Create Big Results in Small Steps

SUBSCRIBE           CONTACT

Divergent vs. Convergent Thinking: You Need Both to Get Unstuck and Solve Problems, The Incrementalist, Ep. 12

When you’re working on a complex problem, how do you innovate and fix it? Is it better to generate creative insights or to use logical reasoning?

You need both for creative problem solving. You spark ideas and explore multiple solutions with Divergent Thinking. You analyze ideas and choose the best solution with Convergent Thinking.

Linear thinking is the common, default mode when we work on projects and tackle problems. This includes making specific plans and listing action steps. It keeps us organized and on track. But linear thinking is not effective in addressing adaptive challenges with uncertain outcomes. 

To get unstuck and solve complex problems, you could blend Divergent Thinking and Convergent Thinking. This leads to creative problem solving, where you generate new, original ideas that are meaningful, valuable and practical. 

In 1956, American psychologist J.P. Guilford coined the terms Divergent Thinking and Convergent Thinking to describe two cognitive approaches to tackle problems and find innovative solutions. The interplay between these two contrasting styles of mental processing leads to optimal performance. 

Divergent thinking asks, “Why not?” Convergent thinking asks, “Why?” 

Divergent thinking generates different ideas and multiple solutions. You begin with a prompt and generate many solutions. Although the process is structured, you stay open-minded and open-ended as you brainstorm ideas and explore possibilities. There’s no analysis, no judgment, and no arguments being made.

Convergent thinking narrows down multiple ideas into a single solution.  You begin with information and converge around a solution that works best. You organize your ideas, evaluate and analyze them, weigh the pros and cons, and make decisions.

In episode 12 of The Incrementalist podcast, you will discover:

1) The four steps in JP Guilford’s model of creative thinking

  • Define the problem you wish to solve
  • Apply Divergent Thinking to spark ideas and create choices
  • Use Convergent Thinking to evaluate ideas and make choices
  • Finalize the solution and prepare to implement it

2) Why you need to keep the two modes of thinking separate from each other

3) How to use Nominal Group Technique (NGT) for brainstorming sessions

4) Creativity tactics to generate ideas and innovation 

  • Work under a lofty ceiling
  • Make noise
  • Dim the lights
  • Get a good night’s sleep
  • Take a nap
  • Do yoga. Or meditate

5) Two examples of Divergent Thinking and Convergent Thinking working together to create a successful service or product: Twitter (social medial platform) and 3M’s Post-it® Note (sticky note). 

Resources cited:

  • Anne Manning, Divergent vs. Convergent Thinking: How to Strike a Balance (May 10, 2016, Harvard Extension School, Professional Development Blog)
  • Donald M. Rattner, My Creative Space: How to Design Your Home to Stimulate Ideas and Spark Innovation
  • Dyan Williams, Mind Mapping: A Mental Tool for Generating Ideas and Solving Problems, ABA Law Practice Today

Stay creative & logical,

Dyan Williams

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Dyan Williams is a solo lawyer who practices U.S. immigration law and legal ethics at Dyan Williams Law PLLC. She is also a productivity coach who helps working parents, lawyers, small business owners and other busy people turn their ideas into action, reduce overwhelm, and focus on what truly matters. She is the author of The Incrementalist: A Simple Productivity System to Create Big Results in Small Steps

SUBSCRIBE           CONTACT

Focused vs. Diffused Thinking: You Need Both to Learn and Solve Problems, The Incrementalist, Ep. 11

To learn new concept and skills, you need to engage both the focused mode and diffused mode of thinking. Learning is a meta skill that allows you to turn information into intelligence and knowledge into expertise. If you know how to learn, you can broaden your passions and not just follow existing ones.

To solve problems, you must access and activate the neural networks in your brain.  There’s the task-positive network and the task-negative network. Task-positive is focused mode. And task-negative is diffused mode. You cannot use both at the same time. Instead, you move from one to the next to fully understand a problem and generate the best ideas to solve it.

In episode 11 of The Incrementalist podcast, you will discover:

  • The difference between the focused mode and the diffused mode of thinking
  • The reasons you need both modes to learn new things and solve problems
  • The limitations of the focused mode, e.g. Einstellung effect
  • The limitations of the diffused mode, e.g. lack of deliberate practice
  • Salvador Dali and Thomas Edison’s use of micronaps (hypnagogia) to get unstuck and generate ideas
  • How to activate each thinking mode and move from one mode to the other
  • Why mind mapping is better than linear note taking for connecting ideas and seeing the big picture

Resources cited: 

Stay focused & diffused,

Dyan Williams

# # #

Dyan Williams is a solo lawyer who practices U.S. immigration law and legal ethics at Dyan Williams Law PLLC. She is also a productivity coach who helps working parents, lawyers, small business owners and other busy people turn their ideas into action, reduce overwhelm, and focus on what truly matters. She is the author of The Incrementalist: A Simple Productivity System to Create Big Results in Small Steps

SUBSCRIBE           CONTACT