Category Archives: The Ethical Lawyer – Legal Ethics + Lawyer Wellbeing Blog

Get Bored Now, The Incrementalist, Ep. 41

Are you able to comfortably sit alone with your thoughts?

Do you look for external stimuli the moment you feel bored?

Does boredom make you less creative or productive?

Boredom is defined as a feeling of discontent with something that is dull, repetitive, tiresome or tedious. We prefer to stay away from anything that is boring to us. But boredom is largely a complex emotion that can have a very positive impact. It can make us more creative and productive.

In episode 41 of The Incrementalist, you will learn:

1) In 11 studies, researchers at the University of Virginia and Harvard University found that most participants did not enjoy spending 6 to 15 minutes in a room by themselves with nothing to do but think.

  • Participants preferred to do mundane activities like scroll their cell phone.
  • Some chose pain over boredom by pressing a button to give themselves an electric shock.

2) A March 2019 article in the Academy of Management Discoveries reported that boredom is a little-known way to boost creativity.

  • Study 1: boredom helped boost individual productivity on an idea-generation task.
  • Study 2: boredom manipulation increased boredom but did not trigger other negative emotions like anger and frustration, which makes boredom a unique factor in sparking creativity.
  • Study 3: boredom did not always improve creativity for a product development task. The participants needed to have a high learning goal orientation, high need for cognition, high openness to experience, and high internal locus of control to get more creative when feeling bored.

3) Boredom is a cause of divergence-seeking, exploratory tendencies. Feeling bored will drive you to change and do something different, seek challenges, switch to goals or tasks that better serve you, and motivate you to engage in unusual ways of doing things that are contrary to typical or predictable responses.

4) Doing nothing or sitting with your thoughts is hard when there’s so much to do and so much to pull your attention. But if you want to be more creative and productive, it’s good to experience boredom.

5) Being bored is not the same as purposeful, relaxation activities, such as yoga and meditation.

6) To experience true boredom, you could sit with your eyes closed, or look out the window, or walk a familiar route and let your mind wander. There is no music, no podcast, and no other stimuli to engage your senses. It’s just you and your thoughts.

7) Boredom is not a bad thing if you know how to use it as an opportunity for idea generation and creative breakthroughs.

Sources cited:

  • Timothy D. Wilson,, David A. Reinhard, Erin C. Westgate, Daniel T. Gilbert, Nicole Ellerbeck Cheryl Hahn, Casey L. Brown, Adi Shaked, Just think: the challenges of the disengaged mind, Science, July 2014, Volume 345, Issue 6192
  • Guihyun Park, Beng-Chong Lim, Hui Si Oh, Why Being Bored Might Not Be a Bad Thing After All, Academy of Management Discoveries, March 2019, Volume 5, Number 1
  • Dyan Williams, The Incrementalist podcast,  Ep. 12, Divergent vs. Convergent Thinking

To listen to episode 41, Get Bored Now, click here. If you prefer to read the transcript, go here. Subscribe to The Incrementalist at Apple Podcasts or other apps.

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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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12 Essential Things that Enhanced My Life

Can money buy you happiness?      

Are experiences always better than things?

Does minimalism make you miserable?

Some of the wealthiest people are the most depressed and saddest in the world.  Having too much stuff can be distracting and overwhelming. Less stuff brings more clarity, more space, and more freedom. Still, there’s nothing wrong with having shiny, new things.

You don’t want to depend on things to make you happy or to define you. But you also don’t want to feel guilty when you buy something you really want or will enrich your life somehow. 

In episode 40 of The Incrementalist, you will learn:

1) Just because you can afford the newest version doesn’t mean you have to spend the money. You can instead save your money, invest it, or give it to a worthy cause.  That said, there’s nothing wrong with having shiny, new things. 

2) Material rewards can get you to do tasks and projects that are difficult or boring. While it’s better to have internal motivation and know the why behind a goal, sometimes you need a little boost from an external incentive. 

3) External rewards can be a way to practice patience. You replace impulse buying with delayed gratification. You will get the thing you really want only after you’ve met a certain milestone or taken a certain action step. 

4) 12 essential things that improved my productivity and enhanced my life – 

  1. Microphone with high audio quality: Shure MV-7
  2. Analog Alarm Clock: Orcbeg, circular vintage, lightwoodgrain no ticking clock
  3. Light-blocking sleep mask: MZOO sleep eye mask
  4. Writing pen: Uni-Ball Signo 307 
  5. Paper planner: Moleskin 12 Month Daily Planner, Large (5 x 8.25”)
  6. Milk frother and steamer: Miroco 
  7. LED Desk Lamp with USB Charging Port, Different Color Temperatures or Moods, and Brightness Levels, Auto-Off Timer, and Multiple Angle Adjustments: TaoTronics Desk Lamp model TT-DL16 
  8. Bluetooth wireless, mechanical keyboard: Keychron K2
  9. Ergonomic wireless mouse: Logitech MX Master 2S
  10. Advanced noise canceling earbuds: Jabra Elite 85t True Wireless Bluetooth 
  11. Paper tablet: ReMarkable 2 
  12. Ergonomic office chair: Steelcase Gesture

5) Some things do make you sleep better, work better and generally feel better. The right tools can reduce friction, make time, and save money in the long run. They can help you build good habits, enjoy life more, savor the moment, and get more focused.

To listen to episode 40, 12 Essential Things that Enhanced My Life, click here. If you prefer to read the transcript, go here. Subscribe to The Incrementalist at Apple Podcasts or other apps.

# # #

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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Progress, Not Perfection, is the Way

When you set a goal, do you focus on what you have yet to achieve, or on the progress you’ve made?

How do you keep the momentum going when you’re not at your peak?

Do you measure success against an ideal, or against what you gained?

Small wins make you more productive, creative, committed, collegial, and focused. When you track the progress you’ve made, no matter how small, you gain confidence that builds on the momentum. With an incremental approach, you take daily actions that move you in the right direction, instead of take big leaps that are more likely to steer you off course.

In episode 39 of The Incrementalist, you will learn:

1) Progress comes from positive inner work life, which includes your perceptions, emotions and motivation levels.

2)  Favorable perceptions about your work and colleagues, positive emotions like joy and excitement, and higher intrinsic motivation lead to better performance. 

3) The most critical factor in shaping your inner work life is your sense of making progress in meaningful things. This is known as the progress principle. 

4) Defining specific targets and clear goals is a catalyst for progress.

5) As you set high and expansive goals, you need to also have milestones and mini-goals along the way to track your progress and to course-correct.

6) Focusing on your gains and progress is more effective than measuring how you fall short in comparison to external reference points.

7) Making mistakes and encountering obstacles are part of the learning process. By breaking big projects into smaller chunks, you give yourself more opportunities to make errors with lower stakes and fewer consequences.

Resources cited:

Music by:

To listen to episode 39, Progress, Not Perfection, is the Way, click here. If you prefer to read the transcript, go here. Subscribe to The Incrementalist at Apple Podcasts or other apps.

# # #

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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Love and Connection in a Time of Loss

Are you willing to receive kindness from others in difficult times?

Do you have friends you can laugh with in the midst of despair?

Is it okay to feel joy during the grieving process?

We’ve all experienced loss in some shape or form. It could be the loss of a dream job, a friend moving away, a health crisis, or a change in lifestyle that you didn’t plan for.

The death of a loved one is a very painful experience. It’s hard to even say the word “death” in this context. The end of a life is so final, so permanent, and so irreversible. We call it a loss to soften the blow, to help ourselves or the other person feel better.

The pain of such a loss – when experienced fully instead of being buried with busyness and distractions – is life-changing. It causes you to reflect on your life, the relationships you have, and the contributions you make.

In episode 38 of The Incrementalist, you will learn:

1) To find meaning in loss, you have to feel the emotions and allow them to just wash over you.

2) It’s okay to be not as productive, not as focused, and to drop some obligations and commitments – at least for the time being.

3) Some of the things I’m doing (or not doing) during my own grieving process.

4) Scaling back to prioritize the essentials doesn’t mean you stop brainstorming ideas, making progress, producing things or sharing your creative output.

5) Sharing is a way to connect with others and to build human connections.

6) In the midst of deep despair, you can also have true joy. You oscillate between the two. A memory can trigger mixed emotions – it can bring a smile to your face, or cause tears to fall.

“Tears fall for a reason and they are your strength not weakness.“

7) Your friends are there for you even when you’re not at your best or living the best version of yourself.

8) Through mindful accommodation, you can use the pain of loss to live more fully.

Resource cited:

  • Charlie Mackesy, The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse

Music by:

To listen to episode 38, Love and Connection in a Time of Loss, click here. If you prefer to read the transcript, go here. Subscribe to The Incrementalist at Apple Podcasts or other apps.

# # #

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

How to Learn and Master Any Skill (part 2)

Do you resist learning outside of your element?

Are you presuming answers without really understanding the problem?   

Do you love to learn many things fast, but often skip over the fundamentals?  

When you’re acquiring and developing a new skill, you need to learn how to learn. Learning is a meta-skill for life and for sustaining peak performance. This continuation of a two-parts episode builds on the foundation principles covered in Episode 36.

In episode 37 of The Incrementalist, you will learn: 

7 more  takeaways to learn and master any skill

  • Keep a beginner’s mind – be like the child learning to crawl who is not concerned about how she looks or about whether she’s succeeding or failing.  
  • Invest in loss – give yourself to the learning process and be willing to lose and fail so you can win and succeed. 
  • Make smaller circles – emphasize depth over breadth; focus on the micro to understand the macro. 
  • Use adversity – take advantage of setbacks to hone new skills and move out of creative ruts. 
  • Slow down time – connect the unconscious and the conscious mind through chunking (create neural pathways, chunks, and navigation systems between the chunks).
  • Be fully present – pay attention to the learning process to increase clarity in high-stakes moments. 
  • Get in the zone – use the stress-recovery effect to achieve focus and flow states. 

Resources cited:

Music by:

To listen to episode 37, How to Learn and Master Any Skill (part 2), click here. If you prefer to read the transcript, go here. Subscribe to The Incrementalist at Apple Podcasts or other apps.

# # #

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