Hearsay ... the Journal of the Bar Association of Queensland
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Issue 30: October 2008
Golf Helps Your Practice! Print E-mail

introgolf.jpgOver the past year I have wandered in and out of chambers a few times a week. Most knew where I was going, or where I had been: the Indooroopilly golf course. A back injury had prevented me from doing any sport for three years, so when I got my health back I made up for lost time, taking the risk of being considered a time waster.

Oddly, far from my practice suffering, I feel it has improved significantly. I had replaced diminished-returns work hours with what is referred to in the management literature as “think time”.

Most would agree that our profession is a stressful one, where we work long hours. An adrenaline rush can sustain us for a case, but something else is required for the increasing paperwork load. Written submissions make cases run more smoothly, but for the Bar they present another area where we must think hard about how to persuade the Bench – the Winning Brief sets out just how much time and effort should (but never can) go into written submissions. And internet research services are helpful for opinion work, but clients demand (by email) that we find the answers to their questions “asap”, which Covey describes as the “tyranny of urgency”.

Most would also agree that working longer hours is not the solution: our health , families, and practice almost certainly will suffer.

“Think time”, then, is time set aside each week where we reflect, mostly unconsciously, on pressing issues. It is more, though, than simply “sleeping on the issue”. Golf is my think time. Of course, it is whatever activity that you enjoy that allows your subconscious mind to work.

golf.jpgTwelve hours (of golf) per week is probably too much think time, but it serves other purposes too. My four pre-teenage children like going to golf with dad after school or on a Sunday (although I suspect Nicola goes merely for the inevitable milkshake), and I get the exercise I need.

Whatever “think time” is set aside, for it to be effective significant underlying work must be done beforehand. Otherwise you engage simply in procrastination, which is tension relieving, but not goal achieving.

For example, rather than rushing to finish written submissions and having them filed before going off to reward yourself with a game of golf, complete only draft submissions before going to golf. The four hours the subconscious mind then has to work should result in much improved final submissions. Likewise for an advice. First, collect all the relevant facts in the background section. Second, state the issues. Third, read and read, jamming yourself full of information about the problems to be solved. Then go play golf. It will be inevitable that you will come up with the answers, or at least the route to the answers, by the end of think time.

Frey, “Take Time for Think Time”, gives the following advice:

“The lesson for us is clear: we can’t do our best work while careening from one jam-packed day to the next. Like an artist creating an oil painting, we must take a few steps back from the canvas of our lives, to assess all of our activities and accomplishments – the individual brush strokes of our lives – from a wider, more holistic perspective.

While we can rarely afford to take the scenic route like the great artists and thinkers of the past, we can dedicate one or two hours per week to creative thinking and problem-solving time. For best results, block out two to three one-hour time slots on your calendar first, then try to schedule other priorities around them. Treat these appointments with yourself as seriously as you would any other key meeting. Make them a habit-knit part of your life, and you’ll be astounded by the results.”

Some links, which explain in much greater detail the benefits of think time, and generally stopping to smell the roses, you might find useful:

http://dowhat.typepad.com/dowhat/2007/04/executive_think.html

http://www.ucsf.edu/wrklife/pdf/smellRoses.pdf

http://www.innovationtools.com/Articles/ArticleDetails.asp?a=9

http://www.nfib.com/object/1584139.html

Mark Robertson


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