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In Defense of ‘Mindless Tasks’: Improve Your Problem-Solving Skills as a Lawyer With These Relatively Mindless Activities

While the job can be rewarding, for the most part, people who work in the field of law whether as attorneys or paralegals can attest to the profession’s abundance of sometimes mind-numbing tasks.

Unlike what the mainstream media portrays, the majority of a working lawyer’s hours are spent pouring over mechanical and repetitive tasks. Pairing that to the intense workload that comes with the job, people working in the legal field often end up feeling stumped.

But according to research published in the Psychological Science journal, these ‘mindless’ activities can actually help people hone their problem-solving skills and even lead them to feel more inspired.

The Experiment

The study was published in 2012 and was facilitated by academics from the University of California Santa Barbara

The study performed an experiment where participants were asked to perform something the researchers called an ‘Unusual Use Task’. This involved them listing down as many unusual uses for certain items that they can think of.

After that, they were divided into four smaller groups and were made to do different tasks. The first group was immediately faced with a demanding task while the second one was given the opposite. Meanwhile, the remaining two were allowed a 12-minute break and not given a break at all, respectively.

After all of these, the groups were then made to perform another listing task again. In the end, it was the second group, the one given the undemanding task, which scored better on the activity. So, what does this mean?

Celebrating Mundane Tasks

An undemanding task is anything you can do to clear your head but without the opportunity to ruminate too much

According to Jonathan Schooler, Ph.D., also one of the authors of the study, the improved results of the second group may be attributed to the positive effects of doing an undemanding task. Not being able to immerse in just one train of thought, the participants in the second group got to have a mental break without being given the opportunity to obsess over the task as the third group, given a full break, was.

As Schooler and his colleagues concluded, there are certain kinds of activities which may seem like a waste of time but are really not as they can be a prime period where one’s creative ideas can incubate.

These set of activities may include everyday tasks or more enjoyable yet undemanding activities like listening to music or a podcast. For paralegals or lawyers, undemanding tasks can be filing and arranging notes or paperwork. So, when you’re feeling stuck, stumped or overwhelmed about a case, clear your mind for a bit by doing these activities

Meditation Tips

Experts say that beginners can start small and build up their meditation minutes over time

Another recommended activity by Schooler is meditation. The great thing about this activity, which can also double as a mental break, is that it can be done almost anytime, anywhere. All one needs to do allot a few minutes of the day to focus on one’s breathing and sit quietly for a while. Office workers can do this to start off their workdays by meditating while sipping on a cup of coffee.

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