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How to stick it to your resolutions | Marcel Strigberger

Friday, December 03, 2021 @ 2:38 PM | By Marcel Strigberger


Marcel Strigberger %>
Marcel Strigberger
We are nearing that time of year again; resolution time. I note many of us make resolutions on how to optimize practice habits. The demon, however, with resolutions is most people don’t stick to them. Now happily retired, I made a resolution to share some of my resolution experiences.

Technology tsunami — yikes!

I got called to the bar in 1974. I still remember typewriters, dial phones and Gilligan’s Island. When computers hit law offices into the 1980s, tech issues bowled me over. I resolved however to swim with the sharks and learn this stuff. I would ask questions of the experts but there was only so much my kids could explain. 

I then resolved to take a computer course. Unfortunately, I found much of the content incomprehensible. The instructor sounded like he was speaking Middle Phoenician. I dropped out quickly.

I also read a suggested seminal book on the subject. It did not take long before I tossed aside my PCs for Dummies.

I threw my hands in the air. Those sharks would have to swim by themselves.

It then dawned on me that just maybe I did not have to become a tech guru. I could just learn some basics, step by step. I did not have to swim with those sharks. I was OK swimming with the ducks.

Which brings me to COVID-19.  I resolved in 2017 to retire. Good thing I did.  If I had to handle e-discoveries, online filing and Zoom trials, I wouldn’t even be swimming with the ducks. I’d be treading water with the turkeys.

Time management — distractions?

 A major distraction was my need to see my e-mails … now!

And naturally I felt compelled to respond immediately. I viewed e-mail communications like a tennis match. I felt like Serena Williams. 

Needless to say, this distraction bothered me, even though I was still swimming with the ducks.

I resolved to shut my e-mail window until I was ready to review e-mails. The problem was I was always ready to review e-mails. It became a priority, 911.  

Eventually after some reflection, I realized that before we had e-mails or even faxes, the equivalent message generally came via the mail. We would respond a day or two later and a turnaround of about a week was acceptable. 

I resolved once again for the Nth time to break this habit. I’m proud to say I succeeded. I have not responded to another lawyer’s e-mail in five years. Hey, I’m retired.

Get a life — Take five

As the Dave Brubeck lyrics go,

“Won’t you stop and take
A little time out with me
Just take five
Stop your busy day …”

How many of us in practice do take five, or even four? How many don’t take anything? 

I once worked with a colleague, George, or should I say now a late colleague. His heart didn’t keep up with his lifestyle. He rarely took time out for lunch. He used to say that if he took a half hour for lunch, at his billable rate, it would cost him $150. I would sometimes bring a coffee to his desk and after he would spend about three minutes gulping it down, I’d remind him that this coffee cost him $15. The problem was, he agreed. 

I urged him to resolve to change. He said, “Maybe we can discuss it one day, over lunch.”

Many lawyers do take vacation breaks, but they carry their offices on their backs. I was in line once outside the Sistine Chapel where I met a lawyer Pete, from California. Our wives and I were chatting about the glory that was Rome, including whether it was all built in one day. Meanwhile, Pete was getting agitated calling his office and shouting orders like General Patton.

I asked if he realized how counterproductive this was. He told me he resolved, many times to stop this practice but to no avail.

I suggested for now he hand his cell phone to his wife and enjoy Rome. I felt proud of myself as he gave me an affirmative nod. Minutes later he called an opposing counsel, shouting at him that the guy was disturbing his trip to Italy. (I doubt Pete knew at the moment where in Italy he was.) 

We soon entered the Sistine Chapel.  All I can say is Michelangelo was a great artist.  

Oh well, I tried.

Dealing with demons

You will hear suggestions on how to make resolutions stick. One as with my tech life, is take small steps (i.e. those ducks).

The workaholics like Pete can resolve while on vacation, leave their cell phones at the hotel, and check office business if they must, in the late afternoon and in the interval, they could ponder more relaxing distractions, like about whether all those roads really do lead to Rome.

And perhaps those colleagues who feel fulfilled only if they are chained to their desks can push themselves to undo the handcuffs and have a decent lunch break say Mondays and Thursdays. Or maybe their resolutions might stick more when they think about what happened to people like poor George.

I also see online there are courses or seminars on how to stick to resolutions. In my view, the problem with those is that most of us would likely drop out. 

Finally, I shall ask, why wait until the new year? Start now. There is nothing wrong with something like a Dec. 3rd resolution. Don’t procrastinate. Then again, overcoming procrastination is a resolution onto itself.

As for me at least I fulfilled the resolution to share my experiences with resolutions.

Marcel Strigberger retired from his Greater Toronto Area litigation practice and continues the more serious business of humorous author and speaker. His just launched book Boomers, Zoomers, and Other Oomers: A Boomer-biased Irreverent Perspective on Aging is now available in paper and e-book versions where books are sold. Visit www.marcelshumour.com. Follow him @MarcelsHumour.

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