Remember the Wheaties commercials from your childhood? Athletes from every sport longed to see their smiling face on the Wheaties box, and many succeeded. Michael Jordan. Mary Lou Retton. Muhammad Ali. Clay Matthews. The list is long and impressive and the message was clear: be prepared for your big event.
You may be wondering what on earth a box of Wheaties has to do with your legal practice. Consider this:
- When preparing the night before your last oral argument, how many Diet Cokes did you consume?
- During today’s morning rush out the door, did you skip breakfast in lieu of your favorite nine-syllable-flavoriscious cup of Starbucks?
- During your last trial or deposition, did you work through lunch and nibble on chocolate covered M&Ms instead?
We’ve all been there. Stressed out. In a hurry. Tired. Feeling under the gun. Rushed. Pushing yourself to meet a deadline, or to wrap up the Project de Jour so you can make it home in time to tuck your kids in bed.
I always encourage my clients and witnesses to eat a healthy breakfast before a big day. I’m sure we can all recall a parental figure telling us to eat our [insert any food or meal] to make us healthy and strong. It’s not just a bunch of phooey. Our brains actually need the proper nutrients to function at their best. And when we’re stressed out or operating on a tight deadline? It’s even more important to fuel up.
I’ve been reading How Brain Science Can Make You A Better Lawyer, written by David Sousa. There is a chapter dedicated to keeping your body properly fueled during stressful times. It reminded me of the Eat Your Wheaties mantra: if we need to stay mentally sharp, we need to fuel our brains.
Here are a scientific findings that might interest you.
- Are you suffering from a case of mental fog? Eat something containing boron. An apple, bag of mini carrots, raisins or nuts will do the trick. Research shows an immediate benefit of a 10% increase in attention and memory recall.
- Grab a power nap. I wouldn’t recommend pulling a “George Costanza” and snoozing underneath your desk, but research does show that a mere 15-minute cat nap can increase productivity, alertness, concentration and accuracy. It even has the added benefit of reducing the amount of the stress-related hormone cortisol. You work in a business where the mere placement of a comma can completely change the meaning of a document. Take 15 and regroup.
- Get moving. If you’re feeling sluggish but can’t grab a power nap, a shot of Oxygen may be just what the doctor ordered. Take a quick walk around the block. Opt for stairs instead of the elevator. If you’re confined inside and can’t break away, do a few jumping jacks. Jog in place for a minute or so. Walk the halls. Breathe deeply.
- Hydrate! With good old fashioned H2O. Limit the soda, coffee or power drinks. Without adequate water intake, the brain signals you need to be working at warp speed are going to be functioning at a slower, less effective and compromised rate. Water consumption has the added benefit of improving the oxygen transfer into your bloodstream. Win-win, right? Keep a few bottles in your desk drawer, and have a case available in your war room.
When you’re in gotta-get-it-done-yesterday or full-blown-trial-mode, don’t forget to fuel your brain for the activity at hand. You’ll be glad you did.