Falling Asleep At The Wheel: How To Avoid Drowsy Lawyering

Another late night at the office ends with a drowsy drive home. Lawyers, you’re not alone.

A National Sleep Foundation, 2005 Sleep in America study, claims 60 percent of adult drivers polled have driven a vehicle while feeling drowsy in the past year. Four percent of the drivers polled also admitted to having been involved in an accident or near accident as a result of drowsiness.

In fact, each year, The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates 100,000 police-reported crashes are the direct result of driver fatigue—crashes linked to roughly 1,550 deaths, 71,000 injuries, and $12.5 billion in monetary losses.

Less statistically graphed, though equally significant, is the extent to which fatigue affects productivity levels.

Non-traditional and nighttime work hours are linked to higher rates of drowsy driving. Likewise, an attorney’s late-night schedule often means missed deadlines, rushed filings, increased mistakes, and inadvertent inner-office (power) naps.  

So, instead of risking dangerously low productivity levels, try implementing a few of these tips to avoid excessive fatigue at the office. When an important client matter comes up, you don’t want to be caught falling asleep at the metaphorical wheel.

1. Break away from the computer. On a dark highway, it’s easy for your eyes to become fatigued. Bright headlights jar you awake and break your concentration. In the same way, reading articles all night on your computer screen can stress your eyes.

Every 45 minutes or so, look away. Take a break from staring into cyberspace, and print out the necessary research or pull out a law library book instead. A few minutes away from LED light are often enough to gain a second wind for work.

2. Take walks. You don’t have to be arthritic to acquire achy joints from the driver’s seat. Similarly, attorneys anywhere from first-year to senior status are vulnerable to the pains of sitting upright too long at a desk.

Try taking five minutes to walk around the block, around the building, or even down the hall. Circulation in the body can deeply benefit the mind.

3. Choose refreshments wisely. Even for a weary driver, there’s a fine line between just enough coffee and the jitters. Keep well nourished, hydrated, and caffeinated—if need be—but don’t over do it.

4. Know your limits.  An intelligent driver knows when to stop driving. Smart lawyers understand where to draw the line to finish or postpone work. Prioritize the tasks that must be done immediately, and then leave the rest for the following day.

As a lawyer, you’ll find productivity and efficiency levels increase after a good night’s sleep, and you’ll be less prone to careless errors in your work.

As a firm, encourage your associates to go home at reasonable hours and to take advantage of the office break-room. Not only will the partners see a boost in productivity, but clients will also see their cases managed more successfully.

Remember, it only takes a second to nod off and miss a turn, hit a lamppost, and change your life (or legal reputation) forever.

-WB

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