Health & Wellness - May 2012
Running Tips to Stay Healthy this Summer
With so many running products and opinions available, running can be confusing for beginners. It is hard to know what is correct and how to avoid injury. Here are some basic tips:
Running with others is another great way to keep motivated and maintain a consistent running schedule. Chicago offers several running groups, as well as numerous running events throughout the year. A great website to learn about upcoming group runs and races is www.cararuns.org. The link provides information about hundreds of running events both in Chicago and the surrounding suburbs. Running a race is not only a good way to challenge yourself but also a great way to help support your community. Many races are fundraisers for terrific causes.
One such 5k event is "Race Judicata Sprint for Justice" which benefits the Chicago Volunteer Legal Services Foundation. CVLS is an organization of attorneys which donates free legal services to low income Chicagoans throughout the year. Participating in Race Judicata is great way to support all that CVLS does in the legal community. This year's event will take place on Thursday, September 13, 2012, at 6:30 p.m. in Grant Park. We encourage you to register for this event and join the YLS Health and Wellness Committee as we support CVLS. To register online, go to www.cvls.org/judicata and follow the registration link. Be sure to choose "Use Existing Team" and select "Chicago Bar Association-YLS" from the drop-down menu. On race day, join us in the CBA-YLS tent, receive a free t-shirt, and meet the other runners. Following the race, all runners are encouraged to enjoy the after-party festivities and socialize with fellow teammates and colleagues. The cost to register for Race Judicata is $33.00, but there is no additional charge to join Team Chicago Bar Association-YLS.
Beware of Multitasking
With summer just around the corner, everyone's professional and personal schedules are rapidly filling up. Warm weather is such valuable commodity in Chicago that people generally try to pack as many enjoyable activities into their free time as possible, which is natural since, in the work setting, all of us are already proficient at managing numerous obligations within a limited amount of time. This concept, maximizing output while minimizing time elapsed, forces us to multitask. Indeed, the process of multitasking has become so ingrained, and often necessary, in the lives of lawyers that we do it, figuratively speaking, without thinking. As it turns out, we are doing precisely that--not thinking.
Just about every job description seeking a lawyer has mandated the candidate be an excellent multitasker. Any lawyer can attest to the typical day of juggling sporadic emails, telephone calls, and meetings interwoven with reviewing, researching, and drafting. For at least the past few decades, multitasking has been rewarded and thought of as an invaluable skill. However, recently, much scientific research is revealing that the process of multitasking is actually causing us harm.
Academic research has found, unsurprisingly, that people do not learn as well when they are distracted. This principle has been reinforced by research conducted at UCLA, MIT, and Standford. What is surprising is that multitasking actually creates a learning process in the brain that results in a dramatically reduced ability to recall information. When learning facts and concepts, the brain's hippocampus normally processes and stores the information which allows for maximum recall. When we are distracted, the straitum is primarily activated which governs our ability to learn new skills; people with Parkinson's disease experience damage to the straitum--they are capable of learning and remembering facts and concepts but have difficultly acquiring and developing motor skills. Essentially, when we multitask, one part of the brain, which is not designed for analytical and conceptual learning, overcompensates, resulting in a less effective learning outcome. One Stanford professor described the learning product of multitasking as "disorganized, inflexible, less available memory" that is quickly creating a population of people who are unable to think clearly.
In addition, it is important to be aware that excessive multitasking will result in habitually less productive learning behavior. In other words, multitasking will become the default method of processing information if routinely practiced. Surveys have shown that 20 years ago people were able to distinguish about 300,000 distinct sounds. The same survey conducted five years ago showed that people were only able to distinguish around 180,000 sounds. Other research has unquestionably demonstrated reduced cognitive and analytical abilities in young people, especially members of Generations Y and Z. This type of cognitive declination can largely be attributed to technology which has changed the speed and manner in which information is shared, processed, and disseminated. While immersion in a fast-paced multimedia environment improves some audio-visual learning and actually enhances our multitasking skills, it simultaneously degrades our reading/print comprehension skills and our ability to focus and gain a deep understanding of complex problems. For lawyers who often must evaluate intricate legal issues and multifaceted, hypothetical outcomes, this obviously presents a problem.
The improper reaction to this information is to engage in denial. No one is immune from the effects of multitasking. Examination of brain activity using functional magnetic resonance imaging technology (fMRI) actually shows an increased amount of activity in the brain during multitasking; however, performance in analytical reasoning experiments universally suffers. This increased brain activity represents confusion through overstimulation at the neurological level. While generally everyone prior to analytical testing reports a belief that he or she is a brilliant multitasker, the data demonstrate we are all quite poor at it.
The solution is not to completely cease use of multitasking. The academic community concedes that it is a valuable skill that is often a necessary part of workplace productivity. For example, during trial, a lawyer may simultaneously be required to listen to witness testimony, take notes, reference exhibits, confer with co-counsel, and keep an eye on jurors' reactions. Conversely, what we must do is learn to selectively utilize the multitasking process. It is highly important to maintain awareness of multitasking distraction when we encounter a complex issue that requires focused attention. Remember that learning and analytical thinking, like any other skills, are learned processes for which we are constantly responsible to engender and refine.
While this is easier said than done, some minor adjustments in the way we work can have a lasting, positive impact. The prevalence and convenience of email has subjugated many of us and has likely replaced telephonic and/or in-person communication in some offices. Email-related distraction can be minimized by disabling your computer's notification tone indicating the arrival of a new message and designating telephone calls for urgent matters. Try implementing a system where email is ignored all but twice per day, at set times, unless a phone call accompanies a vital or time-sensitive message. While the telephone is a distraction in itself, strive to make telephone appointments with clients and co-workers whenever available. It is impossible to completely remove distraction from our lives, so the onus is on all of us, given our awareness of its effects on our brains, to adjust our behavior accordingly.