Deadlines loom, trademarks need enforcement and a client is being accused of patent infringement. Stress is building up. You need that stress, it pushes you to survive and accomplish your goals. On the other hand, when you are drowning in stress it leaves you tired, anxious and possibly depressed. Your work suffers, which then leads to even more stress.
It is amazing how many IP professionals are fully dedicated to their work, but often they forget to slow down and take heed of signs they are overstressed. Don’t be like this. If you take a moment to manage that stress with the tips below, you will find your work improving.
Take Care of Your Body
Many intellectual property professionals can slip into a sedentary lifestyle. Sitting for too long increases health risks and won’t help with your stress. Simply taking regular breaks to stretch and get your blood flowing with a short walk can make a big difference, but if you really want to change stress levels, make sure to add longer workouts to your routine. Exercise will release serotonin and endorphins, making you feel better, while also tiring you out so that you can get a good night’s sleep.
In the quest for more energy, we guzzle cups of coffee and experiment with energy drinks instead of taking a good night’s rest. For many, sleep is viewed as a waste of time, hours spent not being productive. Yet, sleep is, in fact, one of the most productive things you can do.
When you are sleep deprived, you can make stressful mistakes that waste time, your health deteriorates, and you lose the energy to fully utilize your awake time. It might seem like a sacrifice, but you need sleep.
3. Eat Healthier
When deadlines loom and days are full, you don’t want to think about what to eat. It’s easier to order delivery or jump over to the local takeout place. Unfortunately, these foods are often filled with unnecessary calories and lack nutrition. You need better food. Nutritious meals can make a difference in energy levels and the ability to take on the day’s challenges.
It may seem like too much of a time investment, but there are ways to make it easier. Meal planning and prepping can be done once a week and help you stick with tasty and healthy meals with no added stress.
4. Get Fresh Air
We mentioned above that getting up from your chair and moving can help relieve stress, but you should also make sure you get outside too. Use a short break to take a walk outside. The plant smells, increased oxygen and sunlight can all have a positive effect on your serotonin levels, making you happier, healthier, and less stressed.
5. Tea Over Coffee
We definitely can’t judge if you don’t want to dump coffee completely, but it could be getting in the way of getting good sleep, causing crashes, and dehydrating you. Instead of quitting completely, replace a few cups, especially in the late afternoon/evening, with chamomile. Chamomile tea is known to relax and relieve stress, and a cut in caffeine could help you sleep better at night.
If you are ready for a bigger change, consider switching your morning coffees over to green tea. It will take some getting used to, but green tea still has caffeine and can have great health benefits.
Take Care of the Mind
6. Enjoy Small Pleasures
Working long days, you can easily lose sight of the things you enjoy. Brightening your days and making life more enjoyable doesn’t necessarily require taking a vacation day to sit on the beach or hit the links. Instead, look for the little things that can make you feel happier.
A few ideas for small pleasures:
Listen to music you enjoy while you work
Listen to a podcast or audiobook during your commute
Read a few pages of a book during your lunch break. Try avoiding non-fiction that touches on work.
Have a snack you love. If you are generally eating healthier, an occasional ice cream or donut can be a guilt-free treat.
Leave an executive toy on your desk for when your mind needs a little break.
Research suggests that meditation can cause changes in our brain, including shrinking our amygdala thus allowing us to better handle stress.
Meditation is more complex and difficult than simply clearing one’s mind and sitting blankly. It is a form of exercise, and you have to build up your meditation muscles to fully reap the benefits. Start with a short program, ten minutes a day and work from there. In just a few weeks you should be better able to meditate, and better equipped for handling work stress.
8. Work-Life Balance
With a constant connection to clients and coworkers often sitting in our pocket, finding a healthy work-life balance is a challenge. If you are already in the office for more hours than healthy, being “on the job” even when you have left the office leaves no time for yourself and your family.
It may require a conversation with colleagues and management, but it is important to find a good work-life balance. Set the expectation that free time means free from work, and/or consider working from home more regularly.
9. Visualize Success
Keeping your eye on the prize can help you stay positive and motivated. Why are you working so hard? What is the reason for shouldering the burden of stress? Instead of focusing on the stress of now, visualize the results of your hard work and success.
Sometimes you need to vent. Speak with someone you trust about how you feel about your stress. Just saying it out loud can help you feel better, and it opens the opportunity for support. Just be careful you don’t vent to the wrong people (ie. your boss) and cause more stress for yourself down the line!
If the stress is overwhelming and you see it negatively affecting your life, it might also be time to consider speaking with a professional therapist.
Cut Stress from Work
11. Pace Yourself
Important to cutting stress is pacing yourself. Break a task like a patent search into sections, and take a few minutes to breathe and grab a cup of water or tea after finishing tasks. Pacing prevents you from becoming overly hyper-focused and forgoing important healthy habits.
A great method of pacing yourself is to use the Pomodoro technique. This technique uses timers to break your work time into chunks spent working, planning and resting.
12. Break the Cycle
It can be tempting to work late, and in some firms, there may even be an unhealthy competition to see who can hoard the most overtime. At times, especially with deadlines looming and cases building up, you do have to work overtime. You should be proud of your dedication when you do so. However, if you do it too often, it will start to encroach on the work-life balance we discussed above.
Make sure you are at the top of your game during the allotted hours, work efficiently and then go home. Staying late too often can create a cycle in which you are too tired and stressed to be effective, forcing you to stay late again.
13. Stay Organized
You’ve been working hard at those trademark applications and taking time to be organized has fallen to the wayside. Yet, when you can’t remember where you saved an important document, or you’ve forgotten an important client’s contact information, the stress is going to build.
Get organized. There are many online tools available that can help you. Look into Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software and Legal Document Management systems.
Consider working with a virtual assistant to help keep things in order.
14. Stay Away from Politics
It is easy to find yourself dragged into conversations about your coworkers and managers. However, office politics are a dangerous game that lower everyone’s morale and lead to conflict and other high-stress situations. If you need to vent about a coworker or manager, don’t do so internally, and if someone else begins to vent don’t engage and throw wood on the fire.
15. Don’t Strive Constantly for Perfect
In the field of intellectual property, errors can have severe consequences. However, there has to be a certain point where you put the pen down, step away, and trust yourself. It is all too easy to get sucked in, checking our work it over and over to make sure nothing was missed. Even after we step away, we worry that we did not do everything perfectly. It is consuming.
You need to trust yourself and believe in the quality of your work.
Stress can kill. If it isn’t raising your blood pressure and making you more prone to heart disease, at the very least it will kill your effectiveness as an intellectual property attorney. Don’t let it get to you, try the tips above and you will see a difference.
The PCT Network is the world’s largest network of professional intellectual property professionals. With over 600 members from leading firms across 150+ operating regions, the PCT Network provides the highest quality services when it comes to foreign filing. If you the stress of foreign filing is weighing on you, we can help take some of it off you. Request a quote today.