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The Singapore Law Gazette

Finding Your Silver Lining in the Age of Uncertainty

Disruption. This is one word that can be used in response to any sentence involving COVID-19. In an age where the world is our oyster and we do not have any limits on where we can go and what we can do, this year has completely turned that notion on its head. In this article, I take a look at how we can thrive and not just survive during this Circuit breaker.

The virus has claimed the lives of so many around the world and has affected all of us in some way or other. There is no shortage of bad news from all four corners. From the moment you wake up, your multiple Whatsapp chats have sent you updates from around the world. As you make your morning brew, you are accosted with updates on this pandemic – from graphic images to statistics. Then of course let’s not forget the constant e-mails, letters and phone calls that you receive regarding what the extension of the Circuit breaker means for you and the law firm. It sometimes can all get a little bit too overwhelming.

Exposure to all this negativity and frustration is making the most positive of us deflated at times. In the era of social media, this negativity can spread like wildfire. We are taking care of our physical health by social distancing but we must not forget to take care of our mental health and well-being in these times. Here are also some tips for how we can make this working from home a positive experience.

Seize the Day

The key to is to focus on the positive. Just like the body needs nutritious food, so does the mind. It is a sure road to feeling depressed if you spend hours poring over statistics and the news (fake or otherwise). The key in this time is to read the headlines and then move on. We must focus on all the things that are positive about this Circuit breaker. For most of us in the legal industry, we are working from home and this has opened up a completely new way of practicing law. How many times have you complained to a co-worker that you wish you were at home? The time has finally come for you to embrace it.

Time has been one of the most precious gifts amidst this crisis. Working from home has meant that we are spending unprecedented amounts of time with our entire family. Most of us are saving an average of three hours in the day just by avoiding the need to get ready and commute to work. We are also cutting down to basics which has freed up even more time.

What did you wish you had done when you were desperately longing for more time? Was it a new skill you wanted to develop? This is the time to do just that.

This is a time where we can really say Carpe Diem and seize the “yay” of our day. Working from home might have some teething issues with the lack of an ergonomic desk structure and the clear demarcation between work and home, the key is to set yourself a routine and carve yourself time for some rest in each day.

Dismantle the Lie of Busyness

The equally important sister to seizing the day is to actually make time to rest during this season and embrace it – both physical and mental.

Many of us in the legal industry have bought into the lie of busyness. I looked up the origin of the word business and found out that it comes from the old English world bisignis which was defined as anxiety and a state of being busy. So whilst entrepreneurship and career excellence are indeed highly extolled characteristics, we have muddied the water by unnecessarily adding haste and occupying our lives with little room for other activities, like rest.

It is a widely acknowledged concept that when people take inventory of their lives and slow down the frantic pace, they make room for creativity and innovation.

During these two months of Circuit breaker here in Singapore, most of us have learnt to live more simply. We are not able to rush around to our Client meetings, coffee networking sessions, gym workouts and spa appointments. This has caused a huge shaking and we have all learnt to take things at a slower pace. There is nowhere to rush off to. So with all this extra time and mental energy, I have found this to be a wonderful time of personal growth, new creative ideas and self-expression.

Experiment

I have found so much joy in experimenting during these two months. It started off with me trying to make sourdough bread. I went to a local bakery and asked if they would be so kind as to give me some sourdough starter, basically the agent to get the bread going. They very generously gave me some. Two days later, I tucked into a nice crisp slice of home-made sourdough with my morning cuppa. This brought me immense satisfaction.

This same sentiment continued, I started recording home videos for the Youtube channel of my podcast, The Legal Eagle. That came with a whole host of new experiments like creating artwork and content which could be re-purposed on other platforms.

Podcasting has been a fun and fulfilling adventure for me. In the initial stages, I wasn’t sure how to even go about doing a podcast. I hadn’t heard of any other legal podcasts in Singapore that were hosted by a lawyer so I drew my inspiration from lawyers in other countries. During the Circuit breaker I started experimenting with remote Zoom recorded podcasts and I realised that this could be the way forward.

Having more time to focus on The Legal Eagle meant that I began to speak to others around the world who could give me advice on how to grow the show. Clarissa Rayward is an Australian lawyer who runs “The Happy Family Lawyer Podcast”. She schedules meetings with anyone who needs strategies for their own podcast. What I have come to realise is that there is power in collaborating and empowering others. Clarissa called me in Singapore and gave me excellent advice, out of goodwill. I have since spoken to other podcasters over Zoom who are more than happy to share their ideas with me. No payment, just paying it forward they said. They too remembered that they were once learning the ropes of a new project and wanted to empower others who could in turn empower more people.

Reflect

Bryant McGill, a prominent human potential thought leader once said that “People who have had little reflection live life in a huge reality blind spot.” I think that this is so true. It is during times like this where we start to take stock of our lives and realise that there is so much more to life than how it was before. I do not think that once the pandemic dies down, that we will be going back to the world as we know it. Simply because we have learnt how to adapt to a fundamentally new reality.

Things have had to change overnight for so many of us – social interactions, Court hearings, client meetings, worship services and dinner parties. The list goes on. In Episode 5 of my podcast show, which I entitled “#WFH: Working hard or hardly working?”, I explore the concept of working from home. I examine how this pandemic has forced entire law firms to reconsider the traditional law firm structure and quickly adopt technology for the long term. I also reflect on how many young parents are getting to spend time with their children whilst working from home.

Another thing that this season has allowed me to do is organise myself from my paperless client files to my precedent database or even read up more on different areas of law which I wouldn’t ordinarily consider.

Just a few months ago, working from home was a foreign concept that a majority of us could easily put in the “not for me” box. Now all of this has changed in such a short amount of time. Telecommuting is now possible and work-life balance is perhaps more attainable for those who were previously not so well-acquainted with the concept.

Reset

So with all this in mind, hopefully most of us are making more intentional life choices with respect to work and life and what we want from both. It is a time to reflect, restore, and reset. My hope is that we learn from the lessons of these past few months. It would be such a waste if we just reverted to our normal lives, not being changed or impacted in any way. I trust that after this, most of us will take stock of our lives, families, careers and choose the better path to a purpose-driven life. I also hope that we emerge from this Circuit breaker more emphatic, less frantic and more innovative than ever before.

Director
Sarah-Mae Thomas LLC
E-mail: [email protected]

Sarah-Mae Thomas is a dual qualified lawyer in Singapore and Australia. She has recently started The Legal Eagle, a podcast which examines law from a big-picture perspective. She interviews guests from around the world who have either been in a legal battle or are involved in the business or practice of law.