It’s that time of year for me— the beginning of Holy Week/Choir Marathon. If you’re in a church choir, there’s a certain similarity between getting through Holy Week and getting through a filing for a lawsuit or a deal. Lots to get done, not much time to do it in, and fatigue rules. You start feeling drained and maybe even a tad bit anxious. Things are often decided last-minute and not always communicated well. Oh, and you have to act perky in front of the congregation.
Already, I’ve gotten a great reminder about what’s important in helping you make it through a deadline crunch, and it can help you in your law firm work, too.
In choir, unlike law, I actually like what I’m there to do. But still, you do get a little frayed at the edges getting to church at 8 a.m. when it’s usually 10:15 for call. In addition to the usual standing during rehearsal, there’s a ton more standing than usual on Palm Sunday—you gotta stand while you sing and watch the cute kiddies parade around the church with their palm leaves, and also stand while the Passion is being read. (For those who weren’t raised Christian or haven’t been to church in a while, that’s the bit in the New Testament starting with Judas collecting his 30 pieces of silver and betraying Jesus, through the crucifixion. Loooong.)
Add on top of that a bunch of extra singing, requiring far more mental focus than usual during the service, and a rehearsal in between services for the big finale, Easter, and by the 11:00 service most of the choir is fried. You could see the exhaustion in everyone’s faces when we were lining up to process in for the second service.
Even sitting during parts of the kiddie parade and the Passion didn’t particularly help me revive, nor did it seem to offer much relief to several other choir buddies. We all still looked dog tired, and we had 3 pieces left to sing. I was really doubting I could get through the big number without a serious fatigue flub.
And Then It Happened
Then, someone sitting right behind the choir starting snoring. Loudly.
Initially suspecting one of our own, many choir heads and necks semi-discreetly craned to see who we needed to give a hard time to later. Suspicion currently rests on an adorable 4-year old, but no one is quite sure.
Along with several other choir peeps, I giggled quietly but thoroughly, and magically the weight of fatigue rolled off me and everyone else. We were re-energized for the remainder of the service. Instead of focusing on how we could drag ourselves through more work, we just laughed. That laughter stuff is just pure power sometimes.
It’s All Henry Ford’s Fault
This magical effect of laughter isn’t purely anecdotal. Turns out there’s been research on the value of humor in business settings. The idea that humor is appropriate in the workplace goes over like the proverbial lead balloon in most law firms, but that’s because they worship at the altar of Henry Ford.
As Daniel Pink relates in his superb, thought-provoking book, A Whole New Mind, in the 1930s and 1940s at the River Rouge plant, Ford actually made it a disciplinary offense to be caught laughing at work. Humming, whistling and smiling were evidence of insubordination. Yeesh.
Ford’s philosophy has certainly been copied by many a law firm:
“When we are at work we ought to be at work. When we are at play we ought to be at play. There is no use trying to mix the two.”
I think there’s a direct correlation to that kind of narrow thinking and the reputation that Ford cars had for many years—those Fix Or Repair Daily cars. Think there just might be a correlation between that kind of narrow thinking and the misery that exists in far too many law firms?
The Power of a Good Laugh
Fabio Sala in the Harvard Business Review says that numerous studies show that humor, used skillfully, “[r]educes hostility, deflects criticism, relieves tension, improves morale, and helps communicate difficult messages.”
So when you’re feeling overwhelmed at work, take a few minutes to laugh—really laugh.
Test it out for yourself this week. Some of my favorites while chained to the computer include:
- DamnYouAutocorrect.com (wear Depends, and don’t say I didn’t warn you)
- The Treadmill Dance (a YouTube golden oldie)
- Just about any Eddie Izzard clip, especially from Dressed to Kill
When I can get away from my desk or phone for a few, reading a little bit from Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Friend by Christopher Moore nearly always makes me giggle. (Perfect for Holy Week, if you have a warped sense of humor.)
What are your favorites for a quick humor escape? I’d love to hear about them.
Just remember—when the going gets tough, the tough start laughing, and then they can carry on with more energy and a lighter heart. Be tough, my friends.
Jennifer Alvey is a recovering lawyer who coaches unhappy attorneys on ways to add fun and joy to their lives and work. She offers discounted sample sessions so you can experience the magic of coaching for yourself. Contact Jennifer at firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule your discounted session today.