Clever way to stop thinking about work

Service professionals bill by the hour. Most attorneys bill by the 1/10 of the hour. It is the only way they get paid for their work.

When I am drafting, researching, and writing notes on a case, I bill for my time.  Typically I am in front of my computer when I am doing these tasks.

What about the time I am thinking about the case, but am not "working"?  For example: (1) the drive home from the office; (2) when I try to go to sleep; (3) when I exercise; or (4) when I take a shower.  Should I bill for that thinking time?

When I realize I am thinking about work during non-work time, my first instinct is to take my mental Whack-a-mole hammer and whack the thoughts so they leave me alone.  This isn’t very effective at making the thoughts go away.  Another approach is I get entitled.  I’m thinking about the case, I should be billing my time.  Even though some attorneys may bill for thinking time away from the office, it is not my modus operandi.  

The reality is we think about work when we aren’t at work.  Most of the time, we don’t want to be doing this or want to do this less. 

I know people say, “I get the best ideas in the shower.”  This morning, I was in in the shower thinking about a court hearing that was in 2 hours.  I spent time preparing the night before, but I continued the internal monologue all morning.  When I couldn’t Whack-a-mole it away, I tried to get “my best idea in the shower.”

I told myself I was ready for the hearing.  No need to continue to work.  When you prepare for a hearing, you anticipate what the judge will ask and what opposing counsel will argue on the issue.  A lot of prepared statements and legal arguments don’t go as planned in court because there are a million ways the situation could shake out.  In my head, I was going through every possible scenario, which could continue ad infinitum until the hearing. 

At the rate I was going, I was going to be exhausted by court.  I needed to do something different.  That morning, I had my best idea in the shower.  If you don’t want them (client, opposing counsel, judge) in the shower with you, don’t think about them in the shower.  What?!?!?!?  Think about it, how often do you have a conversation with someone and it only happened in your head.  If you aren’t having the actual conversation with them and you know what you are going to say, don’t rehearse for every possible outcome. 

To take my idea further, if I don’t want opposing counsel in the car with me, I shouldn’t spend time on the road thinking about our last e-mail communication.

If you don’t want your micromanaging boss in bed with you at night, don’t think about him or her when you are trying to fall asleep.

How to stop thinking about work when you are not at work - imagine the person or project (pile of files) is with you and decide whether you still want them there.