I’m sure we could all agree that receiving a Jury Duty summons is on par with hearing we need a root canal.
“Ugh, why me?” “Why now?” “Don’t they know I have better things to do?”
While I completely agree with these sentiments and felt them 100%, I’m here to tell you it’s good for you and you should embrace this complete upending of your routine.
A big part of my job is creating systems and teaching people how to make their lives easier with these routines. I thrive on finding patterns of behavior and activity and enhancing what people do naturally to make good habits a normal part of their routine. However, as I found serving on a jury for eight days, letting these routines go can greatly benefit you.
Sometimes you have let go of the need to be in control and just serve. Sometimes you are not in control. I can’t say I found this an easy concept to embrace.
I showed up for my summons fully expecting to be in and out in a day, if not sooner. I had not received a summons in at least 16 years so I figured I would be passed over and could continue my regularly scheduled programming. I even told my Monday morning client that I could probably meet with her in the afternoon and I left the rest of the week scheduled to the max. WRONG.
As the day progressed and I was catching up on some reading I’d postponed, I realized I was in for at least the whole day. “No big deal. I can handle this. I’ll just take the day off and continue my schedule the next day.” WRONG.
At 5:00, the jury coordinator instructed all 300 or so of us to come back tomorrow at 8:30. “Are you kidding me? I’ve got to take another day off and reschedule clients? Can’t you see I’ve got a booked calendar?”
I’ll speed some of this up for you to get to the good part: by the end of day 2 I was selected to serve on a jury for a case that was going to take at least three more days. (It actually took 6 days.)
I hated not being in control of my day and I’m sure you can relate. We run businesses. We manage families. People ask US what to do. All of the plans I had made were tossed out the window and I was having to follow someone else’s schedule. I had to cede control to Judges, Lawyers, Jury Coordinators, and Bailiffs. It was clearly not my job to be in control here.
So why is this good for you? Exactly how do you benefit from having your schedule and routines completely upended?
- You have to reset your expectations. When I expected to be done with my duty after 1 day and was not, I was furious. I mentioned to a fellow juror how I wish that they had at least let us know that we were going to be there a while so I could have planned accordingly. He said, “they did and you just didn’t read the fine print” on the jury summons that my service could extend to the whole week. Shame on me for not reading the document fully when I could have saved myself a lot of cortisol and frown lines. Once I recognized that my expectations were unrealistic and of nobody’s interest, my stress level plummeted.
- It’s not about you. Nobody wants to be on Jury Duty. This isn’t fun for any of the 300+ people called that week who all have someplace else they’d rather be. You are not special nor do you deserve special dispensation. You are the exact same as everyone else in the jury pool and your background, degrees, professional affiliations, or level of busy-ness don’t matter. You are there to serve others. That is your job.
- Life goes on without you. I am neither a brain surgeon nor a therapist. Nobody’s life is going to be permanently damaged because they didn’t get their closet in order today. I’m not trying to diminish my work because I do think it is important, but life doesn’t stop because I’m not in control. Granted, I still have responsibilities and hold myself accountable but life will go on whether I’m in control or not. You have to shift priorities and let some things fall by the wayside sometimes. You have to accept imperfection. Life will go on.
- Adjust your priorities. I had no idea how long this was going to take and was irritated to be so out of control of my time. I was sweating over how was I going to reschedule everyone when I didn’t even know when I would have time available again. However, once I adjusted my priorities and focused on the trial, everything else just fell into place. Yes, I made a list of appointments that would be rescheduled and dinner was less homemade than I preferred but everyone survived. Listening to testimony in a courtroom and determining a verdict was my new priority. I could go back to my regular life later.
- No cell phone is a good thing. When you’re on a jury, use of cellphones and computers is at the judge’s discretion; ours allowed us to use them at lunch which was generous. I didn’t realize just how often I check Facebook or Instagram or even email as a time filler throughout the day until I didn’t have a phone. (The Bailiff removes them from the jury room so there’s no sneaking) Not receiving hourly updates on life outside didn’t negatively affect me at all. Quite the contrary, I enjoyed connecting with fellow humans with the antiquated communication technique known as “conversation.” I talked with fellow jurors and found that we all could find something interesting or topical to discuss. Nobody’s face was buried in their phone so we were all technologically equal. It was great to meet people from different backgrounds, ages, jobs, races and learn about people beyond my bubble. So often we numb our brains with a little social media candy that we forget to talk to the person standing right next to us. I am now much more mindful now of my cell phone and social media use and try to connect more with those around me.
When you tell people you are on jury duty, most are compassionate (and grateful that they are not in your shoes) and understand that you are out of commission temporarily. While I’ve wanted to avoid jury duty in the past, I now view serving as a privilege. I’m honored that I was able to serve in our justice system and help ensure that the laws of our state and country are followed. My decision and our verdict affected my community and other individuals’ lives which is heavy to consider.
Taking what amounts to a relatively small amount time out to serve the community is a reminder of just how blessed I am to live in this country that actually has a justice system that allows its citizens to participate. While I am not eager to sign up soon, I am grateful for all that I learned in those 8 days, not only about our legal system, but also about managing my time, my expectations of others and myself, and learning to let go of control. Sometimes we need a forced time out from our regularly scheduled programming to appreciate how abundant our lives already are.