Goal setting for lawyers and other smart people

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After yesterday’s post about goal setting and the value of having both “result” goals and “activity” goals, an attorney emailed me and said that when he sets results-based goals and doesn’t meet them, it is discouraging. “By establishing activity based goals, I largely control whether I meet them or not. Therefore I am much more motivated to achieve them.”

Exactly.

Results-based goals are inspiring, but if you continually miss them, you get to where you don’t want to set them anymore.

Before you give up on them, there are a couple of things you can do.

The first thing you can do is to break the rules about “when”. In other words, instead of saying you want to earn $20,000 this month, let go of “this month”. Focus on what you want, not when.

It’s a “law of attraction” thing. The ticking clock is a constant reminder that you don’t have what you want, and when you think about that, all you get is more of what you don’t want. You attract the “not having”.

So, set (results) goals that feel good when you think about them. What and why, but not how or when.

The second thing you can do is to change your thinking about what a goal is. Normally, a goal is a fixed target that you either hit or you don’t. Since we usually set goals that are somewhat out of reach, we get conditioned to missing them, and that quickly gets old.

The answer isn’t to set goals that are so low we always hit them. It is to set three version of the goal:

  1. The minimum (what you absolutely know you can do without much in the way of extra effort);
  2. The target (a realistic goal that will take reasonably significant effort but is not out of reach);
  3. The dream (you probably won’t reach it but it’s not impossible).

If $20,000 is your dream goal, $12,000 might be your target, and $8500 might be your minimum.

Another way to do it is to keep the goal at $20,000 but change the month for hitting it: Six months from now is your target, one year from today is your minimum, and next month is your dream version of the goal.

This way, you almost always hit your goal and are almost never discouraged.

Goals are meant to serve you, not the other way around. If setting goals isn’t working for you, change how you do it, or let it go completely. Leo Baubata, having been a strong proponent of goal setting, relinquished it completely and found that he is just as productive, if not more so.

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Two ways to look at your goals

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I was washing dishes the other night, thinking about my goals for a new project I’m working on. First, I thought about an income goal for the rest of the year. I earned a small amount on this last year. How much do I want to earn this year?

Then, I thought about it in a different way. I thought about how much I want to be earning, per month, by the end of the year. For some reason, I like that better. Perhaps it’s because the end of the year is in the future and I have time to get there. I can build towards that goal instead of having to produce meaningful results right now.

Of course, most income goals are fanciful. You can’t control results. What you really need are activity goals.

Income goals are inspiring, but impractical. Practical goals are based on the activities needed to produce those results.

You can’t control whether your new website will get any traffic or subscribers or sales, but you can control when you will write the first page. You can’t control whether you will get any referrals from contacts at your networking group, but you can control how many new people you will speak to next Tuesday night.

Both types of goals are important. As you see progress towards your result-based goals, you can adjust your activity goals. Want to earn more? Do more. Or do it faster. Or do something different.

The Attorney Marketing Formula comes with a template for a simple marketing plan 

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The one thing. . .

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If an angel sat on your shoulder and whispered in your ear the one thing you need to know or do right now, what would it be?

Not two or ten things, just one.

You may have to search for it, but deep down, you know the answer. There’s a message you need to hear, something that will profoundly change your life in a positive way. What is it?

It’s simple, a single word or a short phrase, but important. You’ve thought about it before. Now it’s time to embrace it.

It might be personal, like a reminder to “lose weight” or “smile” or “call her”. It might be work related like “new clients” or “start the blog” or “networking”.

It might be anything.

When you have the answer, write it down and keep it in front of you, so you will see it often. You might put sticky notes on your computer, on your bathroom mirror, and on the visor in your car. If you have a reminder app, set it to pop up several times a day and display your “one thing”.

Mine came to me last night. The message to myself is “write faster”. I have several projects in the works that involve writing and I’m not an especially fast writer. If I can get the work done more quickly, good things will happen for me.

Note, these aren’t affirmations or goals or anything formal or structured. Just something to think about. A place to start. You might turn it into a project, with specific tasks, or you may leave it as a simple touchstone.

This is supposed to be easy, and inspiring. When you look at your “one thing” you should feel good. If what you wrote makes you feel guilty or unhappy or any other negative emotion, change it.

Aside from inspiration, there is a practical application for writing down your one thing. It summons the power of your subconscious mind to make your one thing come true.

Every time I look at “write faster,” my subconscious mind is working on my behalf to make it so. It will help me notice tools and techniques that can help me write faster. It will help me stop editing as I write, so I will get first drafts done more quickly. When I slow down or go off on a tangent, it will pull me back to the task at hand.

When I got up this morning, I had forgotten that I had written down my “one thing”. When I saw it for the first time, I smiled and started thinking about what it will be like to write faster and get more done, and what a wonderful year it will be to have that play out.

What’s your “one thing”?

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Are you managing your law practice or is it managing you?

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See the client. Review the document. Write the letter. See the next client. Document the file. Mail the letter. Read. Read some more. Email. Email some more. Prepare the complaint. Prepare the motion. Make the calls. Go to the meeting. Check your email. Check your calendar. Oops, late for court. Out the door. Fight traffic. Wait to be called. Back to the office. Record notes. Send the email. Look at the time. Oops, late for dinner. Fight traffic. Kiss the wife. Eat, read, news, sleep, get up, eat, dress, fight traffic, see the client. . .

Another day. Another week. Another month. Another year.

Who has time for marketing? Thinking about the future? Planning?

You want to, there’s just no time. Too much to do and it never gets done. At the end of the day you’re tired and want to go home.

You aren’t managing your law practice. It’s managing you.

Believe me, I understand.

It’s time for you to take control. Tell your practice who is in charge. Decide what kinds of clients and cases you want instead of taking what shows up. Decide how much you want to earn this year and do what you need to do to earn it.

But to do that, you have stand down from the daily grind, clear your mind, and make some decisions.

What do you have to decide? Start with the end in mind. What do you want your future to be like? What is your long term vision?

What do you want your life to be like five or ten years from today? Imagine things the way you would like them to be. What are you doing? Where are you living? How much are you earning? What is a typical day like?

Write a “vision statement” describing your life, in the present tense, five years in the future. One page is all you need. The only rule is there are no rules. Describe the life you want, not the life you think you might have.

Your vision statement is where you want to go. From this point forward, you can make choices that are consistent with your vision. You’ll do things that move you towards your vision. You’ll reject activities that don’t.

Instead of being pushed through life by circumstance, you’ll be pulled forward by your vision.

Once you have a vision statement, the next step is yearly goals. What do you want to happen in the next 12 months that is consistent with your long term vision?

You can set one big goal or a handful of goals in different areas of your life. Goals should be specific and measurable. At the end of the year you should be able to say that yes, you did reach the goal, or no you did not.

Goals should be bold and exciting. They should require you to stretch and grow, but not be so far out of reach that you don’t have a chance of achieving them.

Once you have yearly goals, the next step is to write monthly plans. What will you focus on this month? What projects will you work on? When will you start? When will you be done? What will you do after that?

Schedule your monthly plans in your calendar. Set up files to collect information and track your progress.

While you’ve got your calendar handy, also schedule a recurring weekly review. Once a week, take an hour or two to review what you have done during the week and what you will do the following week. This keeps you focused and accountable. This is you managing your practice instead of it managing you.

Finally, from you yearly goals, monthly plans, and weekly review, you choose your daily activities. What will you do today to move you forward? Choose a few things but make sure they are important.

It’s best to write down your daily activities the night before. “Plan your day before your day begins,” one of my mentors taught me.

A well-lived life is a well-planned life. If your law practice is managing you, it’s time to show it who’s boss.

The Attorney Marketing Formula will help you plan your future. Click here for details.

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The truth about goal setting

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“You can’t handle the truth!” Okay, yes you can. I just wanted to yell and sound like Jack.

The truth about goal setting is that it is what you want it to be. Don’t want to set formal written goals? You don’t have to. Many successful people don’t. You want lots of goals or just one or two? Whatever floats your boat.

But whether or not you go through a formal goal setting process, it is important to know what you want. Someone once said, “you can have anything you want, just not everything.” You have to choose. You only have so much time and energy and resources.

So, what do you want?

Choose something you really want, not something you think you’re supposed to have or do.

How do you know the difference? When you think about it, it should feel good. Both the doing and the having. Because if it feels good thinking about it, you’ll be inspired to do it, you’ll enjoy the process, and you’ll get what you want with far less effort.

Over the years, I’ve written many articles dealing with setting goals. Here is a sample to help you:

The surprising truth about written goals

Why goal setting works

What’s the one thing you most want to accomplish this year?

Goal setting and the law of attraction

Instead of setting goals this year. . .

Once you’ve decided what you want, the plan for achieving it should come more easily. That’s because when you know what you want, you also know what you don’t want so you can eliminate certain things from you plan.

For marketing, here’s some help for creating that plan:

Marketing plan for lawyers: getting ready for the new year

Have a safe New Year’s celebration.

The Attorney Marketing Center’s products can help you earn more and work less.

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Slowing down to speed up: getting ready for the new year

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It’s time. The last few days of the year when the holiday craziness is nearly over, the tree and the lights are coming down, but the new year has not begun. This is the time when I tie up loose ends from the current year and get ready for the new one.

I’m sure you’re doing something similar. Or you will in the next few days. Much like we do in the days leading up to a vacation.

It’s called “slowing down to speed up”. We shut off the flow of regular business and look at things from a different perspective. Because we’re not consumed with taking care of clients and projects, we can better see where we are and make plans for where we want to be.

In addition to doing some goal setting and planning, I’m getting caught up on CLE and learning some new software I plan to use extensively next year. I’m also cleaning up my computer workspace, catching up on email, consolidating files and folders in “my documents,” and consolidating my Evernote tags.

Not difficult stuff. Kinda fun, actually. But important, because it will allow me to start the new year with fresh eyes and fewer distractions and, therefore, be more productive with “real” work.

At least it feels that way. And that’s why we do this year-end ritual, isn’t it? So that we’ll feel refreshed and empowered?

So, how about you? How are you getting ready for the new year?

If you’re planning to upgrade your Internet presence next year, you need this.

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Marketing plan for lawyers: getting ready for the new year

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I’m being interviewed later today by a reporter for the Canadian Bar Association. She’s doing a story about what young lawyers need to do to prepare for the new year. I plan to tell her the same thing I would tell any attorney. Just follow these three simple steps:

STEP ONE: TAKE INVENTORY

The first thing you should do is to figure out where you are. A good way to do that is with a “S.W.O.T. Analysis”–figuring out your Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats.

THREATS

Are you in danger of losing a good client? Are unreasonably high expenses causing cash flow problems? Have you been accused of doing something wrong that’s hurting or may hurt your reputation?

If there are holes in your ship, plug them so you can continue your journey. Do what you have to do to eliminate threats and minimize potential losses, but don’t dwell on them. Deal with them and move on.

WEAKNESSES

Are you deficient in any areas of knowledge? Do you need to improve certain skills? Do you need more referral sources, more clients, or better clients? Are you attracting clients who can’t or don’t pay? Do you need to get better at getting retainers? Is your bookkeeping a mess?

Figure out where you are weak and then look for solutions. Take courses, ask other lawyers for help or advice, buy equipment, delegate or outsource the problem so you can focus on your strengths and opportunities.

STRENGTHS

What are you great at? Find something you excel at and leverage it to make it even bigger and better. Focus your time and energy on taking something that’s going well for you and build on it.

If you get good results with a certain type of client or case, you should focus on getting more of those clients or cases. That may mean eliminating other practice areas or turning away clients who don’t fit your ideal client profile.

In the marketing arena, if you are good at networking, do more of it. Ask your contacts to introduce you to their colleagues. Find a second networking group if you have the time or a better group if you don’t. Work deeper within the organization to gain even more influence. Volunteer for committees, take on more responsibilities.

If you like the Internet, create more content, learn about SEO and social media, do more guest posts, and start creating videos.

If you like to write, write. If you like to speak, speak.

Look at your skills and your preferences and focus on them. What do you do best? How can you do more of it and get even better at it? How can you leverage it to get an even bigger return?

OPPORTUNITIES

Make a list of people you know and like and brainstorm ways you can improve and deepen your relationship. They can lead you to new clients and new referral sources. They can provide you with advice and ideas. They can send traffic to your website, provide content for your blog or newsletter, and promote your event or offer.

Make another list of people you don’t know who sell to or advise your target market. Make plans to approach them to see how you might work together.

Go through your notes and files and collect all of the ideas you have recorded for marketing your practice, improving your work product, increasing your productivity, or increasing profitability. Put a star next to your best ideas.

STEP TWO: CHOOSE ONE BIG GOAL

Once you know where you are, the next step is to determine where you want to go. What do you want to accomplish next year relative to your practice or career?

Instead of writing down five or ten goals, as you may be inclined to do, I suggest you write just one big goal. Come up with as many candidates as you want to but then, choose one big goal that gets you excited.

Selecting one goal will force you to focus on that one goal, and nothing else. The odds are that many of your candidate goals are related to your one big goal and are, in fact, stepping stones on the path to reaching it. If your goal is to increase your net income to $250,000, for example, other goal candidates, e.g., “bring in six new clients per month,” are action steps you need to take to accomplish your singular income goal.

Of course you will have additional action steps. You don’t just bring in six new clients, for example, you have many things you need to do to bring in those clients. And that leads us to step three.

STEP THREE: WRITE A SIMPLE MARKETING PLAN

Why a plan? Because you need to know what to do, silly. Because come the first of the year, when you’re ready to get to work, you need a list of projects and tasks that will move you forward towards your goal.

Why simple? Because if your plan isn’t simple, you won’t do it. You’ll get bogged down in detail. You’ll spend more time working with your lists and planning your plans, and have little time to get anything done.

So, figure out where you are, then where you want to be, and from that, write a plan for accomplishing it. Keep in mind that the plan you start out with will almost never be the plan that gets you to your goal. That’s because plans change, circumstances change, and you will change. And that’s okay. Your plan will get you started, and getting started is the most important part.

The Attorney Marketing Formula comes with a simple marketing plan for lawyers. And a lot more stuff you need to know.

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The strangest secret

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You just found out you won the Powerball. Hundreds of millions of dollars or pounds or shekels or yen. Life changing wealth.

Smile. Bask in the thought. Feel the tingle of delight go up your spine (or down you leg).

From this day forward, your life will never be the same.

Now, what will change? What will your new found wealth allow you to do?

Will you continue practicing law? If so, is there anything about your practice that you will do differently? Different cases or clients? More employees? Fewer?

Will you retire? What will you do all day?

Will you give the money away?

What will you buy? Where will you live? What will you be doing a year from now?

You may think it silly to indulge in such fanciful thoughts. You may remind yourself that you don’t play the lottery and see this exercise as a waste of time.

It’s not a waste of time.

It makes you examine your life to see what might be different. It may make you realize that some of things you’re doing aren’t serving you. Maybe you can get rid of them. Or begin moving in that direction.

Many people live their entire lives doing what they have always done. They never consider changing course. They may be unhappy but they are settled into their unhappiness. It’s easier to maintain the status quo.

And then a crisis occurs. A serious illness. The death of a loved one. A divorce. A financial calamity. Only then are ready to consider making changes. And then they find that some of those changes are a welcome relief.

I don’t want you to wait for a crisis before you examine your life. Use your imagination instead. Let your mind dwell on the impossible dream. Let your inner child frolic in the playground of your mind.

Grab a pen and start writing. Or grab a friend and a beer and start jabbering. You just got the word that you won the lottery and now, anything is possible.

What’s the first thing you will do? What will you do after that?

Now, how does it feel when you think these thoughts?

If it feels good, it means you are already moving in the right direction. The essence of what you desire is on its way. You are attracting the changes you desire.

If it doesn’t feel good, if you feel resistance towards what you have imagined, things will not change for you, at least not the way you want them to.

In his classic recording, The Strangest Secret, Earl Nightingale said, the key to success and the key to failure is this: “We become what we think about.”

He also said, “Whatever we plant in our subconscious mind and nourish with repetition and emotion will one day become a reality.”

Our thoughts have power. I hope you use that power to get what you really want.

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What would you do if you knew you could not fail?

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Rev. Robert Schuller asks, “What would you do if you knew you could not fail?” It’s one of my favorite quotes.

I’ve often asked myself this question. When I found my confidence lacking, when a project got stalled because I didn’t know what to do next, or when I was faced with a major career decision, I would stop and think about the “best case scenario” and it helped me move forward.

I think it’s because of the word “if”. “What would do if. . .” is a hypothetical question. We can answer it because we’re not promising anything, we’re speculating. The question allows us to bypass our critical mind and find the answers.

We may still have fears and doubts but now we know what we would do if we didn’t.

If you are procrastinating on updating your web site, imagine that in 90 days that web site is bringing you four or five or ten new clients a month. If God Himself whispered in your ear and told you that your web site will be massively successful, what would you do today?

You’d make a list of tasks that need to be done and you’d start working on them, wouldn’t you? If you don’t know what those tasks might be, your first task would be to find someone who does know and ask them what to do.

If you knew for certain that things would work out exactly the way you wanted (or better), what would you attempt? If you knew that your project would be a success, what would you do today to move it forward?

Whatever it is that you would do if you knew you could not fail, that’s what you should do.

“What if it doesn’t work?” you ask.

“What if it does?”

If you’re already earning as much as you want, you don’t need to read this

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Don’t make me come over there and S.W.O.T. you!

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Relax. I’m not going to hit you.

S.W.O.T. is simply a tool to help you with your marketing. It’s an analysis of your Strengths, Weakness, Opportunities, and Threats. It can give you a clearer picture of where you are and help you get where you want to go.

Before you create a plan of any kind, it’s important to know what you’ve got to work with. Your current reality.

So you sit down with pen and paper or spreadsheet or text editor and you make a list. You can do this for just marketing or for all aspects of your practice.

Start with your STRENGTHS and WEAKNESSES:

  • Knowledge (Legal, marketing, market data, trends)
  • Skills (Trial, writing, closing the sale, presenting, negotiating)
  • Habits (15 minutes of marketing every week day, personal thank you letters to all new clients)
  • Assets (Contacts, marketing documents, lists, personnel, testimonials, reputation, location)
  • And so on

Your web site might be a weakness or a strength. Or it might be a strength in some areas (i.e., great content) and a weakness in others (i.e., low or low quality traffic). If you advertise, the low rates you have negotiated might be a strength but your copy might be a weakness.

Start recording everything you can think of. What you’re good at and what you need to improve. Talk to your staff, your clients, and other lawyers who know your practice and see what they think. You may be taking for granted something about yourself that is a strength. And, let’s face it, third parties almost always see our weaknesses more clearly than we do.

Next, make a list of OPPORTUNITIES. To some extent, these are derivative of your strengths and weakness. A weakness you want to eliminate, for example, is an opportunity to improve results in that area. Capitalizing on a strength is an opportunity to compound results.

Other opportunities might include contacts you have not yet followed up with, creating a new seminar, or joining a networking group.

Finally, write down any THREATS. If you depend on advertising and another firm is dominating the airways with their ads, this could be considered a threat. If one of your big clients might be thinking of hiring another firm, that is obviously a threat to your income. Anything that poses a challenge and could lead to loss should be identified and added to your list.

Now you have a snapshot of your current reality, and a list of projects to work on this year.

This will help create a marketing plan that really works.

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