Apparently, you’re not as busy as you think you are

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Interesting article on Inc.com on the subject of busyness. Apparently you’re not as busy as you think you are.

Why do we think we are so busy? According to the author of Overwhelmed: Work, Love, and Play When No One Has the Time, it’s because we’ve talked ourselves into believing it.

We wear our busyness with pride, telling ourselves and everyone else how much we have to do and that there’s no time for anything else. We come to believe it and becomes a way of life.

This unrelenting feeling of overwhelming busyness is not good for our health or productivity. We become anxious. We sleep poorly. We rush to complete things because we’ve got so much more to do. Relax? Vacation? Maybe later. There’s too much I’ve got to do first.

Stop telling yourself that you’re too busy. You have more than enough time to do what you’ve got to do.

The other thing we can do to stop feeling so busy is to “reduce the fragmentation in your life by scheduling uninterrupted free time”.

Because we are so connected to our work and other obligations–our smart phones and tablets are always on and always with us–it’s difficult to let go. We’re always reminded of what we’ve got to do and this jeopardizes our ability to relax.

Schedule quiet time. Time to relax and do nothing. Time away from your calendar and lists, texts and emails. Time to go for a walk and listen to music, not podcasts, or time to read fiction instead of work-related material.

I’ll admit, I’m not very good at this. I’m always working on and thinking about my current project, and my next one.

On Thanksgiving, I’ll make the effort. No work. Just family, fun, and relaxation.

As for the rest of the year, I’ll have to check my calendar and get back to you.

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Things successful people don’t say

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Successful people have different philosophies than unsuccessful people. Successful people, for example, generally don’t say, “I don’t know how.” According to this Entrepreneur article, “Instead of automatically shutting down solution-finding, successful people learn what they can in order to succeed in a project or in their career.”

Another phrase you won’t hear successful people say is, “I did everything on my own.” Successful people surround themselves with smart, talented people, the article notes. “Recognize those that have helped you or made an impact and you’ll continue to earn success and recognition yourself.”

Go through the 15 phrases in the article. Do you find yourself saying or thinking any of these things? If you do, you probably won’t change by simply telling yourself to “stop thinking that way. You’ll have better luck replacing the unsuccessful thought with a related thought that is both true and success oriented.

For example, I know many attorneys hold the belief that, “If our competitors don’t have it, then we don’t need it,” number 14 on the list. If you share that belief, you’re limiting your growth. A successful person would think, “We can gain an advantage in our market by doing what our competitors don’t do.” The latter statement is both true and more likely to lead to growth.

The author says, “Copying competitors is one of the many possible deaths for most companies. True innovation comes from the flip side: figuring out what competitors aren’t doing and fill that niche to answer a need in the industry.”

If you have negative or limiting beliefs, turn them around and find a positive version of the idea. Anchor your new thought with ideas and information that support and “prove” your newly adopted philosophy.

To support the statement that you can gain an advantage by doing what your competition doesn’t do, you might read profiles of companies and leaders in industries outside of law who dominated their market by figuring out what their competitors weren’t doing, and doing it.

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Would you like to get started today or is next week better for you?

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In sales, the “alternative choice close” is a well known technique for getting the client to buy something, rather than nothing. You ask them if they want “A” or “B” and no matter which one they choose, they’re buying something.

“Credit card or check?” “Deluxe package or basic package?” “Would you like to come in at noon or 4:30?”

Clients want you to help them make a decision. They know they might procrastinate and never get the work done. When you help them take action and get the benefits they want and need, you’re acting in their best interest.

And did I mention you’ll also get more clients?

Anyway, you can also use the “alternative choice” concept to improve your own decision making and productivity. It can help you reduce procrastination.

The idea is to always have more than one project you’re working on, or could be.

Writer Geoff Dyer put it this way:

Have more than one idea on the go at any one time. If it’s a choice between writing a book and doing nothing I will always choose the latter. It’s only if I have an idea for two books that I choose one rather than the other.

If you find yourself procrastinating on Project A, you can turn to Project B. Or Project C. When you find yourself resisting something, work on something else.

You probably do this now with client files. When you are frustrated or bored or unsure of what to do next on a given file, you put it aside and work another.

I do this with blog post and other writing projects. I’ve got lots of irons in the fire and when I run out of steam on something, I’ve always got something else I can work on.

I also do this with reading books. I have thousands of books in my Kindle and I usually read two or three of them at a time. When I find myself losing interest with one, I turn to another.

You can use the “alternative choice” concept for anything you’re working on, or should be. Calls, letters, documents (drafting or reviewing), even errands. Always have something else lined up, because doing “A” or “B” will always be better than doing nothing.

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Success is not the key to happiness

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Albert Schweitzer said, “Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success. If you love what you are doing, you’ll be a success.”

If you don’t love what you’re doing, are you doomed to fail? What if you don’t love your work but you don’t hate it, either?

The way I see it, if you’re miserable, you probably need to get another gig. If things are okay but you’re not completely happy, you’ve got a couple of choices.

The first is to find some aspect of your work that does make you happy and focus on that. Surely you love some part of your work. (Yes, but don’t call me Shirley.)

I didn’t love practicing law, and after more than twenty years, I moved on. While I was practicing, I focused on the things I enjoyed such as how good it felt when a client said thank you. I liked writing creative demand letters and getting judges, juries, and arbitrators to rule in my favor. I also liked the money and what it allowed me to do.

The rest of my work I found boring, stress-inducing, or otherwise unrewarding. Research (before computers) seemed unending. Discovery was a drag. Dealing with nasty opposing counsel was enervating.

But there were enough things I enjoyed doing and they allowed me to handle the things I didn’t.

If your work doesn’t provide you with enough joy to make up for the things that drag you down, the other thing you can do is find your happiness outside of work.

Time with your family may make your heart sing. You may have a hobby or side project that you are passionate about. Charitable work may give your life meaning. Whatever it is, spend more time doing it, thinking about it, and looking forward to doing it. Let your work support your passion.

I did this, too. For several years prior to my transition out of a law practice and into a publishing and consulting career, I worked on creating the marketing course that was to make that new career possible. I worked on it at lunch, in the evenings, and on weekends. It was hard work and I didn’t know if it would be successful, but I was happy working on this project and thinking about my future.

Your work may not make you happy or successful, but if you have enough happiness in your life outside of work, then you have a happy and successful life.

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Get better results by asking better questions

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Yesterday, I spoke with an attorney who wants to increase his income and is transitioning into a new practice area. It turns out that if he had a choice, there’s something else he’d rather be doing career-wise and it’s not practicing law.

I slammed on the brakes and asked him to write a one page, “ideal life” scenario dated five years from today. I said there were no rules, he didn’t have to follow logic to explain how he got there, “just describe your life as you want it to be five years from today.”

Because you can completely re-make your life in five years.

Write your scenario in the present tense. It’s already happened. You’re living the life you want, doing the things you want, being with people you want.

What does your typical “ideal day” look like?

I’ve given this exercise to many people, and done it myself. I’ve found that people often have trouble being honest with themselves about their ideal day. They don’t believe that what they really want is possible so they choose something different, something they think is possible, or something they think other people in their life would approve of.

When you do this exercise, you must forget possible. Ignore “how” (for now) and simply describe “what”.

The idea is that once you have described your ideal life, you’ve got something to work towards. “Start with the end in mind,” and work backwards to make it so.

Anyway, today I was clicking my way through the Interwebs and found a blog post that asked readers a provocative question I thought was on point:

What would you do with your time if you weren’t allowed in your house from 8am – 7pm, didn’t have to work, and your children were being taken care of?

Answering this question can help you describe your ideal life scenario.

Once you have done that, once you know where you want to go, the next thing you have to do is figure out how to get there. You do that by asking yourself another question.

In the post, the author says

The better questions we ask ourselves, the better the answers will be. . . Your subconscious mind. . . will start working out ways to answer your question.

So, if you constantly ask: ‘Why do I never get what I want in life?’ Your subconscious mind will go to work to help you find the answer and it will always be negative. Whereas if you constantly ask yourself ‘How can I make this possible? your subconscious mind will get to work and start looking for ways to get what you want.

To get better results in life, first ask, “What do I want?” Then ask, “How can I get it?” Your subconscious mind knows the answers.

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Thank you for reading this

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I don’t know about you but I get annoyed with people who don’t say thank you. As a kid, the importance of saying please and thank you was drilled into my head. Today, I wouldn’t dream of forgetting my manners.

I expect others to be equally polite and appreciative. When they aren’t, I notice.

Saying thank you isn’t just good manners. It’s also good for business, and for our personal relationships.

When you say thank you, you make the other person feel appreciated. As a result, they are more likely to like you because you made them feel better about themselves.

Saying thank you also makes it more likely that someone will continue doing whatever it is they did to earn your appreciation. When someone sends you a referral, for example, telling them thank you, and meaning it, makes it more likely that they will send more referrals.

Saying thank you also makes you look good. Good manners suggest good upbringing. It makes you appear considerate, mature, and trustworthy.

Saying thank you is especially powerful when you do it for someone who was simply doing their job. If I hire you and pay you, we’ve had a fair exchange. Still, I will go out of my way to say thank you for a job well done.

Finally, saying thank you makes you feel good about yourself. When you put a smile on someone’s face and tell them you recognize what they did and appreciate it, it doesn’t get any better than that.

So thank you for reading this. I appreciate it. (I really do.)

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When zombies invade your law office

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You say you’ve got problems? Watch a couple episodes of “The Walking Dead” and say that again. Now those people have problems. Their lives are a living nightmare. The world they once knew is gone forever. Every minute might be their last.

So unless a horde of zombies have invaded your office, don’t tell me you’ve got problems.

You don’t have problems, you’ve got situations. Challenges. Opportunities to improve. Whatever is it, deal with it. Come up with a plan. Find a solution.

Can you write a check? Great, no more problem. You don’t have the money? Put it on a credit card and get back to work.

What if it’s something you can’t fix? What if someone you love has a terminal illness?

That’s sad, but unless you have a cure, all you can do is be there to comfort them and promise to take care of the ones they leave behind.

Years ago, I gave up using the word “worry”. The word comes with too much emotional baggage, so I sent it packing. Today, I may be “concerned” about something, but never worried.

Life is too short to dwell on anything negative. Worrying is a worthless emotion. It never solved a problem. Not once.

The characters in “The Walking Dead” don’t worry. No time for that. They’re too busy surviving. They are scared and tired and hungry and vigilant, but never worried.

If you have a problem, don’t worry or complain or dwell on the worst case scenario. Do something about it. And count your blessings. Things could be one hell of a lot worse.

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Don’t die with your music still in you

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I received an email today from a marketer friend. It started with a quote from Anne Frank:

“How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.”

My friend noted that we also don’t need to wait a single moment to improve ourselves. He said, “If we wait for the “perfect moment,” you can bet it will never come. Life gets in the way. We create more excuses. Our goals keep getting shoved to the back burner. So forget about waiting for the perfect moment to begin, because that moment is NOW.”

This struck a nerve with me. I’ve put many goals on the back burner. I’ve often told myself I’ll do something later, when the time is right.

How about you? What have you put off doing until the time is right?

Wayne Dyer said, “Don’t die with your music still inside you. Listen to your intuitive inner voice and find what passion stirs your soul. Listen to that inner voice, and don’t get to the end of your life and say, ‘What if my whole life has been wrong?”

You don’t need to wait a single moment more. The right time is right now.

If you’ve been waiting for the perfect time to start, wait no more. Start today.

If you think that what you want might not be possible, start and find out.

If you think you need more money, start anyway and trust that it will come.

What’s nice about starting is that you can do it by thinking a thought or writing down an idea. There, you’ve started. What’s next?

Don’t die with your music still in you.

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Maybe we’re not using our calendars enough

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Most people use their calendar to record appointments and deadlines and little else. Followers of David Allen’s Getting Things Done methodology see the calendar as a place to record the “hard landscape” of their life, meaning only those things that need to get done on specific days and times.

We might want to start using our calendars more liberally.

In an interview, Stanford professor, Jennifer Aaker, author of The Dragonfly Effect, said that, “people who spend more time on projects that energize them and with people who energize them tend to be happier. However, what is interesting is that there is often a gap between where people say they want to spend their time and how they actually spend their time.”

Those gaps, she says, occur primarily because we don’t write down those activities. Adding them to a to do list is good; scheduling them on a calendar is even better:

“When you put something on a calendar, you’re more likely to actually do that activity–partly because you’re less likely to have to make an active decision whether you should do it — because it’s already on your calendar.”

If you want to get in shape, for example, instead of merely planning to exercise after work, put it on your calendar.

I have long recommended scheduling marketing time (even 15 minutes a day) on your calendar as an appointment. If you do this, you know it makes it much more likely that you will do it. Of course you have to treat it like a real appointment, a “must do,” and not a “would be nice to do”.

In a nutshell, using our calendars to schedule time for people and projects that energize us and are consistent with our goals can make us happier and more productive.

What might you add to your calendar?

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Do you have time for sex?

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In consultations with lawyers, after I’ve recommended a course of action, they sometimes say, “I don’t have time for that,” when in truth, they just don’t want to do it.

“Do you have time for sex?” I’ve been known to respond. Of course they do, because sex is important to them. “Then you have time to do what you want to do, don’t you?”

There is no shortage of time. We are awash in it. We choose to allocate our time based on our priorities. So when someone says, “I don’t have time for that,” they’re really saying, “That’s not a priority”.

Be honest with yourself. It will empower you to make better choices. Instead of telling yourself you don’t have time for something, say, “I have the time, but this isn’t one of my priorities right now”.

When you receive advice you don’t want to follow, don’t hide behind a glib lack of time, admit that you don’t want to do it. It will help you achieve clarity about what direction to take. If you make a bad decision, you’ll find out soon enough and can correct course.

When someone asks for your help with something that doesn’t support your priorities, you should be tactful about declining, but decline you must. Of course if maintaining a relationship with the person who is asking for help is a priority for you, then giving them some of your time is part of the equation.

In short, you have enough time to do what’s important. Being honest with yourself and others will not only help you decide what’s important, it will help you stay focused on doing what’s important.

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