How to get your work done on time

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The statute runs on the ninth, so we get the complaint filed by the eighth. We have to, so we do.

What about things that don’t have a deadline? We put them off. We procrastinate. Especially if it’s something we don’t want to do.

But we know this is a bad habit and we want to overcome it. So we make up a deadline. A firm date when we will have the work done. We put it on our calendar. It’s in writing. We see the due date coming up. We’re determined to beat the deadline.

But we don’t.

The day comes and goes and we don’t do the work. We were probably busy doing things that had a real deadline.

I read about a study that confirms what we already know: self-imposed deadlines don’t work. At least for things we really don’t want to do. We procrastinate for a reason, and writing down a deadline doesn’t eliminate that reason.

There is a solution. A way to make a self-imposed deadline work.

You need a deadline AND a penalty for missing it.

When you set a deadline, tell someone. Someone who will hold you accountable.

Tell your client when the work will be done. Promise to deliver it on that day. Put that in writing. You don’t want an unhappy client. Or a client who thinks you are incompetent. Or a client who sues. So you get the work done. Because you have to.

If you really have a problem with procrastination, put in your retainer agreement that the work will be delivered on the date promised or there will be no fee. Or, 10% reduction for every day it is late. Or some other costly consequence.

You’ll get the work done on time, won’t you? Yeah, you will.

You can do something similar with non-billable work or projects. Have you been procrastinating on your website? Tell your boss, partner, or spouse when the work will be done and ask them to hold you accountable.

If you have difficulty estimating when you can finish a big project, break it down into components and set a deadline for the first one. If you want to write a book, for example, set a deadline for completing the first chapter or the first draft. After that, set another deadline for the next component.

You can use penalties to finish any project or achieve any goal. I know a vegetarian who publicly promised that if she didn’t meet a certain goal, she would eat a McDonald’s hamburger every day for a month. Her goal was a big one, but yeah, she made it.

Get serious about marketing. Here’s help.

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How to stop procrastinating

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I don’t believe all procrastination is bad.

Sometimes, procrastination is our subconscious mind telling us that what we are resisting is not in our best interests. Without procrastination, we might rush into projects that waste time or money and distract us from our most important objectives. Procrastination is a buffer that allows us to examine our plans, make sure that they are appropriate and that we are ready to move forward.

And yet we all have projects we know we need to do, and often want to do, but still procrastinate. Many books have been written about how to stop procrastinating. One of the best strategies, and also the simplest, is to just get started.

Do something related to the project and you will have begun. And beginning is the most important part.

What have you been procrastinating about in connection with marketing? Something you know you should do but haven’t done?

Updating your website? That’s a good one. Okay, let’s see if we can get you started.

Procrastination is often a sign that we need more information. Start by making a list of things you need to look into. You might set up an electronic file and use that for your notes, ideas, resources, and links.

Write down some ideas. Make a note to do some searches on keywords like “self-hosted wordpress,” “wordpress themes,” “email autoresponders,” and content marketing. Save the links to your file. Here is a list of resources I recommend to add to your list.

Also, when you see a website that has features you know you need, or a layout you like, add the link to your notes.

Hey, you’ve started this project! You may have a long way to go, but you are closer now than you were before.

Let’s do another.

You’ve been thinking about finding and joining a new networking group. Let me help you get started:

  • Write down the names of people you know who are good networkers; make a note to ask them for advice
  • Search online for groups in your local market that might be appropriate, in two categories: (general networking groups (chamber of commerce, Rotary, BNI), and groups that cater to your target market (industry, trade groups, etc.)
  • Do a search for “how to choose a networking group” and get some tips for your notes
  • Visit the websites of candidate groups and get information about when they meet, what kind of members they have, and who can join
  • Narrow your list to five candidates and put their meeting days on your calendar

There. You’ve started.

One more? How about a project to increase referrals.

  • Schedule a Saturday this month to update your database or contact management system; make sure everyone you know is in it; if you have to manually go through closed files, schedule time for that
  • Add a field or tag so you can identify contacts (client, former client, prospects, professional contacts, and other)
  • Write a few lines for the first draft of a “touching base” email you can send to your contacts

Yep, you started that project, too.

You can do this for any project you have been putting off. Do anything related to that project, even if it’s just opening a file and jotting down some notes. Once you have started, you are on your way.

Next, choose some aspect of one of these projects and “start” on that. Take some action that moves you forward.

They say the hardest part of going to the gym is going to the gym. Once you’re at the gym, the rest is (relatively) easy.

For help with your website, get this

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How to become a better writer

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I used to write like a lawyer. Dry, stilted, cautious, boring. I’m stifling a yawn right now remembering how I used to sound.

Then I started reading books about copy writing and saw what I was missing. I saw what it meant to write to communicate and persuade, not just inform. I tried it, first in my demand letters. It was liberating and I’m pretty sure it earned me a few extra shekels.

I used some of those ideas in my briefs and declarations. Not to the same extent, of course, but a sprinkle here and a dash there. Judges and opposing counsel noticed.

Eventually, my efforts to become a better writer made me a better lawyer.

Lawyers earn our keep with words. It behooves us to improve our writing skills. If you want to know how to become a better writer, here are five ways to do that.

  1. Write every day. Take 15 to 20 minutes a day and write. Every day. Write a journal, free write (look it up), or write a page for your office operations manual, but write something. Practice doesn’t make perfect, but the more you write, the better you get.
  2. Write faster. Fast writing is usually better writing. When we let go and let the words flow, our writing is more natural and has more power. Of course it goes without saying that you shouldn’t edit while you write.
  3. Write letters to specific people. You’ve heard the oft-repeated advice to “write like you talk,” right? The next time you write something, write the first draft as a letter to a real person. You might actually speak, record, and transcribe your thoughts.
  4. Read every day. Read, in different disciplines, including fiction. Read slowly and pay attention to how good writers present their ideas, how they describe people and places and action.
  5. Study. Read books on grammar, copy writing, and creative writing. Learn the rules of effective writing and develop a sense of when it’s okay to break them.

None of this should be a revelation. It’s common sense advice you’ve heard before. I’d heard it, too. But I wasn’t doing it. I was busy. But then I realized that this is the kind of continuing education that could really pay off over the rest of my career. And it has.

As Jim Rohn put it, “Formal education will make you a living; self-education will make you a fortune.”

If you want to know how to write better reports, better headlines and titles, get this

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7-minute attorney marketing workout

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Have you seen those 7-minute workout apps? You set them up with your workout schedule, the app reminds you what to do and when, and as you do your workouts, you record it in the app. It’s like having a workout coach in your pocket.

If you miss a day, it shows. Some apps nag you about it. You are motivated to keep up your workouts and not “break the chain” and so, even with just a few minutes a day, you get in shape.

What if you had something like this to track your marketing? Do you think you would get more marketing done on a regular basis? Do you think it would be easier to develop the marketing habit?

I think so, too.

And trust me, doing something every day, even for a few minutes, is easier than trying to book an hour or two once a week.

I don’t think there are any attorney marketing apps, but you could accomplish something similar with just about any calendar or reminder app. You need a list of activities (exercises), and a schedule. Set up recurring tasks or appointments, with reminders.

You might also want to have someone in your office, or a workout partner, hold you accountable. At the end of the day, they ask you if you did your workout. If you do this with a workout partner, you do the same for them.

I suggest 15 minutes per day, five days a week, but if you can only do 7-minutes, do that. Consistently is more important than quantity.

You can do a lot in a few minutes. You can make calls, write, work on your website, read and take notes, learn a new software program, or share ideas with your workout partner. You can plan a new seminar or webinar, outline a report, or work on a speech. You can research new networking groups, write and post blurbs on social media, or add new contacts on LinkedIn.

A few minutes a day and you can get your practice in shape. Without breaking a sweat.

Want ideas for marketing online? Get this.

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What are you working on?

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The life of a practicing lawyer is fairly predictable. Cases and clients come in, we do the work, and then we’re done. Some clients come back, new clients come in, and the cycle continues.

Is that all there is? Is that all there is? If that’s all there is, my friends, then let’s keep dancing. Let’s break out the booze and have a ball. If that’s all there is. (Big Peggy Lee fan, here.)

This can’t be all there is. There has to be something else. Something you’re working towards.

I’m not talking about formal goal setting here. I’m talking about something exciting that you are working on, outside of your regular daily work.

Renowned plastics surgeon and author of Psycho Cybernetics, Maxwell Maltz, put it this way:

“People who say that life is not worthwhile are really saying that they themselves have no personal goals which are worthwhile… Get yourself a goal worth working for. Better still, get yourself a project… Always have something ahead of you to ‘look forward to’ – work for and hope for.”

You might be starting a side business, writing a book, or training for your first marathon.

It should be something that puts a smile on your face every morning when you wake up and think about it. Something that makes you feel better when you’re having a bad day.

We all need a project. We all need something to look forward to.

So, what are you working on?

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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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Rainmaking 101: The two things you need to be successful

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Last week, I got an email from an attorney who gets it. I wanted to share it with you to illustrate the two things you need to be successful in marketing. See if you can read between the lines and deduce the “two things”:

Dear David:

I have written you before thanking for the daily dose of encouragement, tips, etc. Thank you again!

I think I have purchased every one of your materials and have implemented your strategies. I am in my 7th month as a “solo.” Through networking, utilizing your suggestions, I was able to land a huge client last week. Prior to that, I brought in several smaller clients that amounted to the same net income as that one client. Also, my website is generating traffic and things are looking up on that end, as well. Your tips/hints/etc. work.

With your help, I am transforming myself into a rainmaker. I have been approached by a seasoned practitioner to move forward with him in his practice. Together we would be able to hunt down bigger animals. We are currently revamping his website and billing system. Hopefully in the next 6-8 months we will be in an even better financial position.

I can’t say it has been all rainbows and sunshine – you know that as well as any other who has gone through the gauntlet.

Please excuse my short rant. I just got excited about rainmaking and wanted to share with you.

Yours,
Vasko Alexander

So, what do you think? It should be pretty obvious that the first of the two things is “action”. Mr. Alexander didn’t just think about it or talk about it, he did it.

For starters, he actually read my stuff. I have people on my list who get my emails but never (or rarely) read them. Or, they buy my courses but never “crack” them open. I’m sorry, you can’t bring in business through osmosis. You can’t “grok” the information, you actually have to read and internalize it.

Then, he actually tried things. Lots of them. Some worked, some didn’t. Some worked well, some not as much. But he is taking action and getting results. One day at a time.

What made him take action where many others don’t? And, what made him keep going when he hit a bump in the road?

Attitude. He has a positive attitude about the process. He believes in what he’s doing and knows that if he takes action and keeps an open mind, he will eventually get where he wants to go.

Some people have a positive mental attitude. Some have a positively mental attitude.

Attitude is the second of the two things and it precedes action. If you have a positive attitude, you’ll take action and figure out a way to make it work. If you don’t, you won’t.

NEGATIVE ATTITUDE

  • It won’t work
  • It won’t work for me
  • It will take too up too much time
  • It’s too hard
  • It’s taking too long
  • I shouldn’t have to do that
  • I don’t want to do any marketing
  • I already knew that (but you aren’t doing it)

POSITIVE ATTITUDE

  • I’ll start and learn as I go along
  • I’ll do my best
  • It’s worth it
  • I’ll try lots of ideas and see what works best for me
  • I’ll find something I like and I’m good at
  • If it’s worked for others, it can work for me
  • I know I have to put in time and effort to get results, and I will
  • I’m not expecting big things to happen overnight
  • I’ll make the time

Napoleon Hill said, “Remember, the thoughts you think and the statements you make regarding yourself determine your mental attitude. If you have a worthwhile objective, find the one reason why you can achieve it rather than hundreds of reasons why you can’t.”

Some say, “What if it doesn’t work?” Mr. Alexander said, “What if does?”

Rainmaking is easier when you know The Formula

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Being good isn’t good enough. Or is it?

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Being good isn’t good enough is a stunningly beautiful song about determination and greatness, a personal anthem for anyone who has ever wanted to be the best at something, like the athletes in the forthcoming Olympic games.

For most of us, however, the lyric, “I’ll be the best or nothing at all,” is inspiring, but hardly practical. Who is the best singer, football player, or lawyer?

Besides, we don’t have to be “the best” at what we do to be happy or successful. In fact, we don’t even have to be good.

We can hire people (or take on partners) who are good at things we don’t do well or don’t enjoy. You don’t like research? You’re not good at networking? It doesn’t matter. You’re good at something and that’s what you should focus on.

Speaking of focus, I was reading a review of Daniel Goleman’s book, Focus, about what it takes to achieve excellence. It’s not as simple as “10,000 hours of practice” or intelligence. There are a lot of factors, one of the most important of which is determination or grit.

Think about the successful people you know, especially the ones who aren’t particularly gifted, disciplined, or hard working. How did they make it big when so many others in their field did not? Often, the answer is simply that they wanted it more, and believed they could have it. Their desire, and refusal to settle for anything less, made the difference.

You don’t have to be the best at what you do. You just need to know what you want and keep going until you get it.

Need more referrals? Here’s a great way to get them.

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What’s your addiction?

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So another actor dies of a drug overdose. Those who knew Phillip Seymour Hoffman are saddened by his loss, but not surprised. He’d been a heavy drug user for many years.

According to one of the CLE courses I took recently, 50% of lawyers have a drug or alcohol problem. I’m having trouble believing that number, but even if it’s 25%, it’s too much.

But I don’t want to talk about drug or alcohol problems. I want to talk about other kinds of problems. We all have them. Not addictions necessarily, but bad habits. Things we do that are bad for us. We know we shouldn’t do them, but we do.

Like eating poorly and not exercising. Like smoking. Like texting while driving.

Many people are habitual procrastinators. Or leave too many loose ends. Or associate with the wrong people. One day, those habits may bite them.

Many lawyers resist change. Okay, most lawyers. That can actually be a good habit, however, because change involves risk and lawyers need to manage risk for their clients and for themselves. In the context of marketing, however, stubbornly avoiding change can hurt you. Not having an effective website, for example, is marketing malpractice.

I’m certainly not equating a drug addiction with everyday bad habits. We don’t have to go to rehab to give up our addiction to watching reruns of Gilligan’s Island. But bad habits of any kind can be deleterious to our physical or fiscal health.

What are your bad habits? What’s holding you back from achieving your goals? What should you eliminate or cut down on?

Take inventory of your weaknesses, bad habits, and addictions. The first step towards change is recognizing what needs to be changed.

Does your website need a makeover? This will help.

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One of my favorite words is also one of my least favorites

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One of my favorite words is “why”. It’s better than “how”. How is easy. Look it up. Ask someone how they do it. Hire someone to do it for you.

“What” is a great word. It’s vital to know what you want, what the client wants, what the world wants. Without knowing what we want, our life is dictated by randomness.

“When” is an important word, but one of my least favorite. Deadlines, due dates, promises, statutes of limitations, all necessary, but a major source of anxiety.

“Who” can be good or bad. Who we marry, who hires us, who we associate with, can bring us great joy or great despair. Often, it’s neither because most of our relationships aren’t especially deep or overly time consuming.

Which brings us back to why.

Why connects us with our deepest desires and purpose. You may know what you want, and that’s essential, but why you want it is the emotional lubricant that gets you moving towards it. And when you are having a hard time and feel like quitting, remembering why pulls you back from the abyss and back on track.

Why bypasses logic and transcends limitations. Why is your inner child speaking. Why is raw emotion and gut feeling.

Think about something important you want to accomplish this year. Perhaps you want to earn a certain amount of money. That’s “what”. But it’s never the money, it’s what you could do with that money. That’s your why.

Think about your why. It should feel good. Put a smile on your face. If you are tense right now, thinking about your why should relax you. Give you hope. And inspire you to act.

Yes, why is one of my favorite words. But sometimes, why can also be one of my least favorite words.

Why didn’t you finish? Why did you say that? Why isn’t this important to you? Why is this taking so long?

Questions like these speak to our deepest emotions because they make us aware of our frailties and faults and remind us that we don’t have what we want.

You must not dwell on these thoughts. Answering them is useless and harmful. Let them go.

Think about what you want, and why. Everything else will take care of itself.

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