Is working on weekends counterproductive?

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It’s Saturday morning (or Sunday) and you’re the only one in the office. You’ve wearing shorts and a teeshirt and haven’t shaved. That’s okay. You’re not going to see any clients today.

You put on a pot of coffee. It’s quiet. No phones ringing, no voices down the hall, and you can think. Maybe it’s too quiet, so you turn on the radio and get a background buzz of music or talk radio.

You’ve got a blizzard of files and papers on your desk. It’s been a busy week and you’re behind on a bunch of things. You push everything into one or two piles to clear some work space on the desk, and you dig in.

In a few hours, you’ve gone through most of the backlog. You’ve dictated letters and instructions to your secretary. You’ve dictated a declaration for a motion that needs to be filed next week. You’ve reviewed some older files and made notes about what needs to be done. You’ve reviewed and signed invoices that are ready to go out. You’ve signed checks to pay bills.

Finally, you filled your briefcase with files you need for court on Monday, turned off the coffee pot and radio, turned off the lights and went home.

Nicely done. It feels good. You’re looking forward to dinner and a relaxing evening with the family.

I remember this scenario well. I went through it often. Once every month or two I went to the office and got caught up and organized. I’d get a week’s worth of work done in a few hours.

But I knew guys who were in the office every weekend. They came in early and stayed late. Not just when they were prepping for trial–it was a regular work day for them. They would see clients and put in a full day.

That’s too much. You’ve got to recharge. You’ve got to have a life outside of work.

Apparently, what most of us intuitively understand has a scientific basis in fact. According to a study, “productivity per hour declines sharply when the workweek exceeds 50 hours, and productivity drops off so much after 55 hours that there’s no point in working any more.”

Working on weekends once in awhile is fine. If you’re working every weekend, however, you might want to consider whether it’s worth it because the odds are it’s not.

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The one thing that made the difference

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In an interview yesterday I was asked what was the one thing that made the difference in my career. What was it that helped me become successful.

Back then, I said, meaning back when I was starting out and I was broke as a joke and just wanted to pay my bills, marketing made the difference.

When I learned how to bring in more clients, and better clients, everything changed.

Later, when I was making lots of money but had no time for anything but work, the key to my success as a sole practitioner was getting comfortable with delegating. This is difficult for many lawyers because we are very uncomfortable relinquishing control. But I did it and it allowed me to work only 3 days a week.

My income, went up, too, because I had more time for marketing and to improve my office’s systems.

In more recent years, the “one thing” that has made a difference for me has been passive income. When money comes in no matter what you do, even if you don’t do anything, well, it doesn’t get better than that. This allowed me to retire from the practice of law and do things I’ve always wanted to do.

So here’s my advice. If you need more money right now, study marketing. Get good at it. Make it your focus. Find something that works well for you and go “all in”.

If you have money but no time, hire more employees (or outsource) and learn how to delegate.

I know it’s hard but it gets easier. When I ran my practice, I resolved to do “only that which only I could do”. To my pleasant surprise, I found that there was very little that only I could do.

Delegate as much as possible and use the free time for more marketing, to improve your office’s work flow, and to have a life.

And if you have reached the point where you’ve got a handle on the money and the time, start thinking about what comes next. You might never want to retire or move onto to something else, and that’s okay. But knowing that you have enough cash and investments or passive income to do so, is a very good thing.

Marketing is easier when you have a plan

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Can you be successful doing work you don’t love?

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Can you be successful doing work you don’t love? If you define success in material terms, I think you can. But success is not just about money. To be truly successful, you have to be happy.

And here’s the thing. When you are happy, when you love your work, financial success is much easier to achieve.

You don’t have to push yourself to get up early. Mondays are your favorite day of the week. You can’t wait until your next speaking engagement, trial, or networking event.

When you love what you do, the work is almost effortless. Problems seem smaller and easier to resolve. You don’t have to work hard to find clients, you attract them, in droves.

When you love what you do, you are happy, and when you are happy, you love what you do.

What if you don’t love your work? What if it’s just okay?

You eliminate or marginalize the things you don’t like and do more of the things you enjoy.

You can delegate, outsource, and partner. You can change practice areas, client types, and target markets. You can get rid of the marketing techniques that make your stomach churn and replace them with things that come naturally.

You can also give it time. You may learn to love your work eventually. As you hear sad stories about friends who have lost their jobs and can’t find any work, for example, you might start appreciating things you previously took for granted.

Or you might see your current situation as a stepping stone to something else.

Whatever you do, make sure you don’t dwell on the negative aspects of your work. Focus on the things that make you feel good.

Think about the things that are going well and come easily to you. Think about your accomplishments and victories. Think about how good it is that you are paying your bills and that you have the time and space to turn an okay situation into something great.

Focus on the things that make you happy in your work because what you focus on grows.

Success is easier when you have a plan

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What will you do next?

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I’m working on a project. I still have a fair amount left to do but I already know what I’m going to do next. In fact, I’m already working on it.

I’m collecting research, making notes, and creating an outline. When I finish project A, I’ll be ready to move immediately into project B.

It’s exciting to know I have a pipeline of things to do. It inspires me to finish my current project, and allows me to start the next project with some momentum. It’s even better because my next project is somewhat related to the current one.

I don’t know what I’m going to do after I finish project B, but I have lots of ideas and I will choose one long before I finish project B. Of course, while I’m working on that one, I’ll choose the next project.

How about you? What are you working on now? What will you do next?

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Are you the smartest person in the room?

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When you have a problem, or you have to make an important decision, who do you turn to for advice?

Do you have friends or networking contacts who are subject matter experts in pertinent areas? Do you know successful professionals and business owners who can provide general business advice and help you sort things out? Do you have mentors or a panel of advisers?

Industrialist Henry Kaiser once said, “I make progress by having people around me who are smarter than I am – and listening to them. And I assume that everyone is smarter about something than I am.”

Michael Dell’s put it this way:

Try never to be the smartest person in the room. And if you are, I suggest you invite smarter people … or find a different room. In professional circles it’s called networking. In organizations it’s called team building. And in life it’s called family, friends, and community. We are all gifts to each other, and my own growth as a leader has shown me again and again that the most rewarding experiences come from my relationships.

Getting proper advice can accelerate the growth of your career by helping you to avoid costly mistakes and leverage existing opportunities. You might figure things out yourself but why not talk to people who already know?

You can find advisers through formal networking or by asking your existing contacts for referrals or introductions. .

Start by asking for help with specific areas rather than general business advice. What kinds of information or advice do you need? Who might know someone who is an expert in that area?

You might start your own mastermind group. Ask four or five successful professionals or business owners in different areas to meet with you once or twice a month to share ideas and advice.

If you have more money than time, you might hire several experts on a trial basis.

No doubt you are intelligent and good at what you do. But that can only take you so far. If you want to take your practice to the next level, go find some people who are smarter than you.

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Eat dessert first

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I went to a funeral last night. DJ was my friend and business partner and he was only 55 when he died.

As I thought about DJ and what he meant to me, I thought about how much he loved people. He was a great listener, always upbeat, always willing to help.

More than anything, DJ liked to have fun. Having fun was his rai·son d’ê·tre. No matter what he was doing, he did it with gusto.

When we went to dinner with DJ, he had the peculiar habit of ordering and eating dessert first. He said he didn’t want to miss the best part of the meal.

Eat dessert first. Enjoy life while you still have it.

Stephen King said, “Ask yourself frequently, “Am I having fun?” The answer needn’t always be yes. But if it’s always no, it’s time for a new project or a new career.”

I’m going to ask myself that question more often because life is short and it passes quickly.

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What is the secret to your success?

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One day, a young lawyer just starting their career will contact you and ask for your advice. They’ll ask, “What is the your secret to your success?”

How will you respond?

Will you attribute it to hard work? Timing? The right practice area?

Is it good marketing? The right connections? Lots of experience?

A combination of several factors?

Simon Cowell may not be an attorney but I like his answer to that question. He said, “The secret of my success is that I make other people money.”

Quintessential business advice.

Note that he didn’t say things like delivering great TV shows or music or pleasing viewers and record buyers. He spoke about helping his business partners become more successful. Of course one of the ways he does this is by delivering great TV shows and music.

You might think about this as you craft your answer to the question.

You help your business clients make (or save) money. You help your consumer clients solve problems and feel safe. You help your “business partners” (i.e., other professionals, referral sources) look good to their clients and contacts.

Now matter how you answer the question, one thing is certain. The secret to your success involves helping people.

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Why you don’t have time for marketing

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You know that you should be marketing your legal servicees. You tell yourself, “I don’t have the time,” so you don’t.

The thing is, you don’t have the time because you tell yourself you don’t.

Every time you repeat to yourself (or anyone) that you don’t have the time, or you’re too busy to do something, you close the door on the subject. You do the same thing when you say, “I don’t know how,” or “I don’t know where to begin.”

Maybe you don’t want to do it. You don’t want to write content, network, or engage people on social media. You don’t want to make videos or advertise or do seminars. If you don’t want to do something, that’s okay. You don’t have to.

But if you want to do something, and you honestly think you don’t have time to do it (or to learn how to do it), you’re not going to find the time until you change your rhetoric.

Instead of declaring that you don’t have the time, case closed, turn the thought into a question. Don’t say, “I don’t have the time,” say, “How can I find the time?” In so doing, you will command your subconscious mind to find answers for you.

Ask, “How can I find the time to market my services?” Ask that question several times throughout the day. Do it for a week or a month. Before you know it, you’ll find yourself with more than enough time. (NB: I am told this works best when you ask the question out loud.)

It works the same way for anything you want or any problem you want to solve.

How can I earn more money this year? How can I lose twenty pounds without going to the gym? How can I improve my relationship with [whoever]?

Ask “how,” “what,” “where,” and “who” questions. Who can I ask? Where can I find? What are my options for getting? Questions like these frame the issue in a way that pre-supposes there are solutions, making it more likely that those solutions will be found.

Avoid “why” questions, which usually reinforce the problem. If you ask, “Why don’t I have the time?” your subconscious will find all the reasons, real or imagined, and justify your belief that you don’t have time.

You have the time. You can get what you want. Don’t shut the door on things you want but think you can’t have. Ask questions that lead to solutions.

Ask and it will be given; seek and you will find.

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Put all your eggs in one basket, just make sure it’s YOUR basket

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I constantly beat the “focus” drum–do a few things and do them well, don’t spread yourself too thin, don’t try to be all things to all people.

I agree with Mark Twain who said, “Put all your eggs in one basket and then watch that basket.”

On the other hand. . . you’ve got to be smart about things.

You shouldn’t rely on one client for 100% of your business, no matter how much business they give you.

Things happen. You think you’ve got it made in the shade and then the client hires someone else. Or they grind you on fees, knowing you have no choice. I spoke with an attorney yesterday who is now “starting over” because this very thing happened to him.

Neither should you rely on one marketing platform or methodology.

Also yesterday, I learned that a Facebook friend of mine had his account shut down. I don’t know what he did to incur the wrath of the Blue-and-White Devil. Insulted someone? Promoted something “too much”? All I know is that hundreds of his Facebook “friends” have signed a petition asking that he be allowed back.

It’s touching to see this outpouring of love, pleading for this man’s digital life. It’s also frightening to imagine that if he loses his appeal, his business might be in big trouble.

I thought about what I would do if this happened to me. If my account was shut down, would I lose business? Go out of business?

No. Not at all. I don’t depend on Facebook, or any other social media platform. I get some business through social media, but I don’t depend on it. Having my account shut down would be inconvenient, but not insurmountable. I would open a new account and start over.

Or not.

Truth be told, I find social media to be depressing. I really wouldn’t miss it.

I’ve got my blog and my email list and I have complete control over them. Nobody can tell me what I can and can’t post. I can insult anyone I want to. Nobody can shut me down.

So yes, put all your eggs in one basket. Just make sure you own the basket.

Want a simple marketing plan for your law practice? Get this.

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When was the last time you failed at something big?

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We’ve heard the rhetoric many times before. Lawyers are risk adverse, we don’t make good entrepreneurs, we’re not good in business.

And it’s true. Most lawyers are overly cautious. It’s in our nature.

But without risk, there is no reward. As Robert Kennedy put it, “Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly.”

Fear of failure is the biggest obstacle to our success. But this fear is often unreasonable.

What holds us back is that we tend to overestimate the cost of failure. We imagine dire consequences and worst case scenarios that are greatly unrealistic in their scope and very unlikely to occur. (Researchers have found that eight-five percent of what we worry about never happens.)

We also underestimate the potential rewards of our actions. One good idea or relationship can make us rich.

It comes down to this: If you want to be more successful, you’ve got to try new things and take more risks.

If you try something and it doesn’t work, you learn from it. As Napoleon Hill tells us, “Every adversity, every failure, every heartache carries with it the seed of an equal or greater benefit.”

Okay, take more risks. Got it. But how?

I think we start by taking small risks more frequently. We get in the habit of regularly trying new things, things that might not work but which have limited downside.

We get used to the experience of failing often, but on a small scale.

As we see that most things work out most of the time, and that when they don’t we easily recover, we eventually take bigger risks.

In other words, we learn how to take risks by taking risks.

Start by changing the way you look at the ideas that cross your path. Instead of rejecting many of them automatically, as we both know you do, collect them and put them on a list called “maybe”.

Then, once a week or so, choose something on that list and try it. If it doesn’t work, if you hate it, if someone you report to says you can’t do that anymore, you will have learned something and you can try something else.

And whenever you feel the tug of fear that seeks to hold you back, remember what Mark Twain said: “My life has been filled with calamities, some of which actually happened.”

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