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Why are you making it so complicated?

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Lean. Simple. Efficient. That’s how I want things to work in my life. I’m sure you do, too. Because not only does this often bring us better results, it takes less time and puts less stress on our systems.

So why do we make things so complicated?

In our writing. In our task management. In our presentations, conversations, marketing, management, relationships, methods, and everything else.

Why do we add unnecessary elements? Why do we change things that are working? Why don’t we adapt things that are clearly better?

Habit? Always done it this way. Don’t see a pressing need to change.

Pride? Look at how busy I am. Look at how complicated and important my work is.

Laziness? I can’t be bothered with that nonsense.

Fear? What if I make a mistake?

All of the above?

But it’s important and we have to do it.

Admit that simple is usually better and make it a priority.

Look at all of the steps and all of the resources and ask:

  • Is this necessary? Could I do without it?
  • Is there a better way to do this?
  • Can this be done more quickly? Less expensively?
  • Can I re-use or re-purpose something I used before?
  • Can I consolidate this step with others?
  • Can I delegate this to someone else?
  • Can I do the same thing with only one tool?

Piece by piece, pare down your world. Fewer methods. Fewer steps. Fewer tools. Fewer people.

If you’re not sure about something, remove it. You probably won’t miss it. If you do, you can add it back.

Start with something small. Clean out a drawer, edit a form letter, or unsubscribe from a few emails. Once you get started, if you’re like me (and you are) you’ll want to do more.

Make it a part of your weekly review. Challenge yourself to make your life as simple, uncluttered, and efficient as possible.  Because in doing so, you’ll earn more, work less, and make room in your life for the things that matter most.

A simple way to get more referrals from other lawyers

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Online or off?

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The question is, should I build my practice on the Internet or offline?

The answer, of course, is “yes”.

Do both. Each offers advantages over the other.

Offline, you get to talk to people face to face or on the phone. You can meet with them, eat with them, play golf with them, and build relationships with them.

Online, you can find people who never show up at events, learn something about them, and help them (or solicit their help) before you speak to them. But it takes some skill and some time to find people on social media, et. al., and engage them.

In the “real world,” all you need to do is show up at an event and introduce yourself to anyone who walks by.

Offline, when you speak to a group, you get introduced by a host who sings your praises and helps the audience see you as a superstar (okay, trusted advisor). You get to meet and shake hands with people, hand out cards, get theirs, and invite them to ask you questions. You can do some of that online, but not as effectively.

An email newsletter costs pennies. You can send two paragraphs once a week or once a day and keep your name in front of prospects until they’re ready to hire you or send you business.

An offline newsletter is comparatively expensive and time-consuming to produce. To justify that expense, you’ll want to wait until you have enough to say to fill several pages. People who don’t hear from you often tend to forget about you and hire someone else, especially when they’re in trouble or ready to do something about their legal situation.

Email gets lost and/or is easily ignored. Regular mail subscribers are more apt to receive and read your paper missive.

So yeah, online and offline are different. Do both.

You can get referrals online, over the phone, and in person. Here’s how

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Prioritizing your todo list

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Look at your todo list(s). Too much to do, right? Where do you start? You start by prioritizing your list, so you can focus on what matters most.

There are lots of ways to do this but here’s a good place to start:

Next to each task, write down why you’re doing it.

Is it something you have to do to deliver work product or results to a client? Are you doing it because harsh penalties will result if you miss a deadline? Are you doing it because it is a key step towards achieving an important goal?

Whatever it is, verbalize it (mentally) and write it down.

In thinking about each task, you may discover that you’re doing some things out of habit but that those things don’t contribute much to your growth. You can safely eliminate them, defer them, or delegate them to others.

You may discover that you doing certain tasks in a perfunctory manner, not really giving them the attention they deserve. As you realize this, you’ll be prompted to allocate more time or resources.

When you know why you’re doing something, you’ll be better able to manage your priorities. The next time you look at your list and the “reasons why” look back at you, you’ll find yourself being more intentional about your choices and more effective in your results.

Why did I write this? To remind you that there are referrals waiting to be had and encourage you to let me help you get them.

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If it’s free, it’s me!

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This weekend I went to a free “shredding” event in our neighborhood. I brought three file boxes of old tax and financial files and had them torn limb-from-limb by a monster truck.

Quick, easy, and free.

In addition to shredding, you could drop off old electronic devices for safe disposal.

The event was sponsored by a local real estate agent, husband and wife team. They set up a barbecue and served hot dogs and bratwursts (I had two) and said hello to the people in line.

What’s the point? No, not that I only ate two brats, although that is remarkable. The point is that this was a simple and inexpensive promotion, so simple, even a lawyer could do it.

And shredding old documents is a natural promotion for a lawyer, no matter what your practice area.

I’m guessing it cost them a few hundred dollars to pay for the shredding company to send a truck for three hours and a couple hundred for dogs and cookies and drinks. It wouldn’t surprise me to learn that they got the electronic pick-up truck at no cost because the raw materials can be profitably recycled.

It looked like their “team” was there, helping out, so no labor costs. The city promoted it in their newsletters and website. The real estate brokers put up signs directing traffic to the event.

What did the brokers get out of it? Maybe a few people asking to talk to them about selling their home. And some goodwill and name recognition.

But I’ll tell you one thing they didn’t get. They didn’t get any propaganda (brochures, etc.) or notepads or pens into the hands of the folks. Which surprised me. I would have given everyone something, anything, with my name and contact information on it, along with an offer, e.g., free appraisal, free “get your home ready to sell” booklet, etc.

Anyway, summer is coming and it’s a good time to fire up the bar-b-que and hold your own event. Let me know when and where and what you’re cooking.

Marketing is easier when you know The Formula

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Lean and simple or cluttered and powerful

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We’re told that it’s important to use the right tool for every job. It’s more efficient and we’ll get better outcomes.

But what about the overhead?

It takes time to learn each tool, keep up with the updates, and move information from one tool to another. And what about the visual clutter?

When we continually add tools and equipment, methods and workflows, we risk winding up with Fibber McGee’s closet. And let’s face it, we won’t use most of those tools or methods long term, or we’ll use them so sparingly it’s not worth keeping them around.

What if instead of seeking the best tool for every job we pared things down to just a few? What if instead of a quest for the perfect system we substitute something simpler and good enough?

It’s a different mindset. Minimalism, I suppose. But it appeals to me on both esthetic and practical levels. I also like a good challenge.

One thing I’m doing right now is cutting the number of tags I use in my task management system. Fewer tags require fewer decisions, less maintenance, and a cleaner look and “feel”.

All of this might mean some compromises. For example, fewer tags might mean it takes longer to find things.

Is the tradeoff worth it?

I’m doing my best to find out.

A simple way to get more traffic and more referrals

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Marketing defined

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I found it on Flakebook. A one-sentence statement that sums up the essence of marketing (selling, advertising, presenting, arguing a motion, summation, convincing your kids to do their homework, etc.)

It said: “When pitching, answer “Why” a lot.”

Yep. That’s it.

Tell people why they need a lawyer. Tell them why they should choose you instead of anyone else. Tell them why they can trust you.

Tell them why they should sign up for your newsletter, come to your event, or read your latest post.

What is good. How can help. But unless you tell them why, that is, spell out the benefits they get for doing what you’re asking them to do, the rest doesn’t matter.

(Note, telling your kids, “Because I said so” isn’t a good option. Just saying.)

Why is telling them why so important?

Because it’s not always obvious. Or because they may not believe it. Or because they knew it but forgot.

Tell them why because they may be in denial about their situation or because they’re not (yet) in enough pain.

Tell them why so they will spend the money, provide you with their email, or show up at your event and get the benefits (protection, results, information) they need.

That’s why.

This will help you get more clients and increase your income

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How to get better prospects

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If you produce content (blog posts, articles, videos, etc.) that bring a preponderance of poor quality prospects–freebie-seekers, broke people, people who need “convincing” or hand-holding, and so on–I have a suggestion.

A way to bring in higher quality prospects. People with money. People who know they have a problem. People who clearly see that you can help them and who want that help.

Sound good?

Here it is: Convert some of your free content into paid content.

Instead of free webinars, for example, offer a low-cost webinar, perhaps in the $20 to $50 neighborhood, something that doesn’t require a big decision but does require a commitment.

You’ll get fewer participants but the ones who show up will be serious prospects.

Here’s the catch. Since they’re paying, you have to deliver somewhat more value and tone down the sales pitch. People are tired of having to sit through twenty minutes of pitching in a one-hour webinar but they’ve been conditioned to expect it so they often sign up and don’t show up.

When they pay, they show up.

And when they show up, they pay attention and get to see that you really know your stuff. Which means some of them will hire you on the spot.

You’ll have lower costs, too, because you won’t need to maintain a high capacity webinar system or expensive funnel system to maximize your numbers.

You can do the same thing with live seminars. Instead of renting a room in a hotel, maybe you can do seminars in your office conference room.

While you’re pondering the possibilities, also consider creating some paid videos, reports, ebooks, and other content. A paid newsletter, perhaps.

Free content works. But sometimes, paid content works even better.

Marketing is easier when you know the formula

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How to take the pain out of your weekly review

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A weekly review is an important part of any productivity system. Without regularly reviewing your plans and progress it’s easy to get off track.

But it’s a pain in the behind.

Going through all of our tasks and projects, current and proposed, takes a long time and makes us continually re-visit decisions we thought we had already made.

Too often, we put off our review and before long, we’re lost in the weeds.

Here are a few ideas you can use to avoid this:

  • Do SOME of the weekly review tasks daily instead of weekly. It will be quicker to empty your inboxes during your weekly review, for example, if you’ve developed the habit of doing this (or most of it) every day.
  • Schedule the time in advance. I do my weekly review on Sunday mornings at 10 am. It’s on the calendar and has become a habit. I don’t have to think about it, I just do it.
  • Use a checklist. Prepare a list of #weeklyreview tasks so that you can dive right in and git ‘er done.
  • Reward yourself. When the review is done, do something fun to reinforce the habit.

One more and it’s a biggie: Use a time limit.

I now limit my weekly review to just ten minutes. Easy peasy. I can do that standing on my head.

A ten-minute limit means I can’t go through my #someday/maybe and #idea lists each week. I do that once a month, or periodically (when I’m in the mood).

A ten-minute limit also requires me to keep on top of my lists throughout the week, which I do. My lists are always just one click away so I can look at them frequently during the day.

“What if you’re not done in ten minutes?” you ask. “Aren’t you taking the risk that you’ll miss something important?”

I’ve come to trust that if something is important, it’s already got my attention.

Try a ten-minute review and see how it works for you. Before you do that, however, do one last major review to clean up your lists. Or, do what I do periodically: hide everything (in another folder, another app) and start fresh with a clean slate.

New lists, new you.

Evernote for Lawyers

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Getting paid to write snarky emails

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I watched a video about productivity. The speaker suggested that we identify our “A” work, that is, what we do best, and do more of it. We should do less of our “B” and “C” work, and avoid doing anything we might rate a “D” or “F”.

Write down ten or twenty activities you do in your business and grade them. Assign an “A” to your best work, a “B” to work that might not be your best but that you usually do well enough, and so on.

The more “A” work you do, she said, the better, suggesting that you will be happier and so will your clients or customers.

But is that true?

What if our “A” work is something we don’t enjoy? I’m good at making cold calls but I don’t like it. I certainly don’t want to do more of it.

Sometimes, we do things we’re good at simply because we have to. But we don’t want to do them any more than we have to. Hiring and firing come to mind.

There’s another element missing from the equation: value. What if our “A” work isn’t an important part of the job?

You may be good at editing videos, for example, and enjoy it, but if you don’t create them often or they don’t bring in a lot of business, finding ways to do more editing isn’t going to help you build your practice. What’s more, your editing skills aren’t your highest and best use. You could pay someone $30 an hour to do it while you earn $300 an hour doing legal work.

As you go through your list of work activities, assign a letter grade for all three elements: what you do best, what you enjoy, and what contributes the most value to you or to your clients.

Ideally, you’ll find some activities that all get all “A”s.

What do you do with the rest? Eliminate them, if possible. Delegate them. Or, if they are necessary and they can’t be done by anyone else (be honest), see if you can do them less often or more quickly so you’ll have more time to do your triple-A work.

I’m good at showing you how to get more referrals

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Find out what people want and show them how to get it

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Legendary investor Bernard Baruch said the secret to getting rich is to “Find out what people want and show them how to get it”.

Ah, you thought you were supposed to “help them” get it. No, you’re busy. You can’t help everyone do everything (unless they hire you). You have a practice to run.

Show them what to do. Showing is easier than helping and nearly as valuable.

Give them direction and feedback. Point to resources. Refer them to experts. Show them what to do. When push comes to shove, they don’t really expect you to drive them to their destination. They will appreciate you for giving them a map.

On the other hand, don’t just “tell them what to do”. Anyone can do that. Anyone can post a list of recommended resources on their website. No, show them.

Talk to them and make sure you understand exactly what they want and why. Then, provide suggestions and recommendations specific to their needs so they can get what they want as quickly and efficiently as possible.

Explain why you recommend A instead of B. Give examples so they understand your rationale. Make sure they are ready to move forward before you turn them loose but let them know they can come back to you if they run into a snag.

Showing is less than helping but more than telling. Find out what people want and show them how to get it.

This is me, showing you how to get more referrals

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