A simple productivity system that really works

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No matter what productivity system or tools you use, if you’re like most people, you sometimes feel that you’re spending more time planning than doing.

Your write lists and then re-write them. You add tags or labels and ignore them. You move tasks from one folder to another. Your lists keep growing, you’re not getting a lot done, and you’re frustrated.

And the quest to find a better system continues.

I have one for you. It’s simple and you can use it with whatever you’re using now.

But first, I have some good news and some bad news for you. The bad news is that you will never get everything done. The good news is that you don’t have to.

If you continually get the most important things done, you’re golden.

How do you do that? Simple. Throughout your day, stop and ask yourself this question: “What’s the most important thing I could do right now?”

And then do it.

No matter what you have or don’t have on your lists, no matter how you might have prioritized the items on those lists, your subconscious mind knows better.

All you have to do is ask and listen to the answer.

Remember, you are the one who made the lists in the first place. You can override whatever you wrote down any time you choose.

Look at your lists if you want. Or put them away, get quiet, and ask the question. “What’s the most important thing I could do right now?”

You can trust the answer. It will automatically take into account things like due dates, urgency, and goals.

Ask the question and then do the thing. Do this a few times a day and relax. You’re getting the important things done. You don’t need to worry about anything else.

Let me show you how to get more referrals

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Three ways to level up your practice

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When it comes to growing a law practice, slow and steady works. But, by definition, it’s slow. What if you want to grow quickly? What if you want to dramatically increase your income in a relatively short period of time?

Oh yes, it can be done. Some lawyers do it right out of the law school gate. Some do it when they reach their “day of disgust” and finally decide to get serious about marketing. Some do it when they see their numbers dropping and their fear of losing everything motivates them to finally take action.

But it can be done.

There are lots of things you could do to dramatically increase your income. I’m going to give you three. But more important than “what you do” is “what you think” and so first, I’m going to give you a few mindset adjustments.

First, to significantly boost your income you’ll need to do things that offer a big potential payoff. That means there might be additional risk and additional expense and you have to be prepared to accept this. You also need to be prepared to do things that take you outside your comfort zone.

Second, you have to jettison the idea that there is a direct correlation between the amount of time you work and the amount of income you earn. It’s not about how long it takes to do the work, it’s about how much value you deliver.

Third, you have to look for ways to employ leverage. One of the simplest ways to do that is to hire (more) people or outsource, and delegate as much of your work as possible. Rule of thumb: you should ONLY do those things that ONLY you can do. NB: there is very little that ONLY you can do.

Fourth, no matter how good you are getting things done you’ll probably need to get better. If you want to dramatically grow your practice, working harder is an option but so is working smarter.

Working smarter means “doing the right things,” the “20% activities that deliver 80% of your results and income”. It also means “doing things right”–getting the work done more quickly, efficiently, and with less effort.

With these principles in mind, here are three ways you might level up your practice:

(1) Bigger cases or better clients.

Bigger cases pay bigger fees. Why settle for an average fee of $10,000 when you could get $25,000? Or $100,000? The cases are out there and there’s no reason why you can’t get them.

Better clients pay higher fees and have more legal work. Why settle for “one of” work when you can bring in clients who have a steady stream of work?

(2) Increase your fees

One of the simplest ways to earn more is to charge more. Consider increasing your fees.

Not ten or fifteen percent, thirty percent. Fifty percent. 100%. Or more.

Crazy? Maybe. But maybe not. There’s only one way to find out.

Yes, you’ll lose some clients who can’t afford the increase or don’t want to pay it, but the new clients you bring in could more than offset those losses.

(3) Better referral sources (and more of them)

One of the best ways to bring in more business is to find referral sources that can send you more clients (and better clients, while you’re at it). Find professionals who can refer you five clients per month instead of five clients per year.

They’re out there and you can find them. Here’s a hint: they usually hang out with each other. Find one and they will lead you to others.

So, what do you think? Are you thinking, “These won’t work for me,” or are you thinking, “How can I make these work for me?”

Your attitude will determine your altitude. Translation: if you want to get big, fast, you need to think big and take massive action.

And remember, if you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right.

Plan your plan with this

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Thinking like a lawyer may be costing you money

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On my walk today I saw a car parked in front of a neighbor’s house. On the car door was a magnetic sign advertising, “Pam’s house sitting and pet sitting” business. Attached to the sign was a plastic business card holder which was filled with her cards.

Many lawyers who saw this wouldn’t give it a second thought. They’re busy thinking about their cases and clients and all the work they need to do. Or they would think about whether Pam is bonded and insured. Does she have employees and are they also insured? Does she supervise them? Did the owner of the house put the jewelry in a safe deposit box before they went out of town?

You know, lawyer stuff.

Enlightened lawyers would look at that sign and think about marketing.

No, I’m not suggesting a lawyer put a magnetic sign on their car. But if you’ve trained yourself to think like a business owner as well as a lawyer, seeing that sign might prompt you to start asking yourself about other ways Pam might be building her business.

Does she rely solely on that sign and word of mouth or does she do other kinds of marketing? Does she have a website? Is she listed in business directories? Does she advertise in our community newsletter? Does she distribute flyers?

Does she network with other business owners who might have customers or clients who need her pet sitting services–pet stores, vets, dog groomers, and kennels for example? For house sitting, does she network with real estate agents and travel agents?

Does she have a mailing list? How much repeat business does she get? How about referrals?

Does she know other house and pet sitters and do they cover for each other when one is overbooked? Has she considered expanding her services to include dog walking or pet food delivery?

This is how a business person thinks. Lawyers need to think this way, too because a law practice is also a business.

Ideas are everywhere. You just have to look for them. You might not be able to use many of the ideas you see (like car signs) but ideas you can’t use often lead to ideas you can use.

You know you want them. Here’s how to get more referrals

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How to start a conversation with a stranger

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Being able to approach and speak to strangers is a valuable skill to have in your marketing quiver. Like any skill, you can get better with practice.

Yesterday, after my walk, I was at the park cooling down and saw a mother pushing her two youngsters on the swings. The boy, who looked about three, was chattering on about reaching the sky and asking lots of questions about outer space and rocket ships. His mother didn’t dismiss his questions, she patiently answered them.

After listening for a couple of minutes, I asked the woman if she was a teacher. She said she was before becoming a stay-at-home mom and asked me how I knew. I said, “Because you are so patient with all his questions, plus, you had some really good answers!”

Question asked. Conversation started. Compliment thrown in for good measure.

It really is (can be) that simple.

In this case, I learned something I could use to start the conversation by listening to her talk to her son, but I could have just as easily told her she had cute kids or asked how old they were.

If I wanted to continue the conversation I would have asked another question. At some point, I would have made sure to mention “my wife” and “my daughter,” however, to let her know I’m a family guy and not some stalker. Situational awareness is your friend.

Anyway, if you want to improve your conversational skills, start practicing. The next time you’re in line for coffee or sitting next to someone in a waiting room, talk to the person next to you.

If you can’t think of anything to say, ask them if they have the time. When they pull out their phone to respond, ask what model it is and if they’re ready to upgrade.

Sure fire conversation material. Maybe even better than kids.

How to get Maximum Referrals 

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A lesson from the clean-cut men in white dress shirts

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When I started practicing, it was well known that IBM had some of the best salesmen in the world. I say salesmen because as far as I know, they were nearly all men. They all wore the IBM uniform–white dress shirt, dark suit and tie, short hair, and neatly polished dress shoes.

You know the look. Yeah, like Mad Men.

They were well-groomed and well-trained and they sold a lot of IBM products. From the moment that salesman walked in my door and began his presentation, there was no doubt that he was going to walk out with an order.

For many decades, IBM sales people continually outsold their competition. Records were set and records were broken, helping make the company one of the top brands in the world.

But it wasn’t just good products, easy financing, and great training that did it. I just learned a surprising reason why IBM salesmen sold so much more than anyone else. It was because they had low quotas.

You would think it would be just the opposite: best products and training, highest quotas, right? If you are the best or aspire to be the best, why wouldn’t you set the bar high?

But IBM didn’t do that. They set the bar low and allowed their sales people to flourish organically, without feeling intimidated or pressured to meet a goal that seemed out of reach.

Tim Ferris echoed the value of setting smaller goals when he was asked about his daily writing goal. “Two crappy pages a day,” he said, when clearly he wrote far more.

Most people set short term goals that are too big. Smaller goals make it easier to succeed. Anyone can write two “crappy” pages. When you do, you feel good about hitting your goal so you keep going and write more.

No pressure. You do it because you want to. And once you start, it’s easy to continue.

Whether writing or selling typewriters or marketing legal services, the daily discipline of “two crappy pages” or “15 minutes” gets you started, and starting is the hardest part. If the goal was too big, you might not start at all.

Set smaller goals and hit them. No white shirt required.

To create a short and simple marketing plan, get this

 

 

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E.G.B.O.K.

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E.G.B.O.K. Everything’s going to be okay. You’re problems will be resolved, your goals will be achieved, and you’ll live happily ever after.

At least that’s what you should assume because assuming otherwise won’t do you any good.

Don’t worry about the future. Or the present. No matter how bad things might be, worrying won’t help.

Worry is a useless emotion. Banish the word from your vocabulary. You’ll feel much better, and feeling better will help you achieve better outcomes.

Another way to put it: think about what you want, not what you don’t want. And smile. Everything’s going to be okay.

On the other hand, don’t be naive or reckless. Assume the best but prepare for the worst.

Make contingency plans. Install backups. Buy insurance. Have regular checkups. Because an ounce of prevention, and all that.

Okay, want to know a secret? How to make it easier to eliminate worry and assume the best? I’ll tell you something that’s worked for me, and God knows I’ve needed it.

I’ve built a law practice, from scratch, twice. No clients, no list, no money, and in the case of the first instance, no experience. I’ve started more than a few businesses, most of which are no longer extant. I’ve had many business and personal failures, and more unfinished projects than I can count. I’ve been to Hell and back and I have survived. (This would be a good place for a song, but I’ll spare you.)

Anyway, my “secret” is to approach things with a long-term perspective.

I think in terms of years and decades, not weeks or months. When you see yourself doing something ten or twenty years from now, you are much less likely to let short term problems throw you off track.

Someone owes you thousands of dollars and won’t pay? No problem. A bump in the road. A long and ultimately prosperous and fulfilling road. Ten years from now, you won’t even remember it. You’ll be too busy counting your millions.

So think long term and don’t worry about the short term. Everything’s going to be okay.

But don’t get too comfortable. There’s work to be done (and problems to solve) and we can only do that in the here and now.

Think long term but act short term. Focus on what you can do right now, today, and get it done. You’ll deal with tomorrow, tomorrow.

The quickest way to get referrals

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Following up with leads

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My wife visited a real estate website and filled out a form to get some information. As you might expect, an agent called and left a message, offering information, encouraging my wife to call, yada yada. She did the same thing via text.

My wife didn’t respond, so naturally, the calls and texts continued.

A month later, they’re still coming.

My wife thought she would be nice and put the agent out of her misery. She called and politely told her that our plans had changed and we weren’t interested in getting more information.

The agent’s messages had been cheerful and positive. When my wife told her our plans had changed, the agent’s demeanor did a 180. She wasn’t rude or dismissive. More like defeated and unhappy.

When my wife told me the story, she said she would never want to work with an agent who is that moody.

What agent of any experience doesn’t know that leads are a numbers game and that most don’t turn into sales? What agent lets people who say “not interested” (which should be interpreted as “not now”) hear their disappointment?

What a missed opportunity.

A “no” today might be a “yes” tomorrow. Or a referral. Sadly, my wife and others we may assume, won’t contact Miss unhappy pants if and when things change.

Of course, this never happens to most lawyers. That’s because most lawyers don’t follow-up with inquiries and leads, even with people they’ve spoken to. They don’t follow-up at all.

And that’s even worse.

When someone contacts you to ask questions or get information, don’t give up on them if they don’t take the next step. Stay in touch, offer more information, and continue to let them know how you can help.

Should you call or text? Maybe once or twice in the beginning. Have your staff do it. After that, use email and snail mail.

They were interested once. They may be interested again. Follow-up until they buy or die. Or tell you to stop. And no matter what, never let them see you sweat.

They may never buy but they can send you referrals

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Date ’em all and the good ones twice

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Thinking about high school again and remembering an expression many boys used when speaking about girls: “Date ’em all and the good ones twice”. Only they didn’t use the word “date”. Use your imagination.

The thing is, this juvenile display of bravado and adolescent yearning may actually have been good advice. When you’re young, it makes sense to play the field. Dating (actual dating) lots of people helps you discover what you like and what you don’t like so you can make a better decision when choosing a spouse.

It also happens to be good advice for achieving success in a business or career.

Try lots of jobs. Lots of ideas. Lots of tools and techniques. Try ’em all and come back to (marry?) the ones you like best.

I just finished reading a book on productivity. I read lots of books on that subject but this one was different. The way the author explained the power of habits for effecting change and achieving goals resonated with me in a way that other books haven’t. I highlighted nearly every page and now, I will go back and read it again. I’ll also take notes and do the exercises I skipped the first time through. Because this one looks like a keeper.

I read a lot of books but re-read only a small percentage. Actually, if it’s good enough to re-read, I usually do that several times.

Date ’em all and the good ones twice. And if they’re really good, marry ’em.

Here’s something you should probably read again

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Two guys walk into a bar…

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When I was in high school I used to call a popular “joke line”. Most of the jokes were clean but the occasional salty joke made this teenager’s day.

The recordings were under a minute and rotated throughout the day. They were professionally produced, with an announcer and intro music. The call was frequently updated with new material. I listened to it for several years.

One thing always puzzled me. I couldn’t figure out how they made any money. There were no commercials or sponsors; nothing was promoted except the call itself. And no, it wasn’t a 900 or 976 number where you were charged by the minute or by the call.

So, what was the point?

Were they testing material for a stand-up act? Trying to find sponsors but never did?

I finally concluded that whoever did these calls did them for no other reason than to have fun.

I thought about this on my walk the other day and made a note to share it with you. To remind you to put some fun into your newsletter or blog or presentations. Not jokes, fun. Lighthearted observations or stories that put a smile on the face of your reader or listener or make them recall a happy time in their lives.

As far as I know fun is still legal in this country and God knows we can all use more of it.

Know what’s really fun? Getting referrals

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Client relations made simple

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What do you do when there’s a problem with a case? Do you email the client to tell them? Or do you call?

Calling is better, of course, because you can explain what happened, answer the client’s questions, discuss the options, and work together to find the path forward.

You’re not just delivering news, you’re having a conversation.

Your tone of voice tells the client how you feel about the issue. He’ll hear your concern and appreciate that you personally called. The client might still be upset or afraid, but being able to talk to you will help, even if he blames you for the problem. Actually, especially if he blames you because he can vent and then the two of you can talk about what to do.

Now, you probably know this and you probably use the phone when there’s a problem. The question is, do you use the phone when there isn’t a problem?

When you want to tell the client good news. When you want to ask the client a question. When you want to touch base with the client. Do you call? Even when you don’t have to?

The same dynamics exist whether you’re delivering good news or bad. Just as you want the client to hear the concern in your voice when you deliver bad news, you want them to hear the smile in your voice when the news is good.

If you’re not calling your clients, you’re missing out on an opportunity to strengthen your relationship with them.

Call more, email less.

But, there’s something even better than calling. Whenever possible, meet with your clients in person.

Whether you have good news, bad news, or no news, getting face to face with your clients gives you an opportunity to bond in a way that cannot be simulated over the phone. Now only does tone of voice come into play, so do facial expressions, body language, and general interpersonal chemistry.

Find reasons to meet with your clients for coffee. Visit their business. Invite them to your office. And don’t charge for that time, even if you could.

Spend face time with your clients and when you’re done, send them an email saying, “It was nice to see you.” Or better yet, call.

Your clients are worth a fortune to you

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