Stop the World, I Want to Get Off

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When you’re anxious, stressed, frustrated, fed up, crying like a baby, or ready to hit something (or someone), and you don’t know what to do about it, I have a suggestion.

A little something called “a plan”.

Write down a goal, a deadline, and a list of steps you can take to achieve the goal.

The actual plan isn’t important. The act of planning, however, as Dwight D. Eisenhower famously said, is everything.

That’s because the act of planning helps us to clarify what we think, what we want, and what we need to do. It allows us to funnel our thoughts and emotions in a constructive direction.

The plan itself will change. Many times, no doubt. New ideas, new information, new feedback–the plan you ultimately follow often looks nothing like the plan you start with.

But at least you started. Something you might not have done without planning.

Planning has another benefit. For a few minutes at least, we get to assert a degree of control over our day. We get to decide what we’ll do, and when, what we won’t do, and why.

And it feels good.

Planning allows us to escape our burdens, feel empowered, and get excited about the future.

Some of us do a lot of planning. We love to make lists, re-arrange the items on it, and manage our lists with new apps and new systems.

We enjoy the planning process because it’s a way to avoid the harsh reality of the real world that.

Planning is a form of escapism.

Planning feels good because it doesn’t require a lot of effort, brain power, physical movement, tough decisions, or problem solving. It’s just our thoughts and a piece of paper.

Compared to “doing,” planning is just plain fun.

So, when the world feels like it’s spinning out of control, or you simply have too much to do and don’t know where to start, take a few minutes and create a plan, or grab your list and redo the existing plan.

You still have to take action, of course, but the act of planning will make that a lot easier because you’ll feel a lot better about where you are and where you’re going.

Here’s a plan to get more clients and increase your income

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Questions are the answer

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When we have a problem, we’re told not to focus on that problem but to focus on possible solutions. But we can’t do that without spending time thinking about the problem.

More specifically, asking ourself questions.

Questions like, What happened, Why did it happen, Who caused it, Who can help fix it, and especially, What can I do about it?

If the problem is a drop in business and you ask why it happened, right now your answer would no doubt include the shutdown. Many people aren’t doing anything about their legal problems now because they don’t have the money or the presence of mind to deal with them.

Is that a problem you can do something about? I don’t know, but asking THAT question might lead you to some ideas.

Asking the right questions helps us to focus on what we can do, instead of what we can’t do.

Questions like, What can I do to bring in new clients right now? What can I do to lower my expenses or increase my revenue? What can I do to set the stage for the future once things return to a semblance of normalcy?

More.

What can I do or offer that other lawyers can’t or won’t? How can I position myself as the better solution? What can I do beyond my core services to attract and engage my ideal client? How can I become better known to my target market? How can I get more traffic and build my list? Where can I get more marketing ideas?

What if you don’t like the answers? Ask more questions.

Because questions are the answer. And because asking questions is better than stewing in negative thoughts.

Where do you go to find “next level” marketing strategies? Here

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Does your life need more white space?

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A writer was describing her quest to simplify her hectic life, to reduce her stress and manage her energy. She wanted more quiet time, time to reflect and recharge.

She said, “My life needed white space,” and I immediately understood what she meant.

Most of us are ridiculously busy. We run from appointment to appointment, from task to task.

Our plates are full and yet we continually look for more to heap on them.

We may break for lunch but we often work through it. After work we have errands and chores. Family time? Me time? We never have enough.

And the next day we do it all again.

No wonder we’re exhausted. No wonder we’re stressed.

We’re building these great lives but are we enjoying the lives we’re building?

The solution isn’t all that difficult. We don’t need to radically change our lives. All we need to do is put some space between the different parts of it.

Take a few minutes between appointments. Remove the clutter from your desktop. Work on one file at a time.

Do something unplanned. Make your next project something that feels good instead of whatever’s next on the list.

From time to time, come in to the office a little later or go home a little earlier. Take a long lunch. Go window shopping, go to the ocean, go for a walk.

Take more vacations. Stay a few days longer. Or take a stay-cation and pamper yourself.

And prepare yourself for the days ahead when you might feel pressured or overwhelmed or find yourself falling behind. Make an agreement with yourself that when that happens, you won’t fret or give in to the pressure.

You won’t work harder. You’ll take a break.

You’ll rest and recharge and reflect, even for a few hours or a few days, because that might be all you need.

And because knowing you can do that, in advance, might provide enough white space in your life that you’ll never have to.

Billing is stressful for many lawyers. This will help

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RIP Grumpy Cat

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Grumpy Cat died. You know, the cat with the down-turned mouth who looked like he was perpetually in a bad mood. The cat who inspired hundreds of Internet memes?

Yeah, that Grumpy Cat.

Question: when you’re a grumpy cat, what do you do about it?

You shouldn’t be around clients when you’re in a bad mood. It’s bad for business. Nobody likes a Debbie Downer.

Your employees might give you a little slack (because they have to), but they’d rather not have you in the office when you’re wearing the weight of the world on your shoulders.

When you have a sad or you’re feeling mad, what do you do?

Put on some music? Actually, that’s a good idea. Listen to some tunes that lift your spirits, or listen to some music that makes you sad–for some reason, that works, too.

If music doesn’t fix you up, if you’re still feeling like Lucy took your football, you’ve got to fake it. Pretend you’re in a good mood. Act as if.

Put on a (fake) smile and soon you’ll be smiling for realz.

If music and fake smiles don’t help, if you’re really bad off, leave. Flee the scene. Go home, go to a movie, go do some retail therapy.

Get out of the office for a few hours and get your head right.

Grumpy Cat was cute. Grumpy Lawyer, not so much.

How to get your clients to send you more referrals

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Do you (still) work nights and weekends?

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When I started practicing, even though I had few clients, I showed up at the office every day, including Saturdays. I spent most of that time setting up form files and writing form letters I could use once I got some new clients, and doing whatever I could think of to try to make that happen.

When I finally got some new clients, I started staying late at the office and bringing work home with me. I thought that’s what I had to do to make it and I was too scared to do anything else.

Maybe you are where I was. Maybe you’re working longer hours than you need to, or should. Even if you are getting things done and making money, at some point, you have to ask if this is the right way to go.

What if you set up some boundaries for yourself? What if you worked a full day but reserved your nights and weekends for yourself and your family? What if you actually scheduled took a vacation?

In the short term, as you work fewer hours, you’ll probably earn less income. In the long term, probably sooner than you think, you might see your practice explode, as mine did when I made the switch.

All work and no play really does make Jack a dull boy.

Start living a little. At night, on weekends, read novels, play games, take the kids to the park and toss a ball. If you don’t have kids, start making some. You’ll have the energy now, so get busy.

Leave your work at the office. Turn off your phone. Use your free time to get in shape. Start a hobby. Take a class or join a club. Not only will you have some fun, you’ll meet some new people (who share your interest) and have something to talk about besides work.

You’ll be more relaxed. More interesting. And have more energy. You’ll attract new friends, business contacts, and clients. You’ll have time to work on taking your practice to the next level.

You’ll earn more without working more. And finally realize that work isn’t the goal, it’s how you reach the goal.

How to earn more without working more: go here

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Are you excited about practicing law?

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Are you excited about practicing law? I was, when I started. But it didn’t take long before the thrill was gone.

I liked helping people and I liked the challenge of building something from scratch. But I didn’t love what I was doing.

Is that all there is? Is that all there is? If that’s all there is my friends, then let’s keep dancing.

I kept going because I had invested so much into my career, how could I walk away?

How could I not? How could I wait twenty years before finally giving myself permission to do something else.

Successful people are passionate about what they do. Monday morning can’t come soon enough. They can’t imagine doing anything else.

Successful people don’t need to push themselves, they do what they do because they love doing it. Steve Jobs said, “If you are working on something exciting that you really care about, you don’t have to be pushed. The vision pulls you.”

That’s what I want for you.

I’m not saying you need to leave the law, although that may be the right thing for you at some point. I’m saying you need to find a way to get excited about your work.

How?

In The One Thing You Need to Know, Marcus Buckingham distilled years of research about personal success down to one thing: “Find out what you don’t like doing and stop doing it.”

Get rid of the things you don’t love about your practice so you can do more of what you are good at and enjoy.

It sounds simplistic but imagine if the things you don’t like about your work were gone. Handled. Not something you need to think about.

It would be liberating, wouldn’t it?

Is this possible? Could you delegate or outsource all of the things that cause you stress? Probably not. When you’re in charge, there are always burdens on your shoulders. But if you could get rid of 80% of the things you don’t like, you might smile a lot more.

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Do you get nervous when quoting fees?

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You’ve met with the prospective client, diagnosed their situation, and told them what you can do to help. You’ve got your retainer agreement ready and it’s time to quote a fee.

How do you feel at that very moment?

If you’re like many attorneys, you’re nervous. You’re afraid they will say no or try to haggle. They’ll balk at signing up and you won’t know what to do next.

Maybe they sign up, maybe they don’t, but the next time you quote a fee, you’ll remember that feeling and your apprehension will grow.

It doesn’t get better over time, it gets worse. It gets worse because deep inside you may believe that your fees really are too high and you telegraph that to the client.

What’s the solution?

Reduce your fees. Lower them until that uneasy feeling goes away and you feel that you are offering them a great deal.

Hey, if YOU believe your fees are too high, they’re too high.

Think about it. If you truly believe that what you are proposing to do for the client is worth more than what you’re asking them to pay, if you truly believe that you deliver immense value and the client would foolish to turn you down, you would have no trouble looking the client in the eye and telling them that. No nerves, no doubts, no hesitation.

Okay, okay, you want to know if there is another solution.

Sure. Instead of lowering your fees, increase the value of your services.

Look at what other lawyers do and do more. Provide better service, bonuses, guarantees, payments options, and other tangible and intangible deliverables that make the totality of what you do worth more to the client.

When quoting fees, you’ll be able to tell the client the advantages of hiring you. You’re worth more so you can charge more.

What’s that? You believe your fees are fair? You’re nervous because you think the client won’t understand.

Ah, but they will understand. You just have to do a better job of selling your services.

Don’t just show them the “features” of what they get–the documents, the process, the work product–show them the “benefits”. Show them how they will be better off as a result of hiring you. Show them how they will save money, increase their profits, protect their business or family, minimize risk, or achieve peace of mind.

Features are what you do. Benefits are what they get as a result of your doing it.

Don’t hold back. Tell them what could happen if they don’t fix the problem. Give them both barrels, right between the eyes.

Tell stories about other people who tried to fix that problem themselves, hired the wrong attorney, or waited too long, and suffered the consequences. And then tell them success stories of clients you’ve helped get the benefits you offer.

Give them a vivid picture of how things could be if they hire you, and how they might be if they don’t.

Sales is about the transference of belief. If you believe in the value of what you do, and you transfer that belief to your prospective clients, you’ll sign up more of them and never get nervous quoting fees.

For more about using features and benefits to sell your services, get The Formula

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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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Too much of a good thing is AWESOME!

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Indulge yourself. Throw caution to the wind. Eat the whole thing. Buy the one you want.

You’ve earned it. You can afford it. You want to do it, so do it.

Go on a bender once in a while. Spend more than you think you should. Pig out, goof off, go blow off some steam.

You won’t die from eating too much today. Neither will you go broke from a one-time purchase. It’s what you spend or eat or do EVERY day that counts.

So after you have a crazy day or a crazy moment, get back to work. Don’t make binging a habit, unless you’re binging on good books. Even then, you have work to do and too much of a good thing could be too much.

You’ll have another binge day at some point. You might even plan it. And look forward to it. Of course it’s more fun when it’s spontaneous, as in, “Screw it, I’m not going to work today, I’m going shopping!”

Mini-splurges are also fun. Go to a nice restaurant this weekend instead of the usual place. Leave work early one day a week. Stay in bed an extra hour on Sunday.

If you’re like me, knowing that you could indulge yourself feels good, even if you don’t do it.

I’m not going to buy the laptop I really want (but don’t need), but it feels great knowing that I could.

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If it’s Tuesday, it must be clients

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You have a lot on your plate. This morning, you have to review pleadings and get them filed and served. Then you have a meeting with your office staff. After that, you’re off to a hearing. When you return to the office, you have a new client to see. Before you go home, you plan to catch up on some billing.

If you get interrupted in any of these tasks, you lose momentum. It takes time to get back in the groove and, therefore, you’re not nearly as productive as you’d like to be.

Is there a better way?

One idea is to do what Twitter founder Jack Dorsey does. He gives each work day a “theme,” so he always know “what to focus on that day, and what to return to when [he gets] distracted.”

So perhaps you use Mondays for paperwork and Tuesdays you see clients. Wednesdays might be for administrative tasks and meetings with office staff. Perhaps you will schedule depos and arbitrations on Thursdays. Fridays could be for planning, marketing, and working on big projects.

Or, you might reserve mornings for court appearances and paperwork, afternoons for clients and meetings.

However you do it, the idea is to schedule your work in blocks of time so that you always know what you’re doing and you avoid multitasking.

Think about how you could create theme days (or half-days) in your practice. Look at your calendar for the last month or so and look for patterns. Also consider your energy levels at different parts of the day.

Or. . . maybe wait and do this on Friday. It’s Tuesday and I think you’ve got some clients coming in this afternoon.

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