A few thoughts about goal setting

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If you’re about to sit down and write some goals for the new year, there are a few things you should consider.

First, understand that the purpose of goal setting is to gain clarity about what’s important to you, and thus worthy of your focus and commitment. You have limited time and resources so limit your goals to no more than three. One is better. One big goal for the year, the achievement of which will make everything else easier or better.

Second, goal setting isn’t done until you determine what you need to do to achieve the goal and you commit to doing it.

You can’t control outcomes, you can only control your behavior. What activities will you do to achieve your goal? What new habits will you acquire? What will you give up so you have the time and energy to do what’s needed?

Finally, make sure your goal is something you truly want, not something you think you should want or something someone else wants for you.

When you think about the goal and imagine having achieved it, you should feel excited. As you imagine yourself doing the daily work needed to achieve your goal, you should be just as excited.

The right goal will pull you forward. When you wake up each day, your first thoughts will naturally be about your goal and the work you are doing to achieve it, and you will feel good about that. You’ll want to run to your desk and get to work. You’ll want to stay up late reading, making notes, writing down ideas.

If it’s the right goal, you will, as Napoleon Hill said, have a burning desire to achieve it. You will be single-minded in your devotion to it. You will be like a successful friend of mine who describes himself as, “a monomaniac on a mission”.

Examine the goal you have chosen and see how you feel about it. If it feels good, you won’t struggle to achieve it. Yes, you’ll work hard but the time will pass quickly, and if you fall short, you won’t mind that much because you’ll know where you’re going and you’ll know you’ll get there.

This will help you set and achieve your marketing goals

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Goals for the new year beyond

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My daughter and her husband are in town and have been going with me on some of my walks. I learned from them that I don’t need a wearable device to measure the number of steps I take in a day, I can do that with an app. And so now I’m tracking my steps.

But that damn app is mocking me. Granted, it’s only been a couple of days (over Christmas), but it’s telling me I’m nowhere near the 10,000 steps it sets as the default.

I’ve been walking six days a week now for several months and it’s going well. I’m losing weight and getting stronger and it’s a habit I know I can keep. But I’m so far from the goal it’s not motivating me, it’s doing just the opposite.

What to do?

Do I lower the goal from 10,000 steps for now and increase it once I hit it?

Do I leave the goal at 10,000 steps and work harder?

Or do I give it a week, see how it’s going, then decide?

You might have a similar process to go through in your goal setting for the coming year.

Let’s say you would like to gross one million dollars in 2018. You know that’s unlikely but not impossible. You also know that if you get to the middle of the year and you’re not even close to the pace you need to be, you’ll probably get discouraged and tell yourself “next year”. (You know this because that’s what happened last year.)

I have a suggestion. Something I’ve written about before (and done). It’s a way to set goals that you never fail to achieve.

That’s because instead of setting a singular goal, you set three versions of the goal.

Version one is your “dream” goal. Let’s say that’s $1,000,000 gross. You know you probably won’t hit it but just thinking about it gets you excited and motivated to explore new ideas and increase your activity level.

Version two is your “target” goal, something you know will take significant effort but is not out of reach. If you grossed $500,000 this year, your target goal for next year might be $600,000. You know you will have to work hard to get there but you see that this is something you can probably accomplish without herculean effort.

The third version of your goal is your “minimum”. It’s something you absolutely know you can do without much in the way of extra effort. You keep doing what you’ve been doing, and a little more, and you’re almost certain to get there. Your minimum goal might be $550,000.

Breaking up your goals this way all but ensures that you’ll accomplish one of them. You are thus continually hitting goals, feeling good about it, and inspired to reach higher.

If I apply this to walking, my dream goal is 10,000 steps, 5,000 is my target, and 4,000 is my minimum.

And, yippy skippy, I see I’m already close to hitting my minimum for the day.

What are the three versions of your marketing goals?

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The list’s the thing

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We like lists, don’t we? They help us remember what to do, when, and in what order. They help us do our work, buy our groceries, and remember who was naughty and who was nice.

As you sit down to plan the upcoming year, you might want to add a few more lists to your collection. Here are some examples, along with what you might include on each list:

  1. Daily: Outgoing phone calls, exercise, vitamins, writing in your journal, 15 minutes for marketing, personal development, reading, tidy up desktop
  2. Weekly: Weekly review, staff meeting, writing your newsletter, paying bills
  3. Monthly: Planning, review accounting ledgers, review goals, meetings, review advertising
  4. Quarterly: Board meeting(s), pay estimated taxes, update software, remind clients to conduct board meeting
  5. Yearly: Year-end review, goal setting, planning, sending docs to CPA, physical checkup, Christmas cards, remind clients to review leases

You’ll want to have sub-lists for many of these. For example, a checklist for your weekly review.

If you’re really into lists, you might also consider a list for every morning, every evening, every weekday, or every Saturday.

Put the date and time of the activities on your lists on your calendar. I suggest you maintain the actual lists elsewhere, however, to make it easier to review and update them.

I also suggest you create a “list of lists”. If you keep your lists in Evernote, for example, create a “Table of Contents” note with links to each of your lists. Drag that master list to your “favorites” in the left sidebar for quick access.

Evernote for Lawyers

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Asking questions

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You’re good at asking questions. You do it for a living. Questions help you discover the truth, open and close doors and get a grasp on where to go next with a case or a line of questioning.

Asking questions can also help you clarify your goals and what you’re doing to achieve them.

Look at your calendar and your task list. All of the projects you’re working on, upcoming appointments, meetings, calls, emails, things you have to research, documents you need to prepare. Your day is filled with work and you’re getting most of it done.

Things are good.

You’re bringing in clients, making money, building a future. Don’t stop there. Don’t settle for the status quo. You can always do better.

Make it a habit to ask yourself questions about what you’re doing. Start with the big picture:

How can I earn what I’m earning and work fewer hours?

How can I increase my income without doing more work?

How can I bring in more clients at less expense?

How can I bring in bigger cases or better clients?

Not, “Can I?” but “How can I?” Assume you can.

Cogitate on questions like these. There are answers. You will find them. But only if you ask.

More.

Before you start a new task, ask yourself, Why am I doing this right now? Maybe it can be done later. Maybe someone else can do it. Maybe it doesn’t need to be done at all.

Asking why helps you to prioritize.

That’s “how” and “why”. You should also ask yourself “when” and “what”.

What should I do differently? When would be the best time? What should I add or remove?

Don’t forget “who”. Who should I talk to? Who could help me with this? Who do I know? Who do I want to know?

Ask questions about everything. Perhaps you are in the habit of scheduling new client appointments at a time that’s convenient to the client. Is this the best policy?

I don’t know. Ask more questions. Does accommodating the new client interfere with something else you should be doing? Does it impair your ability to finish things you’ve promised to other clients? Does it send a subliminal message that you’re hungry for business?

Interrogate yourself about who, what, when why, and how. Use your skills to spot the issues. State the arguments, for and against. Yes, I know, you could argue either side and all sides, all day long. You’re good at that, too. But don’t get caught up in that. Make a decision. Take action. See what happens.

Then you can ask more questions.

More questions to help you decide

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Your goals are too big to box with God

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Time flies. Another year-end approaches. Are you on track to reach your goals this year? If not, it may be because your goals are too big or too long term.

There’s nothing wrong with big goals. It’s just that we tend to fixate on the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow and forget about the short-term activities it takes to get there.

When a goal takes months or years to reach, it’s easy to lose sight of what we’re supposed to be doing today. We need to couple our big goals with short-term goals that we can track on a daily basis.

One author says the problem with long(er) term goals is that there’s no sense of urgency. It’s too easy to tell ourselves that we have lots of time before the deadline, and our mantra becomes, “I’ll do it tomorrow”.

Before we know it, days turn into weeks and months and the deadline has come and gone.

His solution is to break up big goals into goals that can be accomplished in seven days.

“If you can’t accomplish it in seven days, the goal is too big. It’s all right to have a big goal on the horizon, but you’ll never get there if you can’t break it down into actionable steps. So ask yourself, “If my massive goal is all the way over there, what do I need to get done this week to move myself in that direction?”

I think most of us manage our lives with a weekly calendar, so breaking things up into weekly goals makes sense. We might not be able to see what a month looks like but next Monday is just around the corner.

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Step back and look at the big picture

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Yesterday, after my walk, I was cooling down in the park, and saw a bird perched near the top of a tree. I watched him move higher until he was sitting on the highest branch where he sat and actively looked around.

I wondered what he was looking at, or for. His mate? Scouting for predators? Searching for food? Or was he just enjoying the view, naturally climbing higher because his instincts told him that this was the safest place?

From his higher perch, he could survey the land and decide where to go and what to do next. I thought this was an apt paradigm for a human life, that is, the value of periodically stopping and looking at the big picture.

We need to get our nose out of books and away from our devices. We need to hang up our phones. We need some time and some distance from our routines so we can assess where we are and where we want to go.

I do a lot of thinking on my walks. But they aren’t long enough to explore much more than my day or my week–what I’m working on now or what I need to do next.

No time to asses what I’ve done this year, or contemplate what I want to do next year or in the years to come.

Maybe a longer walk would help. Maybe a retreat. Or a few days off at a resort (with room service) where I can think and plan.

I know some folks who take a couple of days off every year to decide on their goals for the coming year. It gives them clarity, they say, and allows them to focus, plan and manage their future.

“The Getting Things Done” methodology talks about the need to look at your life from the 50,000-foot level, and all the way down to the “runway” level where we work and live day-to-day. Other methodologies do something similar, having you first determine your long-term vision and then working backward to map out your yearly and then monthly goals, and finally your daily activities.

However you go about it, it comes down to stepping away from the minutia of daily living, to look at the horizon, asses the threats and the opportunities, and decide where to go next.

Make sure you also have a marketing plan

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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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Let me help you achieve your goal

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Think of a goal you would love to accomplish. Something important, perhaps something you have wanted for a long time.

It could be a monetary goal, a weight-loss goal, or anything else that would make a significant difference in your life.

You’ll know it’s a good choice because when you think about the goal, you get excited. You feel a little tug in your gut that makes you say, “This is it; I’m doing this!”

Make sure your goal is S.M.A.R.T. — Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-Based.

It might be a huge stretch but it should be realistic, possible for you to do by the deadline you set.

Got it? Good. Would you like me to help you achieve your goal?

Before you answer, let me tell you the rules.

If you want me to help you, you’ll need to send me an email and describe the goal and the deadline. I’ll hold onto your email and wait to see whether or not you hit the goal.

I’m going to hold you accountable to your goal.

When the deadline date arrives, send me another email and tell me if you hit the goal. (If you don’t email, I will assume you didn’t make it).

If you hit the goal, I will congratulate you. Get excited for you. Do a happy dance for you.

A good time will be had by all.

If you don’t achieve the goal, however, I will tell my entire email list that you didn’t make it.

I’ll tell them your name and city, your goal, the deadline, and your results.

That’s what I mean by holding you accountable.

You’ll either make it and wear a smile all day long, or you won’t and you will suffer the embarrassment of having lawyers all over the world know it.

Yeah, the pressure will be on.

But that’s the point. The pressure will help you to do what you’ve always been able to do but didn’t. It will prevent you from giving up. You’ll do whatever it takes to reach your goal. No excuses, no backtracking. You’ll reach the goal because you must.

In your email to me, make sure you acknowledge your understanding of the rules. Give me permission to hold you accountable and, if you don’t make it, to reveal to my list your full name, city, and your results. If you want me to report your results if you do hit the goal, so that we can all celebrate with you, please state that as well.

Here’s what I predict.

I predict that most people who read this won’t respond. They won’t take the chance. They’ll either keep their goal to themselves or they won’t even bother setting a goal.

I also predict that the few who do respond and ask me to hold them accountable will succeed. They will achieve their goal and be very glad they took the risk.

If you’re not prepared to accept my offer, consider asking someone else to hold you accountable. Accountability is strong medicine. It can make you do things you long for, dream about, but otherwise never accomplish.

If your goal is to get more referrals, this will help

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More about goal setting (and goal getting)

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Last week I talked about breaking up your big, long-term goals into short-term activities. You can’t “do” a goal, you can only do the activities that help you achieve it.

But sometimes, you find yourself intimidated by the immensity of a project and you procrastinate. Or you start but find it taking too long and give up.

If you’ve ever planned to update your website, create a new presentation, or start a new marketing campaign, for example, and found yourself putting these on the back burner, you know what I mean.

The key to doing a big project is to break it up into small tasks.

Let’s say your goal is to write a book. The first step is to break up that goal into a series of mini-goals: brainstorming topics, writing an outline, completing the first draft, and so on. Each mini-goal is less daunting and more doable. As you complete each mini-goal, you take a step closer to achieving the bigger goal.

Okay, you know this. No doubt you do it. You put the big goal at the top of the page and write a list of tasks or mini-goals underneath. But if you’re like most busy professionals, you still may find yourself procrastinating, or starting and abandoning projects.

The solution is to take each of your tasks or mini-goals and break it up into even smaller parts. The smaller the task, the more likely you are to do it.

Instead of a goal to write a 2,000-word chapter, for example, break it up into four 500-word sub-chapters or sections. Writing 500 words on a narrow aspect of the chapter’s subject is much easier than writing an entire chapter. If you know your subject, you can probably write those words in a matter of minutes.

Smaller tasks are easier to start because you can see the finish line. You won’t be as likely to procrastinate when you know you can complete the task in fifteen or twenty minutes.

But here’s something else: Smaller goals allow you to achieve more goals. You don’t have to wait until you finish a chapter to feel good about your progress, you can have that feeling each time you finish a sub-chapter. Each time you do, your brain gives you a shot of endorphin, you feel good and are motivated to write the next section.

Mini-goals also motivate you to continue working when you find yourself getting tired or distracted. You’ll push yourself to write “one more section” because you know it will only take a few more minutes.

This is how you build momentum and get the project done.

Whatever the project or goal, break it up into smaller parts or mini-goals, the smaller the better. When you have a few minutes between appointments, you can check off another mini-goal and take a step closer to accomplishing the big goal.

How to get referrals, step-by-step

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The goal setting conundrum

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So much has been written about goal setting it can make your head hurt.

Many say you should set big goals because they fuel your passion and drive you to reach great heights. Small goals aren’t inspiring, they say. Without big goals, you won’t accomplish big things.

They also point out that if you fall short of achieving your big goal you’ll still be ahead. “Reach for the sun, the moon, and the stars, and you might get the sun and the moon,” they tell us.

But if you’ve ever set big, hairy, audacious goals, and not come close to reaching them, you know there’s something missing in this equation.

Have you ever put up posters with affirmations declaring your big goal, or vision boards resplendent with the goodness that awaits you when you achieve it? It’s exciting at first, but when years go by and you’re not even close to reaching your goal, your goal isn’t inspiring you, it’s doing just the opposite.

What then? Should you set lower, more “realistic” goals? If you aren’t close to a goal of $500,000 per year in income, for example, should you change the goal to $150,000?

No. Don’t lower your goals. That’s no fun at all.

Keep the big goals because they really are inspiring. When you go through a rough spot, your big goals give you a reason to keep going. They remind you that what you’re doing may be hard but it’s worth it.

So what you do?

First, see your big goal for what it really is, a dream, something you’re working to achieve some day. Forget about “when” you will achieve it, or “how”.

You can’t make a dream come true by simply choosing a “due date” for it. Nor is it possible to know how you will make it happen. There are too many variables and unknowns and trying to figure it all out in advance usually leads to anxiety and disappointment.

Instead of “when” and “how,” focus on “what” and “why”.

Think about what you want to be, do, or have, and why this is important to you. Think about how you will feel when you get there, and enjoy that feeling.

By acknowledging what you want and why you want it but remaining flexible about when and how you achieve it, you give emotional power to your dream, allowing it to continue to inspire you, instead of putting soul-crushing pressure on you to make it happen.

But you need something else.

You need to set short-term goals related to the big goal that are likely to move you forward towards achieving it. But whereas your long-term goal is about results, your short-term goals should be about activities.

Again, you can’t predict or control results. You don’t know when (or if) something will happen, or how.

But you can control your activities.

If your long-term goal or dream is to hit the $500, 000 income level, one of your short-term activity goals might be to contact two new prospective referral sources each week. That’s an activity you can control and it is almost certain to increase your income.

Establish a series of small, short-term activity goals that will move you towards your long-term goal. Hitting those goals is how you’ll make your dream come true.

How to find and approach new referral sources

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