How I prioritize my day

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In the past, before I knew any better, I allowed my client work to dictate my schedule. Unless I had a court appearance, an appointment or a hearing to prepare for, my day consisted of starting at the top of the stack of files on my desk and trying to get through as much of it as possible before it was time to go home. 

As my secretary took calls and did the work I had assigned her, she would replenish the stack of files. When the phone rang, when the mail or a delivery arrived, that work got added to the mix.

I got a lot done but every day was chaotic and stressful and every day I went home exhausted. My big projects, therefore,  usually resided on the back burner.   

Today, I prioritize work differently. I do my best to follow two simple rules.

1. Instead of trying to get everything done, I focus on getting the most important thing(s) done;

2. I try to do the most important thing(s) first. 

The most important things are tasks and projects that provide me with the most value. In productivity parlance, they are my “big rocks” and big rocks go in first. (If you’re unfamiliar with the concept, watch this video.)

If I was still practicing, my big rocks would include things that provide my clients with the most value because that usually provides me with the most value.

I don’t always start with the most important work. Urgent matters crop up. Sometimes, I haven’t allowed enough time to finish something that’s due and I have to fit that in. And sometimes, I like to take care of a bunch of small things first, to get them out of the way and free up more time to work on a big project. 

But generally speaking, I prioritize my day by focusing on quality, not quantity. 

If want to do this, start by figuring out what quality means to you, not just at work but in other aspects of your life. If time with your family is important to you, for example, add this “big rock” to your schedule before you schedule anything else.

Because big rocks go in first.

Have you seen my referral marketing course?

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Taking inventory

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If you want to make this year better than last year, a good place to start is by taking inventory. 

What do you have in terms of cases or clients, relationships, and hard assets? 

Go through your calendar and apps and note how you spent your time. Similarly, go through your financial apps and note how you spent your money. 

As you examine last year, write down the positive experiences–victories, successful projects, good decisions, areas of growth.

Also write down the negative experiences–mistakes, failed projects, unresolved problems, unrealized plans. 

What did you do well? What can you improve?

As you do this, consider the people in your life. With whom did you associate most? What value did they bring you? How might your relationships be improved? Is there anyone you need to spend less time with or remove completely from your life?

Finally, go through your notes and write down the opportunities you see for this year. Projects, new habits or relationships, areas for improvement. 

To create your future, examine your past and learn from it. 

But don’t dwell on it. 

Don’t beat yourself up for your mistakes or missed opportunities, but don’t rest on your victories, either. 

The past is prologue. Use it to write your future.

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Why is this night different from other nights?

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And by “night” I mean year. Why will the upcoming year be different from the current one?

Look at your list. What important goal or project did you fail to accomplish this year?

Assuming you still want to achieve that goal, what will you do differently next year?

You can’t do the same things the same way. You can’t just work harder. You have to change your methods or approach.

Einstein said the definition of insanity is doing the same things over and over again and expecting a different result.

So, what will it be?

If you never started the project, why not? What got in the way? What will you do differently to ensure that you take the first step?

If you ran out of ideas, money, or time, what will you do to make sure that doesn’t happen again?

If you gave the project your best effort but it wasn’t enough, what will you do to improve your skills, resources, or process?

Think.

You need a new plan.

Don’t take action until you know why next year will be different.

This will help you create a new plan

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Instead of setting goals next year, I’m doing this

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I know you’re ready to think about your goals for next year. Ready to put pen to paper, chisel to stone. 

Before you do that, think about the goals you had for the current year. 

How’d you do?

If you’re like me, you missed a lot of things and you’re not happy about it. You set big goals because you want to accomplish big things, but you’re tired of falling short. 

It’s discouraging. It makes you want to lower your goals, or do away with them completely.

Don’t do that. You need goals. You need to have a place you want to go.

Robert Heinlein said, “In the absence of clearly-defined goals, we become strangely loyal to performing daily trivia until ultimately we become enslaved by it.”

I agree. But next year I’m going to do something a little different.

I’m going to call them “projects” instead of goals. 

Projects don’t define us the way our goals (and “life’s purpose” or “long-term vision”) do. If we don’t meet a project’s objectives, we adjust and carry on. Or we move the project from “active” to “inactive” or “pending”.

We’re in charge of our projects, unlike goals which seem to be in charge of us. 

Projects? Goals? Yes, these are just words, but words frame our thoughts and infuse them with emotions that attach to those words. 

So, no goals next year. Just projects. 

I can’t wait to see how they turn out.  

Plan your marketing with this

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What’s the big idea?

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Think big. Act small. That’s the ticket to success.

Thinking big means setting big goals and finding big ideas to achieve them.

If you want to triple your income in the next 12-18 months, you can’t rely on small ideas to help you get there. You need big, hairy, audacious ideas. Things you’ve never done before.  Things that simultaneously excite you and scare the hell out of you.

Here’s a test to see if you have a good candidate: when you share your idea with someone who cares about you, they either laugh at it or try to talk you out of it. Or both.

(They do this because (a) they don’t want to see you get hurt, or, (b) they don’t want to see you succeed, because your success diminishes them.)

Big goal. Check. Big idea. Check. Now what?

Now you execute. You do the little tasks that advance your idea and move you towards your goal.

We live our lives minute to minute, day to day. The little things we do each minute create momentum towards our goals. It’s the only way we can get there.

You can’t triple your income in the next few minutes but you can do something that moves you forward.

Think big, act small. That’s how you get where you want to go.

What’s your big goal? What’s your big idea? What will you do in the next two minutes?

You can triple your income by bringing in more referrals

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Why you didn’t win $1.6 billion in the lottery

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You have a goal. You want to earn $100,000 per month. You phrase the goal in the present tense, as though it has already occurred. “I’m earning a net income of $100,000 per month from my law practice.”

You state your goal as an affirmation. You repeat it often, with feeling, and imagine yourself earning that income.

Since “your subconscious mind can’t tell the difference between what is real and what is imagined,” it will help you achieve your goal, right?

Not so fast.

It’s true that the subconscious mind can’t tell the difference between real and imagined thoughts. It is like a child; it accepts whatever it is told and acts on it, without question.

Many experiments have proven this.

In one experiment, a high school basketball team was asked to shoot free throws and their results were recorded. The team was then divided into two groups. One group practiced shooting free throws; the other group didn’t practice but spent the time imagining themselves shooting (and making) free throws.

After a few weeks, the two groups were tested again. The group that practiced improved their free throw percentages by 28%. The second group, the one that didn’t actually practice, improved their free throw percentage by 25%.

So, why can’t you achieve your earning goal by imagining it?

Because you know it’s not true.

And every time you imagine it or state it as an affirmation, you’re affirming that it isn’t true. You keep reminding your inner child that you’re not earning $100,000 per month, ensuring that you continue to not earn $100,000 per month.

When you focus on what you don’t have, you get more of “not having” it.

The answer is to imagine and affirm something that is either true or believable and consistent with achieving the goal.

Instead of affirming that you’re earning $100k per month, for example, affirm that you are “investing 15 minutes a day to learn how to get better at marketing”.

If that’s true, your subconscious mind will help you get better at marketing. Later, you can choose another affirmation that will help you take things to the next level.

On the other hand, someone just won $1.6 billion and probably didn’t believe it was possible. So what the hell do I know?

 

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You’re not thinking big enough

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Time to start thinking about next year. Setting goals, making plans.

How much would you like to grow your practice and income? Ten percent? Twenty? Twenty-five?

You’re not thinking big enough.

Do yourself a favor and choose a bigger goal. A much bigger goal, such as growing your practice and income by 250%.

Crazy? Impossible? Not going to happen?

For just a minute, stop thinking like a lawyer and hear me out.

There are two reasons for choosing bigger goals.

The first reason is that when you set a target of 25% growth, you tend to focus on doing things that can bring incremental growth–better execution, new ways to do what you’re already doing well, fixing things that are holding you back.

That’s okay but if you fall short, you might achieve only 5 or ten percent growth. When you shoot for 250% growth and you fall short, you might “only” double your income.

Which leads to the second reason.

Setting a big, audacious, crazy goal of increasing your income by 250% forces you to do things that are radically different than what you’re doing now.

You can’t simply do things better, you have to do better things.

You’re forced to get creative, think outside the box, and take massive action because that’s the only way you’re going to hit your target. Small, incremental goals don’t have the power to inspire you to do that.

So ask yourself, “How can I grow my income 250% next year?” And get excited because things are going to change for you.

Because while your conscious mind is telling you it can’t be done, your subconscious mind is looking for ways to make it happen.

Thinking outside the box about getting more referrals

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Measure What Matters: a different take on goals setting

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If you’re looking for a new take on goal setting (and achieving), take a look at the book, Measure What Matters, by John Doerr. I just read a synopsis and was intrigued by the way his system has you choose and monitor key metrics to keep you moving toward your goal.

His O.K.R. (Objective, Key Results) Goal Setting System has three key ingredients:

(1) An Audacious Objective. Set big goals that inspire you but that aren’t so big that you don’t believe you can achieve them.

(2) Quality and Quantity Key Results. Choose 3-5 metrics (e.g., revenue, new clients, referrals, new subscribers, etc.) that allow you to measure progress towards your goal.

Metrics should be quantitative, e.g., 100 new newsletter subscribers per month, and qualitative, e.g., from search terms like ‘divorce attorneys Orange County’–so you’re getting subscribers who are searching for an attorney to hire, not just looking for free information.

(3) Color-Coded Check-ins. Each week, month, or quarter, look at each of your key results and label them green, yellow or red.

GREEN: indicates you are 70 to 100% on target. Continue doing what you’re doing.
YELLOW: you are 30-70% on target. In this case, you should develop a “recovery plan,” to get back on target.
RED: you are 0 to 30% on target. Create a recovery plan or replace the key result with something different.

Doerr says that if one of your key results are almost always green, however, meaning you’re nearly 100% on target most of the time, your goals or the key results metrics aren’t challenging enough and you should adjust them to get a mix of green and yellow.

I like this system because it forces you to choose appropriate metrics, helps you monitor your progress, and allows you to change what you’re doing when you’re either not hitting your target or you’re hitting it too often.

How to get more subscribers for your newsletter

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What were you doing one year ago?

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Author and artist Karen Lamb said, “A year from now you may wish you had started today.”

So true.

A year goes by in about ten minutes. A year ago we were making big plans and setting big goals and here we are, one year later, having done nothing about them.

News flash: we’re not going to live forever. We need to get on with things before it’s too late and we shuffle off to the big after-party in the sky.

How can we do that? How can we accomplish more of our goals?

One way is to have fewer goals. Sure, make a long “someday” list but in the short term, pick a few things that matter most.

How about this: pick one thing you’d like to be, do, or have one year from now. Something exciting. Something you could start today and make happen in the next twelve months or less.

Make it something good. Something that makes you all tingly inside when you think about it.

Got something? Good. That feeling will help you to get started and keep going when you get distracted by other things.

But it may not be enough.

You’ve been down this path before. You had exciting plans last year and, well, here you are.

Why should this year be different?

Okay, here’s what you need to do. Instead of relying merely on your desire for gain, as exciting as it is, a fear of losing what you want is more powerful.

You imagine having it. You want it. It’s yours. And then it’s not.

Imagine it’s one year from now and you don’t have it. You’re not even close. You haven’t even started.

How does it feel to realize that you let another year go by and did nothing?

Disappointed? Sad? Angry?

Get in touch with THAT feeling. It will help you to make this year different.

Transform your practice by getting more referrals

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Plan, do, review redux

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Success means different things to different people. And the definition changes. Your goals from three years ago might be very different today.

So today, review your goals and plans, to make sure you’re going where you want to go and you’re on track to getting there.

Here are some questions to ask:

  1. RESULTS: What does success look like for me? Imagine things five or ten years from now. What are you doing? Who are you doing it with? Big firm or small? How many clients? What type of cases? How much money? How much time?
  2. SKILLS: In order to achieve the results I want, what skills do I need to acquire or improve? Which tools do I need to acquire, upgrade or master? What books should I read? How should I continue my education?
  3. NICHES: Which niche markets should I target? What does my ideal client look like? What kinds of referral sources would be a good fit? What can I do to dominate my niche(s)?
  4. PEOPLE: What kinds of people should I associate with? Who do I want to meet, model, and work with? Who should I spend less time with?
  5. HABITS: What should I do more often? What should I stop doing or curtail? Which new habits should I acquire? How can I do them more consistently?
  6. SYSTEMS: What processes should I implement into my workflow? What checklists, forms, templates, and methods should I develop or adopt? How should I manage and track my tasks, projects, and goals?

Answering these questions will help you create a plan. Answering these questions again, at least annually, will help you evaluate your progress, correct course, and get where you want to go.

This will help you choose your niche market and ideal client

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