Maybe you don’t need more time

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You have goals but can’t seem to find time to do the things you need to do to accomplish them.

You’re busy. And there aren’t enough hours in the day.

You could hire more people. Which might be the best solution. But if you don’t want to do that, what then?

You don’t need a longer day, three hands, or a second brain. What you need is to reallocate some of the time you currently spend.

That means cutting back on some things, or eliminating them, to make room for others.

Think about it, if you had an “extra” hour each day, you could do more things that are aligned with your goals, couldn’t you?

Well, this is how you find that hour.

First, make a list of things you need to do to accomplish your goals but aren’t doing enough of or doing at all.

Second, take inventory of how you currently spend your time. Include everything—client work, admin, family time, alone time, commuting, exercising–write down how you spend your day or week.

Third, choose a number—the amount of time you would like to reallocate from your current schedule towards working on your unfulfilled goals. An hour a day, two hours a week, whatever. (It’s just a number and you can change it later, but you need a place to start.)

Fourth, go through your list of how you currently spend your time and ask yourself, “What am I willing to give up or cut down?” Or, “What am I willing to delegate?”

This is where the proverbial rubber hits the proverbial road.

You might decide to cut down on watching sports, playing games, or scrolling through social media. Or limit yourself to 15 minutes a day instead of an hour.

You might decide to withdraw from the class you’re taking (or teaching), outsource some of the things you now do in-house, or eliminate some of your practice areas that take up more time than they’re worth.

This may be difficult. There may be things you don’t want to give up. That’s your call. But before you make that call, think about your goal and ask yourself, “How bad to do I want it?”

If it is a priority, you find a way to do it. You put on your big boy pants and do what needs to be done.

By the way, if you need money to finance your goals, you should do the same exercise.

How much do you need? How much do you currently spend on other things that you could eliminate or curtail? (Don’t borrow if you can find the money by cutting down on some of your current expenses).

Whether it’s time or money, it all comes down to math.

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A better way to prioritize your day

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If you’re like most people, you plan your day by first looking at your calendar. You note upcoming meetings, appearances, and appointments and see how much time you have between these to do everything else.

It makes sense, doesn’t it? The problems is, when you prioritize your time this way, you might not have enough time or energy to do other things you need to do.

I’m talking about highly leveraged tasks and projects that help you achieve your most important goals. The kinds of things that often require your complete focus but don’t get it because you’re too busy in meetings and taking care of what the day puts in front of you, and too tired afterwards.

So I want to suggest a slight change regarding how you prioritize your time. As you make your schedule, schedule your most valuable tasks first.

This is the philosophy behind “time blocking”. Scheduling blocks of time on your calendar for your most important tasks, to make sure you don’t use that time for anything else.

It’s a philosophy that says, “I’m going to schedule (and do) my most valuable tasks first, and if I have time left, I’ll schedule appointments and meetings.“

But you don’t have to time-block or work off a strict schedule to do this. You can accomplish the same thing by working from a list with your most important tasks at the top or flagged or tagged to show their priority.

Wouldn’t it be nice to show up at meetings knowing you’ve already completed your top priorities for the day?

The first step is to decide what is most important to you. What you want to be, do, or have.

The second step is to figure out what you need to do to be, do, or have that and put that on your calendar or list.

If your top priority is to bring in more clients and more income, work on that first. This will help.

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Would you like some paper to go with that pen?

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You have something you want but you’re not doing anything to get it.

You’re not ready. You’re busy with other things. You need to do more research.

Maybe someday. . .

Or maybe right now.

If you have a goal or a dream or something you want, don’t wait until everything is just right. Do something. Take the first step.

Even if it’s tiny.

I’ll tell you why.

Yes, clearly you can’t accomplish a goal without taking the first step, but why now? Why take action before you’re ready?

Because when you do, your brain sees that “this” is something you want and goes to work to help you get it.

It gives you ideas and methods and tells you things you need to know.

Your brain sees that you did something, believes you want something, and helps you take the next step to get it.

It works like Amazon does when you buy something. It might only be a pen, but the algorithm sees this and starts sending you ads for paper.

Your subconscious mind does the same thing, but is much more powerful because it knows everything about you, not just what you recently bought (or put in your cart).

What’s your goal? What do you want to do ‘someday’?

Ask your brain to help you get it by taking that first tiny step.

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You have a goal? Good. Now forget about it

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You have a goal for this year. Nice. I hope it puts a big smile on your face when you think about it.

Now, stop thinking about it.

The goal has served its purpose. It caused you to decide what you want and inspired you to start the journey towards achieving it.

But that goal won’t help you get it.

What will? Activity or process goals. Goals that reflect and measure what you will do to achieve your outcome goals.

Focus on “the work”. That’s what you should think about and track.

Focus on making the calls, writing the articles, sending the emails.

Focus on talking to your best clients and referral sources and reaching out to new people you’d like to work with.

Focus on improving your website, getting more traffic, and building your list.

Set goals for each activity and be specific.

What will you do today and tomorrow, next week and next month? How many? How often?

Your big goal may be to bring in a new case or client every week. Fine. How many clients or contacts will you call each day? How many words will you write each week? How much will you invest in ads? How many bloggers or podcasters will you contact? How many people will you invite to your presentation?

What will you do, and when will you do it? How much, how often?

Your process goals don’t need to be massive. You can make a lot of progress in 15 or 30 minutes a day. But you have to be consistent, so set daily and weekly process goals you know you can do—and do them.

Every day, every week.

You know what you want. You know what you will do to get it.

Get excited. And then get busy.

Just starting your marketing journey? Start with this

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The first (and only) rule of prioritization

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You’ve got a lot of options. Goals, plans, ideas, things to do. And you want to prioritize them so you know what to focus on.

But you can’t prioritize a list of options. You can only have one priority.

One project, one goal, one thing you decide is most important to you right now.

Everything else? Not your priority. Everything else has to wait.

Many people understand this conceptually, but don’t do it. They work on too many things in parallel and disperse their energy in too many directions. They usually take longer to finish things this way and are more likely to get poorer results.

Imagine if you worked on only one thing at a time and gave it all of your brain power and physical energy. “I’m doing THIS,” you say, you get to work on it and continue until you finish.

Think about how liberating and empowering this would be, and how good it would feel to focus on “Plan A” and not even think about “Plan B”.

Yes, you have other obligations, other things you need to do in the course of your day. You can’t spend all your time on your priority.

No. But you can commit to never letting a day go by without doing something related to your priority. And it if you have chosen the right priority, you will.

If building a successful law practice is your priority, you will work on marketing every day

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You’ve got a friend

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You can’t seem to keep up your blog or newsletter. Your marketing efforts have fallen by the wayside. You stopped writing your book months ago. The only exercise you get these days is jumping to conclusions. . .

You could hire someone to coach you and check in with you, to hold you accountable and keep you on track. Or you could call a friend and ask for help.

Cue music:

When you’re down and troubled and you need a helping hand. . .

Find a friend who is similarly situated and become workout partners.

Share your goals with someone—another lawyer, a business contact, writer, or anyone else who wants and needs someone to hold them accountable. Set up a time to check in with each other, once or twice a week, find out what each of you did that week, and what each of you is committed to doing in the coming week.

It’s motivating to talk with someone who is on the same or a similar journey. You can encourage each other, provide suggestions, and celebrate each other’s victories.

Sometimes, all you need is to hear someone else say ‘well done’.

And, knowing you have someone to report to, can do wonders for lighting a fire under you. You don’t want to disappoint them or embarrass yourself, so you get to work when you otherwise might say, “I’ll start next month”.

If you don’t have anyone to partner up with, search online (social media, blog comments, YouTube, Flakebook groups). Search for “accountability partner,” “workout partner,” or “work with me, write with me, study with me”.

Or, if you want to work with another lawyer, post a comment under this post.

Try out each other for a week and see how it goes. If it doesn’t work for both of you, don’t fret. There are plenty of other fish in the accountability ocean.

And, if you want to pay someone to hold you accountable. . . let me know.

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Keys to effective goal setting

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Despite all that has been written about the importance of goal setting and how to do it properly, many people get it wrong. For a long time, I was one of those people.

When you follow “the rules” and are continually frustrated with your results, its easy to think, “Why bother?” and give up. Which is what I did.

Eventually, I figured out why my goals weren’t working for me and made some changes. Those changes made a world of difference and I offer them to you:

  1. Set behavior goals, not outcome goals

It’s fun think about all of the goodness that awaits us once we achieve our goals, and it’s okay to do that. It’s okay to dream. But while dreams might point us in the right direction, they don’t help us to get where we want to go.

That’s because we can’t control our results. We can only control our behavior.

You can’t control how many clients will hire you or how much they will pay you, no matter how much effort you put into marketing. You can only control what you do.

So, set goals based on your activity–the actions you will take and how often you will take them.

Instead of goals based on increased income or how many new clients you’ll bring in, for example, set goals on:

  • The number of articles, presentations, or episodes you will create
  • How often you will email your list
  • How many introductory calls or emails to professionals you want to connect with
  • How many “touching base” emails you will send to former clients

When you build goals based on your own behavior, you have nearly complete control over those goals.

  1. Not too hot, not too cold

We like to think big, don’t we? We often set goals that are too big for us to handle.

If you find yourself regularly skipping days or weeks, postponing scheduled activities, or failing to put a check mark in the done column, you’ve probably chosen an activity goal that’s too big (or otherwise not right for you).

Your goals should be doable. A stretch, just out of reach, but not so difficult you almost never reach them.

But don’t go the other direction and set goals that are too small. That’s fine when you’re getting started and want to create the habit, but eventually, you need goals that allow you to make significant progress.

  1. Short-term is better than long-term

One year goals are too far down the road to be meaningful. Choose goals for the next 90 days or less.

What are your goals for this month or this week? What is your goal for today?

We live and function in the present. Day to day, week to week. That’s when we “do”. Long-term goals are dreams and we tend to romanticize them. Short-term goals are action-oriented. We either do them or we do not and you know this almost immediately and can correct course if you need to.

  1. Simple is better

The best plans for reaching your goals are short and simple. One page, one index card, one sentence on your daily calendar.

If your plan is complicated, you’ll spend too much time tinkering with it, or making excuses for why you’re not ready. You need to do more research, check out another resource, re-write or re-record one section.

Been there. Done that.

If your plan is simple, you can’t hide behind it and you’ll be more likely to take action.

At least that’s the plan.

How to make your phone ring

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The game is afoot

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One way to get more work done, especially work you aren’t otherwise inspired to do, is to make a game of it.

Jerry Seinfeld was said to have done this early in his career when he promised himself he would write at least one new joke each day.

Although he later disputed the details, he was said to make a game of it making a big X on his wall calendar for each day he met the goal. Eventually, he had a long chain of consecutive X’s, giving rise to the expression, “Don’t break the chain.”

The prize for winning this game? A massively successful career.

You can gamify your work with “achievement” goals, e.g., winning the case, signing up 5 new clients this month, or earning $500,000 this year.

You can also do it with “activity” goals, e.g., emailing 5 former clients a day for 90 days, writing one blog post each week for 12 consecutive weeks, or calling 3 professionals in your niche each week for a month.

Achievement goals provide their own reward. You won the case or signed up the clients. Be proud and enjoy the additional income.

Activity goals are a means to an end. Making those calls will eventually bring in more business. In the short term, you can also reward yourself for reaching them by taking some time off, buying something you have your eye on, or treating yourself to a steak dinner.

You can increase the odds of hitting your goal by competing with a friend, partner, or professional contact, to see who can reach the goal.

You can also increase your odds by making your goal public: mentioning it in your newsletter or on social media or telling your friends and asking them to hold you accountable.

Your goal might involve quantity (how much, how many), quality (5-star reviews, six-figure settlements), speed (getting it done by a certain date), or a combination.

Making a game of a goal can help you:

  • Overcome procrastination
  • Get more done
  • Get better results
  • Gain bragging rights
  • Challenge yourself
  • Have fun with your work

And don’t forget the streak dinner you promised yourself for reaching your goal, or, even better, the steak dinner your partner pays for when you reach the goal before she does.

Marketing legal services made simple

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The perfect time management system

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If you ever find yourself driven by the need to get organized, if you continually try new techniques or apps only to abandon them in favor of something else, if you are on a never ending quest to find the perfect time management system, stop.

Just stop.

Many productive, happy people don’t use a system.

The have a calendar. They write down what they need to do for the day. They have files they can turn to when they need something. And. . . that’s about it.

They don’t make elaborate lists with tags and contexts for every task. They don’t use digital reminders. A post it note is more than enough.

They don’t set goals or write detailed plans. They don’t make ‘New Year’s Resolutions’. They know what they want and spend their time taking action.

And their “system” works.

They don’t forget things. They never worry about having too much to do, or stress out about what they haven’t done.

Their system works because they trust their subconscious mind to know what they want and show them what to do to get it.

I know, you’re life is complicated and you want more. You can still use your favorite tools and techniques. Just don’t obsess over them, or spend so much time tweaking them that you don’t have time for anything else.

The new year is upon us. It’s a good time to re-think your system. Get rid of things that aren’t necessary or don’t serve you and simplify everything else.

You might want to start over. Pretend you have no system. One by one, add back things that work.

And ignore the rest.

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How bad do you want it?

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Of all the reasons there are for not achieving a goal, the biggest reason, it seems, is not wanting it enough.

According to research, when you are excited about a goal, the structure of your brain literally changes to help you achieve it. Your brain causes you to see obstacles as less potent, making them less likely to stop you.

Desire is the most important factor in goal achievement.

But not the only one.

According to studies reported in the Psychological Bulletin, the more difficult the goal, the better we tend to perform:

In 90% of the studies, specific and challenging goals led to higher performance than easy goals, “do your best” goals, or no goals. Goals affect performance by directing attention, mobilizing effort, increasing persistence, and motivating strategy development. Goal setting is most likely to improve task performance when the goals are specific and sufficiently challenging.

A paradox? On the one hand, we’re told that strong desire causes us to downgrade the potency of obstacles, making it more likely we will achieve the goal; on the other hand, we’re told that the more obstacles there are, ie., the more challenging the goal, the more likely we are to achieve it.

I’m not sure what to make of this.

All I know is, the more excited I am about a goal, the more likely I am to keep working on it until I achieve it.

And when I’m not excited about a goal, it doesn’t take much for me to lose interest, slow down, or abandon it.

I also know that I like (and stick with) goals that are not too difficult or too easy.

I guess we could call this the Goldilocks approach to goal setting.

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