Whelmed

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You’re underwhelmed when you have too little to do or a list of nothing but chores and other boring, unrewarding tasks.

Not fun. No way to live.

If that’s you, do something new and challenging. Read a book you don’t normally read, get out of your comfort zone, do something that scares you. Or start working on your new side-business or your book or another adventure.

What’s more common, especially for high achievers and perfectionists like us folk, is being overwhelmed.

We often have too much to do and not enough time to do it. Or we don’t know where to begin. Sometimes we’re paralyzed by indecision. Sometimes we don’t want to do anything.

There are many ways to get out of the funk and back on track. Here are some that work for me:

  1. Do a brain dump. Get everything out of your head and write it down. Everything you can think of that you have to do or remember or decide. Clear your mind of what weighs on it and you’ll feel better, more in control. And, by writing it down, you’re taking action, which helps build momentum towards getting the next thing done.
  2. Schedule it. Go through your list and note anything that has a due date or an important start date and put those on your calendar. More control, more peace of mind.
  3. Tidy up. Do something relatively mindless but useful, like dusting your desk, organizing digital files, or uncluttering drawers and closets. While you’re doing that, your subconscious mind is working on your todo list, figuring out what’s important and the best way to approach it. When you come back from your journey to Marie Kondo Land, you should have some clarity on what to do next.
  4. Choose three. Go back to your list, quickly scan it, and choose no more than three tasks or projects. Put those three on a sticky note or somewhere else you can see them and put everything else out of sight. Work on those three things until you finish them. Progress!
  5. Work on one thing at a time. Single task. I know, it’s difficult to work from home and simultaneously watch your kids, but you have to make space for yourself to do your work. Even one or two hours of uninterrupted quiet time can make a difference.

So, there you have it. A few thoughts on settling your mind and re-establishing control.

AKA, achieving whelment.

How to write a simple marketing plan. Here’s how

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Hit pause and take inventory

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Many people are feeling lost right now, uncertain about their future and what to do about it. Out of desperation, some are considering major career changes, thinking they have no choice but to start over.

If you know someone in that position, you might suggest that they stay put. Remind them that no matter where they are right now, they’re probably in a better position than they’d be in if they started from scratch.

They’ve got skills, experience, contacts, and a reputation. They’ve worked hard to get where they are.

Instead of jumping ship and working on a new career, they might be better off working on themselves.

That’s what Sue Hawkes, founder and CEO of a consulting firm, did when she had hit bottom.

“My life was in a deep, dark hole at age 42. I was living in a friend’s second home, I was working through my divorce, the economy and my businesses were in a shambles. It was 2008 and all areas of my life were challenged. I made a resolution to mentally, physically, spiritually, emotionally, intellectually, and financially intentionally improve myself by the time I was 50 by making long term, consistent and incremental improvements. I learned to say no to anything misaligned with my plan which included: learning to delegate without guilt, prioritizing my time and sticking to it, journaling my gratitude for a positive attitude, surrounding myself with supportive people who are champions of possibility, finding clarity in my purpose and personal values, and giving back to others. Over time, adding these small changes and practicing them changed my focus and my life.”

Sometimes, changing careers is the right decision. Before anyone takes that leap, they consider building on what they already have.

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Work on your strengths

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Tennis champ Roger Federer once said:

“In your professional life, I think it’s far better to be very, very good at one or two things and just marginal at the rest than to be merely good at lots of things.

“Working on your weaknesses makes you a complete player, but you won’t be dangerous anymore. That’s why I work on strengths.”

What are your strengths? What do you do best? Where would you consider yourself an expert?

Whatever it is, if you want to be ‘dangerous,’ continue working on improving your strength.

If you’re good at building rapport with people, for example, if that’s one of your strengths, you should work on mastering that skill.

Practice it. Research it. Study it. And talk to others who share that skill.

You may do this already. But are you totally committed to it?

When you come across information you know relative to your strength, do you dismiss it? Or do you revisit it, think about it and add it to your notes, with comments and links and questions to answer?

When you wake up, do you think about the mundane work tasks for the day, or do you think about what you’ve learned in the books you’re reading or the courses you’re taking that will help you get the extra edge?

Have you scheduled time today, and every day, to work on your skill?

If you want to be world-class, if you want others talking about you, interviewing you, writing profiles about you, and hiring you when there are so many others they could choose, if you want to be the Gerry Spence of your practice area, identify what you’re good at and commit to becoming even better.

Are you good at getting referrals? This will help you get more

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Is THIS the secret to getting everything you want?

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Entrepreneur and author Jennifer Cohen recently gave a TEDx Talk called The Secret to Getting Anything You Want In Life. Her premise: “Boldness is more important than intelligence”.

“Smart people think of all the negative things that can happen when things go wrong,” she said. “But, bold people think of all the good things that will happen when things go right.”

I don’t know if boldness and a positive outlook necessarily correlate but I agree with the idea that intelligent people tend to think about things that can go wrong.

Especially attorneys.

We’re paid to do that, and we’re good at it, but when it comes to managing our career and personal life, it can get in the way.

Starting a new marketing initiative, for example, is more difficult when you focus on all of the things that can go wrong.

Cohen says that boldness is a skill, meaning it can be learned and developed. She often practices that skill in restaurants, asking the server for a meal that’s not on the menu.

Annoying, yes. Like your fussy aunt who repeatedly sends her food back because something isn’t right.

Cohen does this because, “When you’re comfortable asking for the small things in life, it gives you the skills, habits, and confidence to ask for the bigger things.”

Cohen also makes a habit of asking for things she wants ten times. “If you make ten attempts at anything, I guarantee one will be successful,” she says.

I seem to remember my daughter employing this tactic when she was a lass.

I’ve never had a problem asking for things on behalf of a client; if you look up the term “ad nasuem” in the dictionary, you might find my photo. But when it comes to asking for things for myself, I could use some practice.

Maybe I need to eat out more.

How to get more referrals without asking for referrals

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What’s your DMO?

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Many people use the last few days of the year to plan their next year. If you’re among them, one thing you might want to do is create (or update) your DMO.

Your “Daily Method of Operation” is a list of essential recurring tasks, and a process for handling other things that comes your way. Your DMO helps you make progress on your top priorities and minimize distractions and omissions.

Your DMO might include a list of tasks you want to do every day or on certain days of the week, and lay out the order in which you will do them.

It might include a list of tasks for starting your day and another list delineating how you will end it.

At the start of the year, you can only lay out general plans about how you will use your time–the “big rocks” of your day. One of these should be scheduling time to look at your calendar and list of projects so you can plan the bulk of your day.

One thing you’ll discover is that no matter what your DMO includes today it will surely change tomorrow.

And that’s okay.

Because the value of planning your DMO–or anything else–isn’t in the plan, it’s in the planning.

The Attorney Marketing Formula includes a simple but effective marketing plan

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What’s the secret?

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In interviews, Jerry Lewis was routinely asked for the secret to comedy. He would often ask the interviewer to repeat the question.

Before they could finish asking, Lewis would interrupt with the answer: “Timing”.

Which usually got a laugh. Because it was a display of spectacularly bad timing.

Sometimes, he’d go in for seconds. “Okay, ask me again.”

After they repeated the question, Lewis would say nothing. Dead air. Then, after a few beats, he would repeat the answer.

Yes, timing is the key to comedy, and displaying bad timing is not only a great way to make the point, it’s funny.

Sometimes, Lewis would explain the key to developing your timing: lots of practice.

You do your jokes and shtick often enough and your timing improves.

Isn’t that what Jerry Seinfeld said about his process? When he was starting out, he wrote at least one new joke every day. He’d mark an X on a wall calendar each day he did this. Eventually, he had a chain of X’s, leading to his oft-quoted advice, “Don’t break the chain.”

Because that’s how you improve any skill.

The point is that if there’s something you want to improve, a skill or a habit, you practice it. Do it often enough and you get better.

If you write every day, you become a better writer. Faster, too.

If you regularly practice your presentation, your delivery improves.

Practice is the key to improvement in sports, playing an instrument, our work.

And marketing.

If you want to get better at networking, for example, you practice networking skills.

Introducing yourself to a stranger. Building rapport. Finding out what the other person needs or wants so you can find a way to help them.

Telling someone about yourself is another networking skill. It’s also the subject of my latest book, “How to Sell Your Legal Services in 15 Seconds or Less”.

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So simple, so easy to mess up

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Have you ever been interviewed and had the interviewer try to “share the stage” with you, talking too much instead of asking questions?

I have and it’s not good.

When you are invited to be the guest on a podcast or conference call, the host should edify you to their audience. They should present your background, say nice things about you, and make you look every bit like the expert you are.

They should make you look like you walk on water and glow in the dark so their audience will get excited about hearing you.

If they did that and then talk over you or share too much of their own knowledge and experience, they de-edify you.

Why did they invite you if they know what you know?

The host should introduce you, ask questions and let you do most of the talking. They shouldn’t interrupt you or contradict you or do anything that detracts from your image as an expert.

That doesn’t mean they can’t ask some sharp questions. It means they shouldn’t do anything to make you look bad.

Not in that kind of interview, anyway.

Edification is an important skill and it’s not that difficult. Take yourself out of the picture (mostly) and shine the spotlight on your guest.

Edification can also be used when you make a referral to another professional, introduce a guest at your event to another guest or to the speaker, or when you recommend a product or service or resource.

The only place you shouldn’t use it is when you’re talking about yourself.

Marketing is easier when you know The Formula

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The four motorcycle riders of the apocalypse

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Early this morning I heard a very loud motorcycle gunning it down our otherwise quiet residential street.

Why so loud? Doesn’t he know people are still asleep?

I thought his indiscretion might be because

  1. He’s late for work.
  2. Force of habit. He’s always pushed the speed limit and continues to do that without thinking.
  3. He’s a jerk. He likes to ride fast, he wants to show off his expensive toy, and he doesn’t care if it bothers anyone.

Anyway, it made me think about the things lawyers sometimes do that might not serve us, doing things too quickly or habitually or just not thinking about others.

The times we rush through a presentation or a meeting because we’re late for something else. When we rush, we might miss something or leave a bad impression on our audience.

Lesson: slow down, leave enough time.

The way we do the same things we’ve always done the same way we’ve always done them. Conducting a deposition, for example, asking the same questions in the same order, without thinking or listening or paying attention to body language.

Lesson: mix things up, try a fresh approach from time to time.

The way we sometimes talk about ourselves too much instead of letting the other person do most of the talking. Not only do we risk coming off as uncaring, we may not get all the information we need to do a good job for our client.

Lesson: talk less, listen more.

So yeah, that’s what I thought.

But wait, there are four horsemen. That’s only three.

Okay, Sherlock.

I asked my wife if she heard the motorcycle this morning and told her what I was planning to write about. I told her the three reasons I thought the guy was gunning it through our street.

She said, “Or, he needed to give it more gas to get up that hill.”

Yeah, didn’t think about that.

Something else lawyers sometimes do, but shouldn’t: thinking we’ve got it all figured out.

If you know you don’t have it all figured out, here’s what you need

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How would the person I wish to be act today?

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In his newsletter, writer James Clear challenged us to consider this. I think it’s a good question.

It’s a good question because it forces us to think about where we are right now and where we want to go in our personal development.

What skills or habits do we want to acquire or improve? How would we respond to different situations? How would we like to be known?

Not so easy to figure all that out. But important.

It may help to consider people you know or people from history you can use as models.

What were their values or core beliefs? How did they conduct their life? What did they accomplish that you want to do?

You don’t need to accept anyone whole cloth. Take the best of them and ignore the rest.

John F. Kennedy had many faults, for example, but there was also much to admire about him.

The other reason this is a good question is that it forces you to think about your behavior. If you have a meeting or phone call coming up, you can take a moment in advance to see yourself in your mind’s eye acting like the person you wish to become.

Nicer, tougher, or a better listener, for example.

At the end of the day, ask yourself how you did.

Did you behave like the person you wish to become? If not, note what you need to do to correct course.

Who is the person you wish to become? How would he or she act? Did I act that way today?

Good questions for your journal.

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Affirmations don’t work (unless you do this)

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Have you ever used affirmations–to lose weight or increase your income or improve a condition of some kind?

Many people have tried affirmations and nearly everyone has given up when they didn’t work.

Including me.

Years ago, when I first started walking and wanted to lose weight, I used to affirm that I was “thin”. I told myself that, over and over again, because that’s what I wanted.

But, despite all that walking and affirming I didn’t get thin.

Years later, I found out why.

I found out that by affirming something I didn’t believe (that I was thin), all I was doing was perpetuating what I did believe–that I needed to lose weight.

I was telling my subconscious mind, over and over again and with feeling, that I needed to lose weight so it obediently made sure I continued to be overweight.

Because that’s how our minds work.

So now, when I choose an affirmation or a goal, I make sure to choose something I believe.

Things like, “I enjoy walking,” “I like knowing I can take small steps toward improving my health,” “It feels good to know I’m on my way towards being lean and strong and healthy”.

And, this time around, walking has served me well. I’ve lost weight and feel stronger and healthier.

Yeah, this is a bit airy-fairy, but why not give it a try? What have you got to lose (besides some unweighted weight)?

Choose something you want and believe and affirm it or journal about it or meditate on it, and let your subconscious mind do what it does best.

I just got back from my walk and thought I’d tell you.

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