Breakage

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Retail stores allocate a percentage of their revenue for breakage, to cover losses due to damaged, defective, or stolen inventory.

They also use it as a warning signal. If they allow 2% for breakage, for example, and they have a month or a quarter with 3% breakage, they know they have a problem with something (or someone) and can look into it.

Lawyers should also have a breakage fund. Your accountant may have already set this up for you under “contingencies”.

Contingencies cover uninsured losses: claims, deductibles, lost deposits, bad checks, embezzlement, write-offs, and so on.

If you don’t already have this, consider it. Allocate, say, 1% of your net revenue, to cover contingencies. Deposit the money in a separate account, to prevent yourself from dipping into it.

If you sustain a loss, you’re covered. If you don’t, you can move the funds into savings or another account.

There’s another type of contingency fund you might consider.

Call it a “mad money” account. Or a “don’t worry so much” account.

You can use it to buy the deluxe version of something you want when you can only justify the basic version.

You can use it to buy things you want but don’t need.

You can use it to cover a loss when you buy something you never use or that breaks and can’t be returned.

Without guilt. Without giving it a second thought.

If you’re the type that beats yourself up when you make a mistake, this might be for you. If you’re typically tight-fisted about your budget, this might be for you.

Put $100 a month or $200 a month or $500 a month into a “I don’t care” account and use it to cover mistakes, flings, extravagances, and losses.

Take some chances. Live a little. Don’t worry so much about mistakes.

Breakage happens. But now, you’ve got it covered.

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How to finish what you start

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You know that business project you started last year and never finished? That great idea that had the potential to multiply your income or significantly change your life?

Yeah, me too.

We’re good at coming up with ideas and starting things, aren’t we? Why aren’t we good at finishing them?

Lots of reasons. Fear is a biggie.

But rather than psychoanalyze ourselves, we’re better served figuring out what to do about it.

How can we finish more of the things we start?

One of the best solutions I’ve found is to make sure you have some skin in the game.

Put your reputation or your money on the line so that you are compelled to finish. Let fear work for you instead of against you.

Investing a lot of money into a goal creates an emotional commitment to the goal. Your fear of losing your investment will push you to see it through.

Sign up for a class and get someone to take it with you. They’ll hold you accountable to show up when you might otherwise find excuses to quit.

Announce your project to your email list, friends, or colleagues, and promise to provide regular updates. When you find yourself slacking off, you’ll remember that you’re going to have to explain yourself and pick up the pace.

Projects are easy to start and just as easy to abandon. As Jim Rohn put it, “What’s easy to do is also easy to not do”.

Get some skin in the game and make it not so easy to not do.

A simple way to get a lot more referrals

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What successful people do with their time

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I just read an article about time and how we use it. “Unsuccessful people spend time,” the author said. “Successful people invest time.

“Spending time means consuming it by watching TV, playing games, hanging out with friends. That much is clear. What is not as clear, and wasn’t addressed by the author, is the idea that we also consume time when we do our work.

Meeting with clients, drafting documents, arguing motions, and everything else that defines being a practicing lawyer consumes time. Yes, we earn income when we do that but, by and large, that’s all we earn. It’s an equal exchange–our time (and work product) for money.

Investing time is different.

Investing time means doing things that can provide a bigger return relative to the time invested. Building relationships with influential people is a good example.

What is the value to you of a new referral source or business contact who provides information or leads, sends traffic to your website or introduces you to influential leaders?

Incalculable.

Investing time also means doing activities that build key skills and knowledge. Improving trial skills, speaking skills, networking skills, and sales skills, for example, can provide you with value far beyond the time you invest in acquiring those skills.

But it’s not just the increased value we derive by investing in people and skills. It’s that the value we get compounds.

One relationship leads to two. Two leads to ten. Improved marketing skills bring you new clients, repeat clients, and higher paying clients. It can quadruple your income in a short period of time, as it did for me.

How much of your valuable time do you spend each week? How much do you invest?

The answer will predict your future.

How much time do you invest in learning how to bring in more referrals?

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Screw motivation

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You don’t feel like calling that client, writing that article, or researching that motion.

So what?

You don’t need to “feel” like doing anything to do it. You just do it.

You do it because you have to. Because bad things will happen if you don’t. Because as Steven Pressfield writes in The War of Art, “At some point, the pain of not doing it becomes greater than the pain of doing it.”

Ah, but what about all the optional stuff? The things you need to do to accomplish your goals that don’t have immediate negative consequences if you don’t do them?

Like marketing.

You know you have to do it because if you don’t, your income will shrink or you won’t achieve the goals you (say you) want. But you still procrastinate.

The answer–the way you get things done without motivation–is to establish systems and habits that align with getting those things done.

When you schedule 15 minutes a day on your calendar for marketing (or whatever) and commit to it, you will see progress. Even if you don’t feel like making the calls or scratching out the words, you’ll do it because the alternative is to sit quietly, thinking about what you’re not doing.

(Note, if 15 minutes is still too much for you to handle, start with 5 or ten.)

Checklists can play a part in your systems. It’s easier to do something you don’t want to do when you have a pre-determined sequence in front of you that leads off with easy tasks that help you start.

Breaking up tasks into bite-sized pieces can help. Ten minutes of assembling and organizing your notes and ideas (while you’re watching the game) will make it easier to take the next step.

Ask yourself, “What could I do to help me get [whatever] done?” Would coming in an hour early twice a week help? Would hiring someone to do the most difficult or disagreeable parts help?

There are answers. You can get things done without motivation. But only if you have enough internal motivation to do it.

15 minutes a day can help you get more referrals

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A daily habit for people who think too much

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My wife and I are talking about getting a new car. We’re considering a hybrid, talking about features, costs, and gas mileage. My wife asks me a question. “I think better on paper,” I tell her, and reach for a pad and pen.

By writing things down, I see things more clearly. I can weigh the pros and cons, do the math, and figure out what I think. That’s harder to do when everything is still in my head.

Author Joan Didion said, “I write entirely to find out what I’m thinking, what I’m looking at, what I see and what it means. What I want and what I fear.”

Yeah, me too.

While back, I talked to you about “keystone habits,” positive habits that have a ripple effect on other areas of your life. Regular exercise, for example, doesn’t just improve your physical health, it can improve mental well-being, give you more self-confidence and more self-discipline to develop other positive habits.

Journaling is another keystone habit. It can help you see what you think, work through problems, explore ideas, and clarify priorities. Benjamin Franklin kept a journal. So did Mark Twain, Thomas Edison, and many other great thinkers.

Take five minutes a day and write something in a journal. It might not make you a great thinker but it can help you figure out what you think, what you’re looking at, and what it means.

Earn more, work less. Start here

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Keystone habits for the win

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Charles Duhigg, author of “The Power of Habit,” talked about “keystone habits”. These are habits that tend to lead to other good habits and behaviors.

Exercise is an example of a keystone habit. Duhigg said,

“Typically, people who exercise start eating better and becoming more productive at work. They smoke less and show more patience with colleagues and family. They use their credit cards less frequently and say they feel less stressed. Exercise is a keystone habit that triggers widespread change.”

Other keystone habits might include meditation or prayer, reading personal development books for 30 minutes daily, writing in a journal, getting more sleep or learning a new skill.

Marketing is a keystone habit. Writing a weekly email to your clients and prospects, for example, can not only bring in more business, it can also improve your presentations, help you develop more content (and better content) for your website, and improve your conversational skills.

You don’t have to change every habit to achieve your goals. Focus on developing a few keystone habits that will allow you to create a wave of successful outcomes in your work or personal life.

Start by identifying one keystone habit and working on it every day. If you’ve chosen well, one small change in what you do or how you do it can cause a trickle-down effect and generate a plethora of positive outcomes.

Keystone habit: teaching clients how to identify your ideal client and refer them

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Deciding what to do first

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Yesterday, I said that when you feel overwhelmed with too much to do you should make a big list of everything and then choose (no more than) three things.

But how do you choose?

Do you select something that’s urgent? Important? Easy? Challenging? Enjoyable? Do you choose something at random just to get moving?

There’s no right or wrong answer.

One thing you could do is go through the list and for each item, ask yourself, “What’s the worst that could happen if I DON’T accomplish this today?” No doubt you’ll realize that most of the things on your list can wait but you still may be no closer to choosing.

One question that’s helped me choose is the one posed by Gary Keller in his book, The One Thing:

“What is ONE THING you could do such that by doing it, everything else would be easier or unnecessary?”

A simpler version: “If I could ONLY do ONE thing today, what would I do?”

When we limit ourselves to just one thing we make it easier to choose because we tacitly give ourselves permission to put everything else aside. It forces us to identify our priority.

Get your “one thing” done and even if you don’t do anything else today, you will have a good day. Get your One Thing done FIRST and you’ll have the rest of the day to choose what to do next.

Referrals every day

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What to do when you’re overwhelmed

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You’ve got too much to do. Too many ideas. Too many thoughts bouncing around in your head. You’re feeling anxious, confused, defeated, overwhelmed.

One of the best things you can do to gain some relief and clarity about what to do is to get everything out of your head and onto paper.

Grab a sheet or your favorite note app and do a brain dump. Write down every task, idea, and worry. Write quickly and don’t stop until your brain is empty.

When you’re done, you should feel a bit better. A little lighter, more centered.

What now? Take the rest of the day off. Go do something fun and life-affirming. Your list will be there when you return.

If you can’t do that, at least resist the urge to study and prioritize your list. That’s likely to make things worse.

Instead, read through the list quickly and choose (underline, star, circle) no more than three things that jump out at you. Things that are urgent or important and calling to you to get done.

Once you’ve done that, write down those three things on another list and put the first list away. Then, deal with those three things.

If they’re tasks, do them. If they’re decisions, decide them. If they’re problems, work on them, and continue doing that until you’re done or you have completed these three things or taken them as far as you can go.

Then, celebrate. You’ve re-established control and taken care of some important things. Pick up your list again and choose what’s next.

If “get more clients” is one of your three things, start here

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Reading wide and reading deep

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I just logged into my Kindle account and found I have just under 7000 books.

I’ll never read most of them.

In fact, all my life I’ve purchased books I never read. I’m okay with that because I read as much as I can and I like having lots of options I can turn to.

Nearly every successful professional is a prolific reader. They read in their field and outside their field. They read books written by and about their colleagues, business leaders and a wide variety of subject matter experts.

They read broadly–to gain insights and ideas, to learn from the mistakes of others, to learn things they never knew and to think about things they’ve always known in different ways.

And when they find a superlative, transformative book, they read it more than once.

On a first reading, they might highlight or underline passages, make notes in the margins or elsewhere, so they can not only process the material at a deeper level, they will have a guide to that material when they return to read it again.

They reread books because each time they do that they pick up new ideas, insights and nuances they didn’t previously see or appreciate. And they reread books because each time they do, they bring to the material a different context. They’ve read other books that support or contrast the ideas in the first one. They’ve implemented the ideas and seen how they worked. They’ve allowed the passage of time to contemplate what they’ve learned. And thus, when they read the book again, they get more out of it.

If you asked them, they might say, “It’s better to read ten good books ten times than to read 100 books once.” And I agree.

How to get more referrals

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What’s all the fuss about habits?

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Aristotle said, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” Your value isn’t determined by what you know it’s determined by what you do.

All the little things you do or don’t do cumulate, compound, and create who you are. They also determine what you achieve.

One author put it this way: “You are at this point in your life because of the way you have treated every ‘today’ for decades. You will never change your life until you change something you do daily.”

If you keep some kind of journal, you might start tracking your habits. Write down the things you do (and fail to do) during the course of your day.

Some habits are good. Some are bad. And some are neither good nor bad, except for the fact that they use time and energy that might be used for something else.

Note your good habits and look for ways to do them more often or for longer periods of time. Look for ways to improve the way you do them and, therefore, the results they bring.

Note your bad habits and look for ways to eliminate them, do them less often, or neutralize them by changing them in some way.

Note your habits that are neither good nor bad. The potential time-wasters. Look for ways to do them less often or for shorter periods of time, and find positive habits to replace them.

Because you are what you repeatedly do.

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