What to focus on this year

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What are you grateful for right now? Yes, I know it’s been a rough year for a lot of people. But there were some good things, too.

And it is the good things that we should focus on, even if they are small and the bad things aren’t.

Think about something in your life you appreciate. Something good, however small.

Because what we focus on grows.

When you focus on things you appreciate, you get more things to appreciate. Gratitude floods the brain with dopamine. It feels good (and supplants things that aren’t), and we want to feel it again so we do things and find things that create more dopamine.

The more you express gratitude, the better you feel and the more you have to feel good about.

Gratitude is a recipe for better health. More energy, less stress, better self-esteem, better sleep, and fewer negative emotions.

The more gratitude you feel, the happier, healthier, and more successful you become.

Science says it is so.

This year, starting from this very moment, think about things you appreciate. Your big wins, surely, but also the new baby in the house. The look in your dog’s eyes when he greets you. Something kind someone said about you. Finding the last parking space. Last night’s delicious spaghetti dinner.

It could be anything. Anything that feels good when you think about it.

Remind yourself that you have a lot to be thankful for, about yourself, your work, your life, and even the world.

Open your computer or phone and appreciate how much it makes your day more productive. Keep a gratitude journal and write in it every day. Pray or meditate and say thanks every day.

Look in the mirror and think of something you like about yourself. Thank someone for something. Think about your family, your clients, or your staff, and give thanks for having them in your life.

Focus less on what’s wrong with the world and more on what’s right.

Because what you focus on grows.

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Me in ‘23

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As one does at this time of year, I’m spending a lot of time thinking about next year. One thing I’m planning to do is to read more books.

I always loved books. Always had one or two by my side, ready to pick up and teach me something, or take me somewhere. For a long time, though, I’ve been reading a lot less. I spend so much of my day reading other things, I haven’t felt like I had enough energy to pick up a book.

Many very successful people are big book readers. As busy as they are, Mark Cuban and Warren Buffett spend several hours a day reading books, for example, and credit a good portion of their success to this habit.

Why books? Can’t we get as much from reading articles, watching videos, or listening to podcasts?

We can (and I do) get a lot from those sources, but books are in a category of their own.

Books tend to be better researched and better written. They provide more value, usually, and are worth the additional effort. True, there are many disappointments, but when you read a good book, it can change your life.

I have quite a backlog of books waiting for me to “find” the time to read again. But I’ve grown tired of waiting and started reading books again a couple of months ago.

I began by reminding myself about the benefits and made a commitment to myself to read at least a few pages every day.

Without exception.

Small, but often—the key to starting and maintaining habits.

I set a daily reminder in my task app and read for ten minutes every day, no matter what. When the timer is done, I often continue reading, but I never read for less than ten minutes.

I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have started this, or stuck with it, if I had tried to read for one hour a day. But I can do ten minutes no matter how busy or tired I am.

It’s like the office decluttering project I told you about recently. Scheduling 15 minutes every Saturday allowed me to (finally) start that project and keep going until finished.

I also make it convenient. I read mostly on the Kindle app on my phone so I can grab a few minutes just about anywhere. I’ve started walking again so I might also start listening to audiobooks.

You can read a lot of books in just 10 minutes a day. Certainly a lot more than I was reading before. But, who knows. Maybe next year I’ll go crazy and crank that up to 15 minutes.

Life in the fast lane.

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Actually, hope is a strategy

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We often hear that ‘hope isn’t a strategy’ and that only by taking action can we solve our problems and achieve our goals.

I cry foul.

Hope is indeed a strategy. An essential one. Because without hope, we won’t take action (why bother?) or we’ll do it without energy or enthusiasm. Just going through the motions.

Without hope, we might not even look for solutions or recognize one when it appears.

Ah, but with hope, all things are possible.

We might doubt, we might expect it to be difficult, we might be discouraged, but we keep going, looking for a solution, because our hope tells us there must be one.

Hope gives us purpose and belief that things can get better. When things don’t work out—our idea was flawed, our action ineffective, outside forces were too strong—we don’t give up. And because we don’t, we discover more options, more things we can try or try again.

Hope isn’t a strategy? Of course it is. It might not be the only strategy, but I wouldn’t want to live without it.

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A penny for your thoughts

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Lawyers are paid to think. We solve problems, come up with ideas, figure out strategies, and put these to use for our clients and for ourselves.

We often get some of our best ideas while we’re doing other things. When we’re working on another case, driving, playing a game, listening to a (boring) lecture, or mindlessly washing dishes, our minds are busy working on other things.

But we don’t have to wait for serendipity to solve problems and generate ideas. We can make it a habit to schedule thinking time each day. I do that every day and think you should, too.

Once a day, for 5 minutes or 15 minutes, sit quietly, close your eyes, do some breathing exercises if you want to, relax and think.

Think about your life, your work, your family, your problems, your dreams.

I do this in the morning, first thing. Before coffee, when my mind isn’t terribly engaged, I sit in my comfy chair, listen to meditation music, and let my mind wander.

My thinking time helps me discover new ideas, find solutions, clarify my thoughts, remember things I need to do or fix, and when I’m done, I feel calm and centered and ready for the day.

Sometimes, I start out thinking about a specific situation. A problem I’d like to solve or avoid, a goal I’m working towards, or things I’m planning to do that day. Other times, I just sit quietly and let my mind take me where it wants me to go.

I keep paper and my phone nearby and record my thoughts and ideas. Sometimes, those ideas feel so “right,“ I stop thinking and start working on them. These often turn out to be some of my best ideas.

I’ve also found that by having regular thinking time, I’ve conditioned my mind to bring me more ideas and solutions throughout the day, while I’m doing other things.

I got the idea for this post when I was making coffee.

You’re a professional thinker. Schedule thinking time each day. Try it for a week, see what happens, and what you think about that.

I think. . . you’ll be glad you did.

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You get what you expect

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Ever heard that you get what you expect? If you expect good things to happen, they are more likely to happen. And vice versa.

But is this true?

I hope it is because it means our fate isn’t pre-determined, we can change our future.

If you don’t like the direction you’re headed, you can change something. You can choose a different strategy. You can work smarter or faster, use different tools, or get some help.

Change what we do, get different results, and we change our expectations for the future.

But we can also change our expectations by changing our attitude.

A simple way to do that is to use different words to describe what we think and how we feel.

Yes, I’m talking about being positive.

We all know negative people who complain a lot and assume the worst. They expect bad things and bad things happen.

They say things like, “What if I go to that event and don’t meet anyone?“ “What if I start a blog and nobody reads it?” “What if I ask her to marry me and she turns me down?“

When I hear someone say, “What if I don’t. . ?“ I think (and usually say), “What if you do?“

Changing our attitude can be as simple as changing our words. It might not change the outcome. . . but what if it does?

If you can’t be positive about certain situations, at least don’t be negative.

I know a lawyer (he’s probably reading this) who has mastered the art of being non-committal about many subjects. When you ask him what he thinks might happen, his usual response is, “We’ll see.”

A decidedly lawyer-like (and poker-like) response, and while it seems to have served him well, I always wonder if adopting a positive attitude might serve him better.

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3 things you should do every day

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Every day, there are 3 things you should do.

The first is client work, obviously. Get the work done, the bills billed, the clients happy, and the bills paid.

The second thing is running the joint. Yes, marketing and management of your practice.

That’s true even if you work for a firm. You still want to bring in new business, build your brand or reputation, and do things that help you grow your practice and career.

It includes things like creating content, building relationships with influential people in your niche, strengthening relationships with your clients to foster repeat business and referrals, supervising and training your team, and improving your systems and workflows.

Third on the list, but no less important, is to work on yourself. We’re talking about personal and professional development. The stuff that makes everything else work.

It means improving your legal knowledge and your writing, speaking, and interpersonal skills. It means getting better at communicating, negotiating, and leading and managing people. And keeping up with technology.

So, 3 things every day.

Think of these 3 areas as legs on a stool. You need all 3 or the stool won’t stand.

How should you allocate your time? One third each? Not practical. Some days, you have nothing but client work and no time to do anything else. Some days you have other priorities.

But if you’re a rule-of-thumb type of person, that rule should be to do something in each area every day.

Even if that means making one call on your lunch hour or reading a couple of pages before you go to sleep.

Keep your hand in all 3 areas and do your best to not let a day go by without all 3.

Create recurring tasks in your task manager or calendar or habit tracker. Make this a habit.

Don’t let your stool get out of balance.

How to get more referrals from your clients

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What would have to be true for that to happen?

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I’ve heard versions of this question from different sources. I like it because it makes you think, not just about what you want but the prerequisites for making it so.

“What would have to be true for me to double my referrals this year,“ for example.

What conditions would have to be in place? What additional skills, knowledge, or contacts would you have to acquire? What would you have to do?

A question like this can lead you to new insights, ideas to research, and projects to get to work on.

It will also make you think about things you know but haven’t thought about or done.

You can take it deeper. If you said you would need to have more referral sources to double your referrals, you might then ask, “What would have to be true in order to get more clients and professional contacts to send me more business?“

You might get even better answers by making the question more specific: “What would have to be true in order to get 50% of my clients to send me 1 additional referral this year?”

You can use this approach for any goal. “If I wanted to work a 4-day week and continue to earn what I now earn, what would have to be true?“ for example.

You can also ask follow-up questions: “If [that] was true, what else would need to be true?“

The key to these types of questions is that they are assumptive. When you ask this way, you direct your subconscious mind to look for the answer you’ve told it is there. It will keep looking until it finds it.

Choose a subject. Phrase the question any way you like, as long as it assumes a favorable response. Write down the ideas that come to mind.

Any of these ideas might be the precise idea you need to make your goal come true.

How to get your clients to send you more referrals

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Focus on what you can control

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With marketing, or anything else, there are things you can control and things you can’t. Do your sanity a favor. Don’t focus on, measure, or worry about things you can’t control.

You can’t control how many prospective clients will book an appointment after they see your presentation or read your email. But you can control how many presentations you do and how many emails you send.

You can’t control how much traffic you’ll get to your blog or how many visitors will share your content. But you can control how many posts you write.

You can’t control how many bloggers will say yes to your offer to write a guest post. But you can control how many you ask.

I know, you want to sign up more clients, get more followers or subscribers, and put more butts in seats. You want to get more referral sources, bring in more six- and seven-figure clients or cases, and live the freak’in dream.

But you can’t control any of that. You can only control what you do, not what you want to happen as a result.

You can ALSO set a results-based goal—to sign up 5 new clients this month, for example—but keep that in the back of your mind.

In the front of your mind, and in your daily or weekly planner, focus on how many ads you’ll run, how many emails you’ll write, or how many people you’ll talk to.

Here are lots of things you can do

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Don’t just do something, sit there

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Do the work, bill the client. That’s what brings in the bacon. Or the kale if that’s your thing. Billable work is your bread and butter. (Okay, now I’m getting hungry.)

But your work involves more than dictating, drafting, and negotiating. At least it should.

You need time when you’re not outputting but inputting.

Digesting information you can use to create content (to bring in more business), to better understand and relate to your clients’ industry or niche, and to have something to talk about when you’re not talking about the law.

You also need time to learn about marketing, productivity, technology, and other subjects that help you improve your skills and drive the growth of your practice. And CLE, to make sure you’re at the top of your game.

Building a successful practice requires more than cranking out billable work.

You should embrace the idea of spending time doing no “work” and instead, doing nothing but soaking up information.

Put time for this on your calendar. Blocks of time every day for reading and listening and taking notes, and to ponder what you’ve learned and how you can use it.

It may feel like this you’re goofing off. You may feel guilty watching videos or reading something from me and tell yourself to get back to work. But learning is just as important as doing, because it helps you do what you do better.

The Quantum Leap Marketing System — everything you need, nothing you don’t

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Success inside your comfort zone

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It is often said that success lies outside our comfort zone. When we try new things, we’re often scared, we risk failure and embarrassment, but that’s how we grow.

Inside our comfort zone, it is safe but little changes.

We’ve all heard this, and said it to others, but it it true?

In high school, a friend suggested we go ice skating. He was a good skater but I’d never done it and was afraid I’d get hurt or look like a fool, but I agreed to go. I fell a lot but eventually did okay, and I had a lot of fun.

Score one for trying new things.

Of course, it doesn’t always work that way. We often try new things, hate them, and never do them again.

That’s also part of the process.

You date a lot of people until you find “the one”. You change your major, your employer, even your career, until you find something that feels right.

That’s your comfort zone. And that’s where you build long-term success.

Inside your comfort zone, things are familiar. You do them over and over again and get good at them. Over time, you build a successful career, a successful marriage, a successful life.

Success lies inside your comfort zone, but you need to get outside it from time to time to explore.

Try things that make you uncomfortable. Seek new adventures and challenges. You’ll learn a lot about a lot of things, but most of all about yourself.

When you do, come back to your comfort zone with the knowledge and experience you’ve gained, use it if you want to, or forget about it and try something else.

You say you don’t like a certain marketing strategy you have never tried? I’m your friend inviting you to try it and see.

You might fall a lot and look foolish. But you’ll learn something about yourself.

You might also have a lot of fun.

The Attorney Marketing Formula

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