How to defeat ‘Productivity Shame’

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‘Productivity Shame’ is the feeling that you haven’t done enough.

You haven’t accomplished enough, you didn’t work hard enough, you’re not good enough.

In part, it’s caused by believing you “should” accomplish at a certain level or pace. You should work as hard as others do and accomplish as much as they do, and if you don’t, you’re weak and ineffectual.

So, we push ourselves to do more than we’re able to do and set ourselves up to fail.

We do that by setting unrealistic goals or schedules for ourselves, because humans tend to underestimate the amount of time needed to complete a task, and/or overestimate our ability to complete a task in that amount of time.

How can we change this?

First, stop comparing yourself to others.

We all have different goals, responsibilities, and energy. What someone else does (or says they do) may inspire you to attempt to do more but if that doesn’t work for you, stop it and allow yourself to do what you can do.

Because you can only do what you can do.

Your body needs time to rest and recharge and time to do other things. You have to stop beating yourself up because you can’t (or don’t want to) live up to someone else’s standard.

Pushing ourselves when we’re exhausted leads to bad decisions and bad outcomes. Things take longer to do because we’re tired, make mistakes and need time to fix them.

If we keep pushing, it can lead to burnout.

On the other hand, when you work at a pace that’s suited to you, you get more done in less time and you get better results.

Second, focus on what’s important and let go of everything else.

There is never enough time to do everything. Determine your priorities and get them done.

When you do that, when you get your most important tasks done each day, the things you didn’t do don’t matter.

Look at your list of tasks and choose the most important one. Ask yourself, “If I could only get one thing done today, what would it be?”

This doesn’t mean you can’t do more. It means that if get your most important task done, your day has been productive and you have nothing to be ashamed of.

Finally, celebrate your accomplishments.

When you have a good day, meaning you accomplished one or more important tasks, pat yourself on the back, forget about everything else, and don’t look back.

Think about what you did, not what you didn’t do.

Feel good about yourself and reward yourself for having a productive day.

Whatever you do, stop caring about what other’s think. What they think is none of your business.

The Quantum Leap Marketing System for Attorneys

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Daily notes: a journal by a different name

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I’ve tried keeping a journal and find it useful (and fun) to record my thoughts but the habit hasn’t stuck.

I’d like to try again and may have found a way to do that.

There’s a new breed of note taking apps (Roam, Obsidian, and others) and I’m trying out one of them.

One feature is a “daily notes” page that automatically appears (unless you turn off that feature), with the date and plenty of room to write. You can also set up templates to prompt you to record whatever is important to you.

Yes, it’s really a journal with a different name. But it might work because the daily notes feature is built into the app. I don’t have to stop what I’m doing to go write in my journal, I can simply add some thoughts or notes on my daily notes page when they occur to me throughout the day.

In that sense, the daily notes page work like an inbox—a place to deposit ideas and notes to be sorted, filed and worked on later.

A daily notes page also works like an “outbox”.

At the end of the day, you can record notes on what you did, what you thought, and what you plan to do later. Because it’s built into the app, it’s easy to drag or copy/paste notes written elsewhere onto the page.

What can you record in your daily notes? Anything you want:

  • What you did today, what you learned today, what you want to remember
  • Goals, plans, ideas
  • Quotes from books you read, a list of books you want to read
  • Websites and apps you want to check out
  • Questions you have about something you’re working on
  • Habits you want to track
  • New clients, new prospects, new marketing campaigns
  • Earnings, expenses, debts you need to pay, money you need to collect
  • Ideas for new projects, notes about improving your workflow, your attitude, your skills, or your well-being

Anything you did or want to do, anything you want to remember, in as little or as much detail as you want.

Some days, you’ll write hundred of words. Other days, you might write a single sentence, or nothing at all.

This morning, I wrote a few questions about the notes app I’m trying, and a few thoughts about the concept of daily notes.

At the end of the day, you can add comments and additional thoughts, and tags or labels or links to related notes. You will no doubt want to move some of those notes to other folders or pages or other apps.

Daily notes allow you to memorialize your journey and build a repository of information you can go back to help you manage your work or personal life.

Daily notes also help you hold yourself accountable to doing what you said you would do, and what you need to do to achieve your goals.

When I look at what I did and didn’t do last week, I see what I’m doing right and what I need to improve.

Yeah, I’m not sure I like that part.

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3 rules for better note taking

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In school, taking good notes improved our understanding and retention of the material, leading to better papers and test scores.

In a law practice, good notes can help us win cases by helping us see aspects of the case we might otherwise miss.

Good notes also help us create better articles, presentations, and books.

Learning and using what you learn starts with good note taking. Here are 3 rules to help you do that:

(1) Record the source.

Attribution of authoritative sources lends authority to what you write or say about a subject. Recording the source will also allow you to go back to the original material if you want to take another look, or find other material by the same author.

(2) Don’t just write what someone said. Write what you think about what they said.

One of the best ways to get more out of your notes is to record your thoughts and ideas about the points you read or hear immediately after you hear them. Write down why they are important, other ideas and questions they make you think of, examples from other books you’ve read and from your own experience, and notes about what to do with this information.

In law school, after I wrote a note, I often wrote my opinion—what I thought about the point made by the court, the professor, or fellow student. I also noted related cases or ideas, and questions I wanted to explore further. This helped me study more effectively, recall the material during exams, and write more persuasively.

I did the same thing in my practice. I recorded what a witness said, for example, and then added my thoughts and questions about what they said, and how I might use it, in the left margin of the page.

The Cornell Note Taking Method advocates this. They also suggest that when the lecture, interview, or chapter is done, you immediately add a summary at the bottom of the page.

(3) Reread and review your notes after you write them. Preferably more than once.

Add additional thoughts. Add links to other notes you have on the subject. Then, re-read and reflect on your notes again, to re-enforce what you’ve learned, and explore additional ideas you can use.

Taking better notes takes practice. I know that after I hear a presentation or read an article, I’m usually in a hurry to move on to the next video or article. I have to remind myself to record my thoughts about the subject and how I could use my notes.

When I take time to do this, I almost always find my notes are more useful to me. Try it and I think you’ll find the same thing.

Evernote for Lawyers ebook

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I’m a professional quitter

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In eighth grade, I joined the wrestling team. I gave it a semester and quit when I realized I wasn’t good enough and didn’t like it.

But isn’t quitting for losers?

Everyone says

  • Work harder
  • Give it time
  • You’ll get better with practice
  • You’ll learn to like it
  • If you quit, you’ll never know how good you could be
  • Do it anyway, it’s good for you

Well-intentioned advice, I’m sure, but is it right?

Ozan Varol says that sometimes quitting might be the best thing we can do:

I’m a professional quitter. After serving on the Mars Exploration Rovers mission, I quit rocket science and went to law school. After practicing law for a few years, I left to join academia. Most recently, I decided to quit that as well and give up the security of tenure to double down on popular writing and speaking.

I quit things I don’t enjoy. I give up on ideas that fail to live up to expectations. I jettison projects that no longer serve me or my mission in the world.

He acknowledges that many people quit too soon and never find out what they might have accomplished. “Yet many people persist when they should quit,” he says.

If you continually fail at something, or resist doing it, it might be a sign that you should stop doing it.

Varol notes that when we continue doing things that aren’t working for us, aside from being unhappy, we pass up the opportunity to do something else, something we might be great at and love.

Those of us who have changed careers and found success doing something else know this is true.

And what’s true for careers can also be true for work projects, marketing methods, and marriages. Quitting may not only be a viable option, it might be the best one.

So, what would you like to quit today?

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3 things that make habits sticky

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Writing my blog post/newsletter is a well-established habit for me. I’ve been doing it for years and never have to remind myself, it’s just something I sit down and do.

It’s a sticky habit.

I have another habit that was sticky but has come unstuck.

For a long time, I took a walk 6 days per week. Then I missed several days and had trouble getting back to it.

I’m back to doing a short walk a few days per week, but I want to work my way back to my regular schedule.

James Clear, author of the best-selling Atomic Habits, tells us there are three things that help habits stick:

1) Repetition. Habits form based on frequency, not time.

2) Stable context. If the context is always changing, so is the behavior. You need a reliable environment.

3) Positive emotions. If it feels good, you’ll want to repeat it.

My thoughts:

1) Repetition

I started writing my blog/newsletter once a week. I increased this to thrice weekly, and for several years now, I write a post every weekday.

Repetition clearly made a difference.

What really got this habit to stick, however, was announcing my schedule to the world.

The world held me accountable.

Even today, when I might feel like taking the day off from writing, knowing there are people waiting to hear from me keeps me on schedule.

2) Stable context

The main issue with my walks is the weather. When it’s cold, it’s harder to get out the door, especially in the morning.

My context isn’t stable.

The solution might be as simple as getting warmer clothes, sweatpants and sweatshirt, instead of the shorts and t-shirts I usually wear.

3) Positive emotions

I enjoy writing my newsletter. I also enjoy the results it brings me.

I enjoy my walks. I get exercise, time to think and time to dictate notes.

So, how about you? Are your (positive) habits sticky? If not, now you know what to do.

Ready to up your marketing game? Here’s how

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How much time do you spend on marketing?

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I’m talking about time you designate exclusively for marketing and nothing else.

The time you spend calling or emailing former clients, to say hello or share information you think might interest them.

The time you spend reading about marketing, sales, advertising, psychology, or personal development.

The time you spend connecting with professional contacts, to discuss helping each other with referrals, list building, or to share ideas.

The time you spend writing articles, blog posts, or presentations, or creating videos, or reviewing content created for you by others.

The time you spend reading other lawyer’s blogs or newsletters, to find ideas you can use in yours.

The time you spend researching your niche market and the centers of influence in it.

That kind of time.

Look at your calendar for the last 30 days. How much time did you schedule to do things like these?

Yeah, that’s what I thought.

I know, “busy” is your middle name, but you don’t need a lot of time for marketing. Consistency is key.

Start by scheduling 15 minutes on your calendar each weekday, exclusively for marketing. If that seems difficult, start with ten minutes. Or 5.\

When that time arrives, do something, anything, that could be considered marketing, even if it’s scribbling down ideas or questions, reading a few pages in a book, outlining a new blog post, or re-organizing your notes.

If you’re stumped, sit quietly for ten or 15 minutes and do nothing. Eventually, you’ll get bored and do something.

And from there, great firms have been built.

Start today to build yours.

This will help

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Do your clients like you?

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The prevailing wisdom is that, “all things being equal, clients prefer to hire lawyers they know, like and trust.”

How do they know they’ll like a particular lawyer before they hire them?

They read reviews and testimonials that attest to the lawyer being “nice” or having a great personality or going out of their way to help them.

They get feedback from someone who referred said lawyer.

Or they size up the lawyer when they meet them networking, via a free consultation or by hearing them speak.

Sometimes, a client doesn’t do their homework, or is fooled by what others say, and they hire someone they don’t like. Or they get along with the lawyer in the beginning and something happens to change things.

They may stick with the lawyer out of convenience or because the lawyer is very good at their job, but. . . all things being equal, I’d rather have my clients like me, wouldn’t you?

There are things we can do to increase our likability. Becoming a better listener, for example, is a skill that can be learned and is an important factor in likability.

But sometimes, we tick all the boxes and some people still don’t like us.

It happens.

I’ve said things to clients I regretted saying, and apologized, but felt my words had tainted the relationship.

Sometimes, it’s just bad chemistry. Maybe you’re aggressive and they want someone who is gentle and understanding.

What can we do to improve our likability?

We can ask for feedback and conduct surveys, but clients may not be honest with us, or it might be too late.

We can ask our employees if they think the client is happy with us and if there’s anything we should work on, but they might be wrong.

We can self-assess. Think about our conversations with our clients, give ourselves a grade and make notes about ways to improve, but that might not be enough.

We can work ourselves. Read books and take courses on personal development and practice our interpersonal skills.

We should do all of these things, and more. We must be ever-vigilant and continually seek ways to keep our clients happy and make ourselves likable.

If we don’t, we’ll have to rely on our ability to consistently deliver good results and I don’t think any of us should take that for granted.

There are many ways to improve likability (and trustworthiness) detailed in The Attorney Marketing Formula.

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Tiny habits — for the win

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I haven’t read BJ Fogg’s best selling book, Tiny Habits, but was intrigued by a quote from it:

“Celebrating a win–no matter how tiny–will quickly lead to more wins”.

Reading the sales page and some reviews told me the premise–that we can effect great change in our lives by making small changes to what we (repeatedly) do–our habits–and when we celebrate our “wins,” it leads to more of the same.

Ostensibly, that’s because it triggers the release of dopamine, causing us to crave more of the same.

We feel good so we repeat the behavior.

Which is, of course, what happens each time we check a task on our list as “done”.

What areas of your life would you like to improve? What are some tiny habits that will help you do that?

If you’re trying to improve your health, tiny habits might include drinking more water, walking 3 days a week, and eating smaller portions of food.

If you’re working on building your practice, your habits might be to write a blog post or newsletter article once a week, check in with 1 professional contact each week, and to smile more when you’re speaking to someone (on camera, etc.)

Okay. You’ve identified some habits you want to develop. How do you celebrate your wins?

A few ideas:

  • Chart them. Every time you do them successfully, note this on your calendar or in an app.
  • Congratulate yourself. Just say, “Well done” or “I did it again”.
  • Write about it in your journal.
  • Share your progress with your spouse or workout partner.

It might help to gamify it. “If I walk around the block 3 times per week for 90 days, I’ll treat myself to a new [toy of your choice].

What tiny habits do you want to develop? And how will you celebrate your wins?

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How to choose your priorities

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Someone once said, “You can be, do, or have anything, just not everything, because there isn’t enough time.”

So, what will it be?

What’s most important to you? What are your highest values? Your biggest goals?

Yes, we’re talking about your priorities.

With so many options available, how do you choose?

The best way to do that is to look at all of your options and compare them to each other.

We don’t make decisions in a vacuum. We look at everything in the context of everything else.

At one point in your life, you could have chosen medical school or law school or some other career path. In making your choice, no doubt you looked at your other options and compared them.

You may have fallen into your practice area or areas, but at some point, you examined your other options and compared them to what you were already doing.

You have followed a similar process with other aspects of your work and personal life.

You didn’t choose your spouse randomly, did you? When you met them, you compared them to other people you had met or dated. You may have loved other people, but the odds are you loved the one you chose even more.

Prioritizing is about making choices. This instead of that, these things more than those things.

Sometimes, your priority is clear. Sometimes, you like a lot of things and have difficulty choosing.

This article suggests a way to make choosing easier. It describes an exercise for groups or teams but there’s no reason you can’t do it yourself.

The basic idea is to examine each option and compare it to another option. You may like both options but decide you prefer one “even over” the other.

For example, you might like getting clients via referrals and via search, but decide you like referred clients “even over” clients who find you via search.

Knowing your priority will inform your marketing decisions–what you do, what you don’t do, how you allocate your time and resources.

Sure, you can use both marketing methods, and others. But knowing your priorities gives your clarity and allows you to focus on doing things that matter most.

Ready to take a quantum leap in your marketing?

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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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