My desk was clean and now it’s cleaner

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I like a clean desk (and computer desktop). I find it easier to focus when the only thing in front of me is whatever I’m working on. I also like the aesthetic of a clean workspace. The lack of clutter has a calming affect on me and I work better that way.

Up until recently, the only things on my desk were the monitor (attached to an arm so it can be moved out of the way), 2 small speakers, a microphone (attached to an arm clamped to the side of the desk), my keyboard and mouse, and a large pad under the keyboard and mouse. I have a pair of headphones hanging from from the side of the desk.

A few days ago, I was looking at the green power light on one of the speakers when I realized that I rarely use those puppies. I almost always use headphones, for a more immerse experience. Well, as quickly as you can say, “Objection, your honor,” I unplugged the speakers and removed them.

Better.

Everyone has their own thang. That’s (one of) mine.

What’s my point? I have two, actually.

The first point is to suggest you unclutter your desktop if it isn’t already. Try going Spartan for a week or so and see how it feels.

You may prefer a modicum of clutter (or a mountain, thereof) and that’s okay, too. But at least give “lean and clean” a try.

But that’s not my main point.

My main point is to prove to you that when it’s time to write your newsletter or blog and you don’t know what to write about, don’t worry–you can write about anything.

Like I just did.

What to write about in your newsletter or blog

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What will you do with the time you save?

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Seth Godin asks, “What will do with the time you save?”

It’s a good question.

We read books and articles about productivity, buy courses, download apps, adopt new strategies, and tweak what we’re already doing, in an endless quest to get more done in less time.

But why?

Why do you want to save time? What will you do with it?

Would you go home (shut down) earlier? Start a side business? Write a book?

Would you read more? Exercise more? Sleep more?

Would you work on improving your skills? Spend more time with your family? Indulge in more “me time”?

Or, would you simply do more billable work?

The answer, of course, depends on what’s important to you–what you want to accomplish and the lifestyle you want to create or maintain.

But you could be wrong about what you want, or change your mind.

You might start doing more billable work and find that you only have so much energy each day and the quality of your work starts to suffer.

Or, you might use the time you save by working a shorter day, only to find that you’re bored.

You could try to figure out what you would do in advance, so you have a goal to work towards, or you could save the time first and then decide what to do with it.

It’s nice to have options. And to know there’s a purpose behind all the time you spend figuring out how to save time.

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Do more of what’s working

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Franklin Roosevelt said, “Do something. If it works, do more of it. If it doesn’t, do something else.”

Splendid advice.

Too often, we try to fix what’s not working. Too often, that’s not the best use of our time.

So, ask yourself, What’s working for me right now? What am I doing well?

And do more of it.

Because what’s working well will probably continue to do so. Because the more you do something, the better you get at it, and the better your results.

Look at your calendar and your “done” list. Look at the things you do each day to run your practice and put a star next to things you want to do more of.

Things that make money, improve your skills, and help you grow. Things that help you work more effectively and efficiently. Things that make what you do more gratifying.

Keep a list of these “keepers” in front of you, to remind yourself to do more of them–because what you focus on grows.

Where do you find the time to do more of what’s working? By eliminating or cutting down on things that aren’t.

Do more of what’s working, less of what isn’t.

How to get more referrals from your clients

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Ten tips for writing faster

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I’ll keep this short (which is my first tip for writing faster).

Most of my posts are a few hundred words. You don’t need more than that to get my point, and I don’t want to write more than that to make it.

So there.

  1. Lower your standards. You’re not writing literature. Tell people what you want to tell them, do a quick edit, and get on with your day.
  2. Keep a well-stocked supply of ideas. For me, deciding what I want to say takes a lot longer than actually saying it.
  3. Avoid (most) research. Write what you know.
  4. Write (something) every day. You’ll get faster and better.
  5. Schedule it. Decide when you want to write and put the time on your calendar. You’ll train your brain to accept that it’s time to write, making it more likely that the words will start flowing.
  6. Time it. Give yourself 15 minutes to write a first draft. (30 minutes if you must.)
  7. Learn to type faster. You can practice here
  8. Dictate. You speak several times faster than you can type and you can do it anywhere. Editing takes longer, though.
  9. Re-cycle. Most of your readers haven’t read or don’t remember what you wrote on the subject last year so write about it again this year.

Still think you can’t write a weekly newsletter or blog post?

Think again.

How to (quickly) write an email newsletter clients want to read

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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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Little and often

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If you’re trying to tackle a big project and not making as much progress as you’d like, the reason may simply be that you’re trying to do too much too soon.

In his book, Do It Tomorrow, Mark Forster provides a series of fundamental productivity principles. Number three is “Little and Often,” his prescription for handling big projects or accomplishing big goals.

Forster says it’s easier to get things done if you do small parts frequently, instead of attempting to get it all done in a short period of time.

Little and often is how we learn to play a musical instrument or a new language, he points out. It’s how we develop any new skill or habit.

It works because it allows your brain to repeatedly return to and process the subject, assimilate new information and experiences and make new connections between them, providing us with new ideas and different ways to incorporate them.

I’m working on a book right now and while I have the time to power through it and get it done faster, I’m moving slowly, writing for an hour or two a day, and I know the end result will be better for it.

What are you working on right now that could benefit from “little and often”?

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Where I keep things I’m afraid to throw away

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I just started doing something with my digital files and notes I wish I’d done a long time ago. I designated a place to put everything I don’t need now but might need or want someday.

I’ve set up folders and notebooks in my various apps and labeled them “Archives”.

My archives now hold:

  • Closed files
  • Inactive projects (not started, aborted, finished)
  • Notes/docs/audios/videos from old business ventures
  • Old tax, banking, and insurance docs
  • Backups of old blog posts
  • Other backups
  • Old docs/notes that could be mined for useful materials
  • Personal mementos
  • Articles, notes, pdfs that might be useful some day
  • Things I should probably throw out but don’t have time to read to make sure

The kind of stuff we used to put in storage or in the basement or attic. The kind of stuff we are unlikely to ever need but hang on to “just in case” (or because it’s required by law).

One blogger refers to his archives as “Things I’m afraid to throw away”.

Yeah, that stuff.

I used to keep most of this intermingled with everything else. After all, it’s just electrons, right? They don’t take up space?

But they do.

When we search or browse through current project materials, all of our old stuff is mixed in, distracting us and creating mental and visual clutter.

When you put them in archives, they don’t.

I moved more than 4000 Evernote notes into an archive “stack”. In G Drive, I’ve moved many gigabytes of documents, audios and videos into an archive folder. And I’m not done.

Everything is out of sight, but available. Which means all of my current materials are more accessible, easier to organize and use.

Now, about all those old photos. . .

Evernote for Lawyers ebook: get it here

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A simple way to create (a lot) more content

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A common reason offered by attorneys who haven’t started a blog or newsletter is that they won’t be able to keep it up. Either they don’t have the time, or they don’t think they’ll have enough to write about.

But. . .

You’ll never run out of ideas to write about. I promise.

Even if you practice in a very narrow niche, the law changes, the cases and clients change, the strategies change, the ideas change, and your readers change.

Besides, you aren’t confined to writing exclusively about the law, nor should you. (Get my Email Marketing Course and you’ll never run out ideas for your newsletter or blog.)

As for the amount of time it takes to write a new article or post, hear ye, hear ye, if you’re taking more than an hour, you’re doing something wrong.

And, you can save yourself a boatload of time if, when you sit down to write an article, you write two articles. Or five.

Here are some ways to do that:

  1. Instead of writing a 2500-word post, write a 300-word post. Save the rest for tomorrow or next week.
  2. Write different versions of the same article for each of your target markets or practice areas. Use the same basic information, change the examples, stories, and tips.
  3. Create a series. This week explain the problem, next week talk about the risks, the following week explain the law, after that present one of the solutions, and keep going: other options, other solutions, different client success stories, things that don’t work, mistakes to avoid in the future, resources, etc.
  4. Interview (by email) 5 other professionals or experts about the subject: What do you think, how do you handle this, what advice would you give to someone in this situation, etc. Add your comments at the end of each piece.
  5. Answers to FAQs. What do new clients and prospective clients usually want to know? Ten questions, ten answers, ten articles.

Life is good when you know what you’re going to write about six weeks in advance.

Get it here: Email Marketing for Attorneys

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When was the last time you took inventory?

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Of all the things you do, in your practice and personal life, some things contribute more value than others. By taking inventory of everything you do, you can identify your most valuable activities, so you can do more of them.

You’ll have the time to do that, of course, by curtailing activities that contribute little or no value.

Taking inventory starts with choosing an area of your life where you’d like to be more productive or successful. Let’s say that’s your practice.

The first step is to write a list of everything you do in that area–all of your tasks, projects, habits, and routines. For your practice, include the different kinds of client work you do, all of the admin, and all of your marketing.

Add a number to each activity on your list. If there are 50 activities, number them 1-50, so you can identify each one separately.

Next, make a second list. Write down all of your successes in this area of your life. In this case, your practice.

These successes might include things like winning one or more big cases, getting a lot of traffic from a profile of you that appeared in a prominent publication, meeting a well-connected professional who helped you get a spot on a speaking panel, a successful ad campaign, or things you did to reduce your overhead without hurting your bottom line.

These could be one-time wins or things that bring you ongoing benefits.

When your “success” list is done, go through it again and next to each item, add the number of each “activity” (on your first list) that contributed to it.

For example, you might connect “reading blogs in your target market’s industry” and “writing articles for your target market’s publications” with the positive result of being introduced to a major center of influence in your client’s niche, which led to several new clients.

By connecting activities with results, you can see where the things you’re doing are working.

Whatever is left–activities you can’t connect to significant results–should either be eliminated, minimized, systematized, or delegated.

Finally, look at your success list and identify things you didn’t connect with an activity. Ask yourself what you could do to make results like these happen more often.

For example, maybe you met someone accidentally who hired you for a lot of legal work. Ask, “What can I do to meet their colleagues or counterparts?”

When you take the time to link your activities with your results, you’ll be able to see where you should spend more time and resources, and what you should do less of, or not at all.

How to meet and get referrals from other professionals

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Stop the World, I Want to Get Off

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When you’re anxious, stressed, frustrated, fed up, crying like a baby, or ready to hit something (or someone), and you don’t know what to do about it, I have a suggestion.

A little something called “a plan”.

Write down a goal, a deadline, and a list of steps you can take to achieve the goal.

The actual plan isn’t important. The act of planning, however, as Dwight D. Eisenhower famously said, is everything.

That’s because the act of planning helps us to clarify what we think, what we want, and what we need to do. It allows us to funnel our thoughts and emotions in a constructive direction.

The plan itself will change. Many times, no doubt. New ideas, new information, new feedback–the plan you ultimately follow often looks nothing like the plan you start with.

But at least you started. Something you might not have done without planning.

Planning has another benefit. For a few minutes at least, we get to assert a degree of control over our day. We get to decide what we’ll do, and when, what we won’t do, and why.

And it feels good.

Planning allows us to escape our burdens, feel empowered, and get excited about the future.

Some of us do a lot of planning. We love to make lists, re-arrange the items on it, and manage our lists with new apps and new systems.

We enjoy the planning process because it’s a way to avoid the harsh reality of the real world that.

Planning is a form of escapism.

Planning feels good because it doesn’t require a lot of effort, brain power, physical movement, tough decisions, or problem solving. It’s just our thoughts and a piece of paper.

Compared to “doing,” planning is just plain fun.

So, when the world feels like it’s spinning out of control, or you simply have too much to do and don’t know where to start, take a few minutes and create a plan, or grab your list and redo the existing plan.

You still have to take action, of course, but the act of planning will make that a lot easier because you’ll feel a lot better about where you are and where you’re going.

Here’s a plan to get more clients and increase your income

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