Yesterday is a canceled check

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We’ve all been told it’s important to plan our week and month and year. Maybe our quarter, too.

The problems is, we don’t live our lives weekly or monthly, we live them one day at a time.

Author Kay Lyons Stockham said, “Yesterday is a canceled check; tomorrow is a promissory note; today is the only cash you have – so spend it wisely.”

Planning your day is simple. Think about your goals and plan activities that move you closer to those goals.

If one of your goals is to increase your income, your plan for the day should include income producing activities.

If you want to grow your network, connect with one new contact every day.

If you want to get more repeat business and referrals, call or email or message three current or former clients each day.

If you want to get more traffic to your blog, write or edit or share new content every day.

Pick a goal you want to accomplish, then break it down into daily activities.

Because how you live your day is how you live your life.

This will help you plan 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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What do you do first every day?

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I read a round-up article that summed up what some young entrepreneurs do to start their day. Each has a different routine.

Some said they make a plan for the day. Some said they check their plan (and calendar) for the day.

Some read, some write. Some exercise, some check the news. Some check their email, some check their stats.

One interesting response: “I start every workday by writing three thank you notes.” Color me impressed.

I liked the one who said she follows the same checklist every day. She checks her calendar, reviews her project list, answers email, answers voicemail and texts, and clears her paper file. She says this allows her to process her inboxes and makes starting the day effortless.

One said she tackles her biggest priority first, “the one thing on my list that contributes the most to the bottom line.”

Similar to the previous response, one entrepreneur recommended the “Eat That Frog” approach: “Do whatever it is that you don’t want to do, but need to do most first thing in the morning”.

Another writer disagreed: “I’m not really a fan of the whole “Eat That Frog” concept. I start my day with three of the easiest tasks on my to-do list. This makes a little dent in my list right away, which makes me feel as though I’m on a roll. I always find that when this is the case, I burn through more tasks than I would when focusing on my biggest list items first”.

Me? I’m with the last guy. I don’t do my most important tasks first thing, I clear up a few easier tasks first, as a warm up for the day. Typically, that means checking email, calendar, and task list, to get a feel for what’s on tap for the day.

Once that’s out of the way, I sit down and do my MITs (Most Important Tasks).

But I don’t do any of that until I’ve had some coffee, do some light reading, and send articles and ideas to my Evernote inbox.

How about you? What do you do first?

Evernote for Lawyers ebook

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I’ve got good news and bad news

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Have you ever asked a client, “Which do you want first, the good news or the bad news?”

You might want to stop asking.

It turns out it’s better to give the bad news first and finish with the good news. According to research, people remember an experience more favorably when you finish the conversation on a positive note.

Psychologically, we prefer experiences that improve over time.

So, give clients the bad news first.

It works the same for you.

When you have to deliver bad news to a client, schedule them early in the day. That way, your day will end on a positive note.

Get the hard stuff out of the way so you can end the day on a high note.

I love it when a plan comes together.

How to get referrals without asking for referrals

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A better way to plan your day

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Most of us make lists. Tasks we need to do, projects we need to work on, errands we need to run. 

The process of making lists helps us to think about what we need to do; the list itself serves as a reminder of what still needs to be done. 

The problem with making to-do lists, however, is that we often haven’t thought through why we’re doing the things on our list. We might keep busy but we aren’t necessarily productive. 

We can flip the switch on this by adding one additional step. 

Before writing a list of tasks, think about your desired outcomes. At the end of the day, (week, year, etc.), what do you want to have accomplished?

What would that look like? How would you feel?

Write that down. 

Then, write your list. 

Without thinking in outcomes, your to-do list might include an assortment of calls, letters, meetings, and documents you need to prepare. Will doing these things help you achieve your goals? 

Maybe, maybe not.

On the other hand, outcome thinking, or starting with the end in mind, helps you get clear about your purpose and helps you make a better list. 

If your desired outcomes for the week are to settle two cases and sign up one new client, for example, your list would prioritize tasks likely to achieve those outcomes.

At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter how busy you were. All that matters is that that you achieved your desired outcomes, and how good that feels.

Have you read Evernote for Lawyers?

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Personal productivity rule book

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You probably have a long list of things you do to manage your time and increase your productivity. No doubt you also collect articles and ideas you’d like to try.

But, do you have a centralized place to record these things? A book of rules you follow or would like to follow?

Having a “rule book” will make it more likely that you’ll follow those rules.

You might have a set of rules for how you start your day, how you do a weekly review, and how and where you record and back up client information.

You might have a set of rules for doing research: where you begin, how you record citations, how you organize (tag, label, file) the information.

Your rules don’t have to be complex or overly detailed. One sentence for each rule will often be enough.

It also helps to record the rationale behind each rule.

Here’s an example of some rules you might adopt regarding email:

  • Turn off notifications and keep Outlook/browser tab closed (so you’ll check email less often)
  • Schedule (times) on calendar for checking email (so you’re not tempted to check it constantly)
  • No email before (time). So you can get important things done first.
  • Use templates to respond to FAQs, provide links, share bio, deliver work product, etc.
  • Reply with statements: Don’t answer a question with a question [Not easy for lawyers, is it?] Example: When someone asks, “When do you want to talk?” you tell them, eg., “10:15 Tuesday. I’ll call you.”
  • Short answers. Five lines max. (Don’t write ten lines when two will do.)
  • Delay response. Many “urgent” issues often solve themselves.

And so on.

Over time, add new rules to your book, refine existing rules, and remove rules you no longer follow.

Keep your rule book close by and check it often. In fact, make that a rule.

Speaking of email, here’s how to use email to get more clients

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List maintenance

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How often do you clean up your task and project lists? If you’re like me, not as often as you should.

I’ve had a “clean up/organize my lists” project starting at me for far too long so, this morning, I had a go at it.

I have four task lists:

  • Today
  • Next (this week/soon)
  • Backlog (Later)
  • Someday/Maybe

I could have gone through each list and removed tasks one-by-one, but that sounded like work and is probably why I’ve been avoiding it. So, instead, the first thing I did was empty all of my list, to prepare for rebuilding them.

There’s something about looking an empty list that is refreshing. The list calls to you, asking to be filled.

Anyway, here’s what I did:

Step One: Move all “Backlog” tasks to Someday/Maybe.

I tagged these tasks so I could identify where they came from, which will be helpful when I move (some of) them back.

(Backlog is empty)

Step Two: Move all “Next” tasks to Backlog.

I tagged these, too.

(Next is empty)

Step Three: Move “Today” tasks to “Next”. (Optional)

If your Today list only has a handful of tasks on it, as mine does, you can leave them where they sit.

Step Four: Begin moving tasks from Backlog back into Next.

Let the rebuilding begin.

This will be done slowly, thoughtfully, to keep me from overloading Next.

So far, I added only four tasks back into Next. Later, I’ll add back some of the others I previously removed, making sure not to add more than 20 tasks to Next, enough for a week or so.

The rest will stay in Backlog, along with other tasks there, until I’ve emptied my Next list or I’m otherwise ready to elevate something.

Step Five: Clean up Someday/Maybe.

This is a big list and not very inviting, so my plan is to spend not more than 15 minutes at a time going through this list and paring it down.

I’m sure I’ll trash a lot of ideas but some may get my attention and deserve a coveted spot in Backlog (or Next).

But there’s no hurry and no need to feel anxious about it because Today, Next, and Backlog are clean and ready for me to get to work.

Speaking of work, I’m off to crush my Today list.

Marketing legal services is easy when you know what to do

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Positioning yourself for the coming upswing

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If you have some downtime right now, consider using some of that time to invest in the future of your practice or career.

Think about what’s next for you, make plans, research ideas, and do things you might not have time to do when everything gets back to normal.

Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Brainstorm additional ways to promote your services
  • Outline your book (or finish writing the thing)
  • Create a new lead magnet (or update an old one)
  • Clean up/organize your computer desktop and documents
  • Give your website a makeover
  • Research some new keywords
  • Learn how to use new software
  • Start your newsletter
  • Update your social media profiles
  • Add a new social media platform to your mix
  • Get ahead on CLE
  • Read books, take courses on personal development
  • Write content for your newsletter or blog
  • Research new target markets
  • Make a list of professionals you can approach to propose marketing alliances
  • Clean out your email inbox
  • Research new marketing or advertising platforms
  • Clean up your smart phone: delete unused apps, delete or download photos and documents
  • Update passwords, add 2-factor authorization
  • Clean up your “to read” list(s)
  • Brainstorm/research ways to build your email list
  • Work on a new presentation, speech, or video
  • Go over your budget and create plans to reduce spending and/or debt, or increase investment and retirement funds
  • Explore ways to give back to your community (run for office, promote a charity, donate, volunteer)
  • Revise/create a new campaign to stay in touch with your former clients

Before you know it, normal life will return and you’ll be glad you took care of some of these, instead of getting to a higher level in your favorite game or binge watching your latest guilty pleasure.

How to start a newsletter to build your practice

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Oh goody, another time management rule

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Just when you thought you had things the way you want them, along comes another rule for managing your time.

This one is called “The 60-30-10 Rule”.

Basically, you allocate 60% of your time to “high value” activities, 30% to low-value tasks related to your goals and responsibilities, and 10% to other activities that support the first two categories.

High-value activities (60%) are those that advance your most important goals and long-term vision. These are your highest priorities and “MITs” (most important tasks).

In my view, high-value activities include client work, marketing and practice development, and personal development. It would also include projects that are important to you and your future.

Low-value activities (30%) may be necessary, urgent even, but aren’t necessarily important. They would include administrative and management tasks you have to do to keep your practice running.

The third category (10%) supports the first two categories and includes things like organizing and prioritizing your work, scheduling, planning your day or week, and doing a weekly review.

You can change the percentage of any of these categories to suit your responsibilities and style of working. You might go with 70% high-value activities, for example, by delegating more low-value (management) activities, and/or by reducing the third category from 10% to 5%.

What’s important about a system like this isn’t the actual percentages as much as it encourages you to think about what’s important so you can allocate more time to it.

And, if you track your time, it also allows you to see when you’re losing focus.

Do you use a rule like this to allocate your time?

If you’re ready to take a quantum leap in your practice. . .

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A small habit that yields big results

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No doubt you understand the value of planning your day before it begins. You sit down at your workspace or pick up your phone, check your calendar, check your lists, and decide what you’re going to do that day.

You make a short list for the day and work from that list. Planning in advance frees up the rest of your day to focus on doing the work.

When I do this I get a lot more done, but more importantly, I get the most important work done because I am much less likely to get distracted by the multitude of tasks that are less important.

If something urgent comes up that needs my attention, I can do it and immediately return to my list. I may lose time doing the urgent task but I don’t lose additional time figuring out what to do next.

It’s on my list.

Keeping that list in front of me, which I do, also keeps me on task.

Planning my day before it begins has helped me and many others. If you’re not doing it, give it a try.

But that’s not the “small habit that yields big results” I promised.

The small habit is this: “plan your day the night before“.

Before you end your day, take a few minutes to create your list for the following day.

That small change can make a big difference because when tomorrow arrives you can get right to work. Most people have more energy early in the day so the work you do early is likely to be better and go more quickly.

The rest of your day may not be as productive, but your day is a success because you got your most important work done early.

Ready to take a quantum leap in your practice? Click here

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