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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Free 30-day trial of one of my favorite productivity apps

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I’ve mentioned before that one of my favorite productivity apps is brain.fm. I use it almost every day to block out distractions and improve my focus.

I just found out that they’re giving away 30-day free trials.

Normally, you only get 5 sessions for free before you have to pony up, and that was enough to convince me.

In addition to using the app to focus, you can use it to “relax,” to get to sleep, and to meditate.

This is not just relaxing music or white noise, binaural beats or entrainment. It’s different technology. You can read about it on the site.

The regular price is $50/yr. and it’s well worth it.

You can get your free 30 days here. (Not an affiliate link.)

Let me know what you think.

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Are you a perfectionist?

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Many lawyers are obsessed with getting the details right. So are many artists and creative people and business leaders.

Perfectionists often create superior results, but their obsession with making things “perfect” often causes them to procrastinate.

Maybe you can relate.

How do you do good work and get better results without getting ensnared in the net of perfectionism?

The answer isn’t to fight your natural tendency, it is to re-focus it.

Instead of obsessing over every detail, train yourself to obsess about the details that matter.

The things that deliver the biggest return on your investment.

The 20% that delivers 80% of your results.

In your writing, that means giving extra attention to your headlines and email subject lines. They do the heavy lifting by getting more people to read what you wrote.

In a negotiation or a closing argument, you don’t have to win ever point or collect every dollar, as long as you’re getting enough to be able to call it a win.

In your marketing campaigns, you don’t have to attract everyone with a problem you can solve, as long as you’re attracting a preponderance of your ideal clients.

There will always be room to improve, but if you’re getting good results, let go of the things that aren’t important (or delegate them) so you can focus on what’s important and what you do best.

You don’t have to be good all marketing if you’re good at getting referrals

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How to waste time productively (and why you should)

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We’re all bombarded by well-meaning experts telling us not to waste time. They acknowledge the need to take a short break between tasks but remind us that “time is money” or caution us about the need to get back to work.

Truth is, most of us don’t want to follow this advice and most of us don’t.

We’d go nuts working eight hours a day every day focused on nothing but work.

So, offered for your approval is another approach–two ways to “waste time” productively.

When you feel the urge to stop working on whatever you’re doing:

1) Work on another case or something else important.

A bit of research, knock out some emails, make calls, dictate some letters or pleadings, or work on marketing.

You may not be working on your main task but you’re doing something productive.

Keep a list of tasks you can turn to when you tire of whatever you’re currently working on. Your mind craves variety so give it some.

Or

2) Do something mindless and unimportant.

Go have some fun, run an errand, play a game, watch a video.

Distract yourself from your work by taking a bigger break than usual, and don’t feel guilty about it because your “fun” break serves a purpose.

It allows your conscious mind to rest, so you’ll have more energy when you get back to work. And it allows your subconscious mind to work on the problem while you’re “goofing off”.

When you return to work, you may find that the break has allowed your subconscious mind to bring you new ideas and solutions.

Take 20 or 30 minutes to play and do something that doesn’t require a lot of thought or effort.

But do put a time limit on it or you might find yourself spending the rest of the day binge watching pet videos and getting nothing done.

Taking a marketing course is never a waste of time

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How much time do you waste looking for things?

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If you spend just 5 minutes per day looking for things–on your computer, in paper files, on your desk–over the course of a year you’re wasting more than 20 hours.

Non. Billable. Time.

How can you reclaim some of that time?

I do my best to organize files logically so I can find things by drilling down through file category but documents are still filed in multiple directories and use different naming conventions so I still “misplace” things.

So, I use a program called “Everything“.

According to the site, “‘Everything’ is search engine that locates files and folders by filename instantly for Windows. Unlike Windows search “Everything” initially displays every file and folder on your computer.”

I’m sure there are similar tools for other OS’s.

For notes, I use Evernote and Workflowy, both of which have robust search capabilities. I search by tag and/or keyword to find names, dates, emails, phone numbers, and project-specific keywords.

I also make sure to add details to my notes that I might otherwise not record, so I can search and find what I’m looking for when I recall only random snippets of information, e.g., the client drove a Yugo and used to live in Paraguay or opposing counsel wore bow ties.

Paper? Physical files? Not anymore. But if I did, I’d set up a digital index that told me which file, which drawer, which box, contains the document or information.

How about you? How do you find what you’re looking for?

Asking your secretary or assistant to find it for you doesn’t count.

Check out Workflowy; use this link to get extra space

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Watching Netflix all day can actually be productive

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Laura Mae Martin is Google’s in-house productivity expert and just offered some of the most useful productivity advice I’ve ever heard.

Instead of defining productivity in terms of how much we get done, she says, we should define it as doing what we intended.

“If you spent a day watching Netflix. . . that’s a productive day–if you had intended to watch Netflix,” she said.

If you’re tired and need to take some time to re-charge and do something effortless, that’s a good use of your time. But her point isn’t about respecting our need for rest so much as redefining productivity in terms of intent.

If you intend to do legal work but binge-watch Netflix instead, you’re just procrastinating. That’s also true if you intend to do legal work but you bug out of the office to do some networking, because that’s not what you intended either.

“The secret is “knowing what you want to do, intending to do it, and doing what you wanted to do,” she explained.

When we define productivity in terms of doing what we intend, we become more aware of what we put on our plate, and what we don’t. We think about what we’re doing and why we’re doing it.

Which means we’re more likely to do what’s important, not just what’s next on the list.

At the end of the day, when you look at what you accomplished, ask yourself if you did what you intended. If you did, great. You had a productive day.

If you didn’t, you’ll be more mindful of what you put on your plate tomorrow.

If you intend to get a lot more clients this year, get this

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What’s your DMO?

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Many people use the last few days of the year to plan their next year. If you’re among them, one thing you might want to do is create (or update) your DMO.

Your “Daily Method of Operation” is a list of essential recurring tasks, and a process for handling other things that comes your way. Your DMO helps you make progress on your top priorities and minimize distractions and omissions.

Your DMO might include a list of tasks you want to do every day or on certain days of the week, and lay out the order in which you will do them.

It might include a list of tasks for starting your day and another list delineating how you will end it.

At the start of the year, you can only lay out general plans about how you will use your time–the “big rocks” of your day. One of these should be scheduling time to look at your calendar and list of projects so you can plan the bulk of your day.

One thing you’ll discover is that no matter what your DMO includes today it will surely change tomorrow.

And that’s okay.

Because the value of planning your DMO–or anything else–isn’t in the plan, it’s in the planning.

The Attorney Marketing Formula includes a simple but effective marketing plan

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How’s that ‘weekly review’ thing going?

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No matter what kind of productivity system we use, we can all agree that some kind of weekly review is a good idea.

Examining what we’ve done recently and planning out what to do next just makes sense. A well-planned life is a well-lived life, or something like that.

But. . . it’s so easy to fall off the wagon. (Ask me how I know.)

If you’re thinking about re-starting your weekly review, or cleaning up a list that has become unwieldy, I have a few ideas that might help.

  • If it’s been awhile since you did a weekly review, if you routinely ignore the appointment in your calendar, scheduling a different day and time for your review might help you jump start a new habit.
  • If this is your first day back, don’t try to do everything at once. Limit yourself to reviewing a segment of your list, e.g., current projects, “this week” or “this month,” or limit yourself to a 10-minute perusal to get your feet wet. Easy to start, easy to continue.
  • Consider setting up two new tags or labels: “Defer to do” and “Defer to review”. This will allow you to move tasks and ideas out of sight (for now), giving you more visual space and mental clarity to deal with more important or immediate tasks.
  • If your someday/maybe list is massive, give yourself permission to aggressively delete items. If that makes you nervous, move them to a “probably never” list, and tell yourself you will “probably never” look at that list.
  • If things are totally out of control and you dread getting started, consider the nuclear option: set up a new inbox, move your entire list into it, and start from scratch.
  • Another idea: choose a new app or system and re-enter everything manually. It makes you re-consider what’s important and helps you create a more manageable list.
  • Once you’re back on the wagon and your lists are in decent shape, consider adding a brief “daily review” to your schedule. A few minutes at the end of the day can help you keep your lists tidy and reduce the amount of time needed for your weekly review.

If you use Evernote for your lists, my book can help you get organized

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