Focusing is easier when you do this

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Focus is the operative word. Stick with what you know and are good at, and keep doing it. That’s the key to success, isn’t it?

P.T. Barnum thought so:

“Do not scatter your powers. Engage in one kind of business only, and stick to it faithfully until you succeed, or until your experience shows that you should abandon it. A constant hammering on one nail will generally drive it home at last, so that it can be clinched. When a man’s undivided attention is centered on one object, his mind will constantly be suggesting improvements of value, which would escape him if his brain was occupied by a dozen different subjects at once.”

And yet, I encourage you to try lots of marketing ideas. I often talk about other things I’ve done, when I was practicing, and today.

You can do other things, just make sure you don’t do them all at once.

Do one thing at a time and do it as completely as possible before you start something else. Do it until you know it’s a go or a no, then move onto the next idea.

That doesn’t mean you can’t start doing something new while you’re also doing other things.

You can expand your network while you’re creating more content. You can build an email list while you’re working on a new presentation. You can build a side business, write books, or start other business projects while you’re growing your practice.

But don’t start something new until what you’re doing is on solid ground.

How do you’re there? When what you’re doing doesn’t depend completely on you.

You’ve got people working for you. You’ve got systems in place that allow you to get things done quickly and efficiently. You’ve got free time in your day to explore other ideas.

I’ve heard the word focus defined as, “Follow One Course Until Successful”. When what you’re doing is successful, then you can move on to something else.

How to build your practice with email

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A better way to take notes

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In a recent webinar, author and memory expert Jim Kwik taught his audience a better way to take notes.

First, he recommends hand writing instead of typing. Why? “It’s because you can’t write everything down,” he said. Hand writing, “forces you to add a filter and ask yourself questions about how important something is and how you’ll use it,” he said. This aids understanding and retention.

I don’t know that I’m ready to hand write all my notes, but he makes a good point. In a live presentation or meeting, I do use paper. With recorded lectures, I pause a lot to write down my thoughts.

Kwik also recommends adding “notes to your notes” (my term). Adding your own examples and anecdotes, for example, helps you see the information in context and further improves understanding and retention.

I did that when I was studying for the bar exam and found it immensely helpful.

As you write your notes, Kwik also suggest asking yourself 3 questions about the material: “How will I use this? Why must I use this? When will I use this?” Answering these questions will make it more likely that you’ll actually use and benefit from the information.

What if you don’t know the answers to those questions? I guess that’s when you listen to the presentation again.

You’ll want to take lots of notes when you listen to my email marketing course

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2 questions to help you prioritize your work

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You have legal work and admin work. You have urgent tasks and important projects. How do you figure out what to do, and what to do first?

Prioritizing your work doesn’t have to be difficult. You don’t need a complex formula or checklist. All you need to do is ask yourself 2 questions:

(1) “If I could only work 2 hours today, what would I do?”

Pretend you have a medical condition that only allows you to be at your desk for 2 hours a day. You have to choose what you must do and what can wait until tomorrow.

What’s urgent? What’s essential? What’s at the top of your list in terms of importance?

That’s what you should work on today.

But not before you ask yourself question no. 2. . .

(2) “If I could only work 2 hours this week, what would I do?”

This helps you to identify the tasks and projects that are likely to provide you with the most value and advance you towards your biggest goals.

This is where the majority of your time and energy should be invested this week, and also today.

Yes, you’ll have to do some juggling. You can’t fill your day with urgent tasks without taking time away from your most important work, but you can’t ignore things that have to get done today to work on your big projects.

You have to balance them. Get clear on what’s really important.

Which is what these questions help you to do.

The Quantum Leap Marketing System for Attorneys. Details here

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The first rule of productivity

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Productivity isn’t about how much you do, or how fast your do it. It’s about the quality of your work.

But it’s difficult to deliver the kind of quality your clients want and expect when your plate is overflowing.

The first rule of productivity is to eliminate most of what you could do, to free up resources to do your most valuable work.

High achievers say “no” to almost everything. You must, too. You might call this the ‘prime directive’ in the achievement universe.

Cut out most of the tasks and projects on your lists. Say no to most of the requests from others. Do less than you think you could do, so you’ll have time and energy to excel at the few things that matter most.

When you do less, you can do more of what you do best. You’ll have more time to improve your most valuable skills, develop key relationships, and work on your most promising projects.

Eliminate practice areas that don’t excite you. Let go of marginal clients and cases. Stop marketing to “everyone”.

When you do less, your days are less crowded. You may not crank out as much work or close as many cases, but you’ll earn more because the quality of your work will attract better clients and bigger cases.

Years ago, when I decided to do less, it was hard to let go. I thought I could do it gradually, but that didn’t work. What worked was doing it all at once.

I eliminated practice areas and stopped taking certain clients. For awhile, I had much less work to do.

It was frightening, but liberating. I was free to build the kind of practice I wanted. And I did, faster than I thought was possible.

My income multiplied, I had more time for other areas of my life, and I was happier.

If you want to be more productive and more successful, do less.

This will help you focus

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Our best ideas choose us

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What should you write about on your blog? Which book should you read next? Where should you go on vacation?

The best idea is probably the one you can’t stop thinking about, or the one you keep coming back to.

Our subconscious minds know what we like, what we want, and what would be best for us, and finds ways to tell us what to do.

Our job is to listen.

Most of us write down our ideas. Some of us “think on paper,” writing out the options, describing how we feel, weighing the pros and cons.

I’ve got a long list of ideas for all sorts of things. Maybe you do, too. We check our lists, and choose the next task or project or idea. When we see the right one, we know it, don’t we?

Stephen King doesn’t write down book ideas. He says his best ideas stick with him, sometimes for many years. Writing them down, he says, would dissipate them.

Whether we keep our ideas on paper, in an app, or we let our subconscious mind hold onto them, one thing is certain.

Our best ideas choose us.

More marketing ideas than you can shake a stick at

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Time boxing big projects

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Time boxing means scheduling time on your calendar for working on specific tasks. Some people plan their entire day in 15-minute increments. They know what they’re supposed to do, and when, and by sticking to their schedule, they get a lot done.

Other people, including yours truly, schedule 30 minutes to an hour, or a couple of hours each day, dedicated to certain activities: email, seeing clients, writing, catching up on reading, and so on.

Either way, scheduling your workday in blocks of time allows you to get your important work done, and avoid wasting time doing things that may be urgent but aren’t necessarily important.

Time boxing works because “constraints” force you to focus. When you know you only have 30 minutes for email, you don’t spend two hours.

The Pomodoro Technique (25 minutes of focused work, 5-minute break) is based on this concept.

You can also use time boxing for big projects.

If you’re working on a new presentation, for example, you might schedule one hour a day to work on it until it’s done. If your experience is anything like mine, however, you often find that what you thought would take days or weeks is somehow taking months.

This morning, I heard about another way to use time boxing for big projects. In addition to scheduling the days and hours you will work on the project, decide how many days or weeks you’ll work on it.

In other words, set up a time block of (say) 90 days to write the book, finish the presentation, or achieve the goal.

This forces you to focus on getting the project done, making it more likely that you’ll finish it sometime before the end of next millennium.

I wish I’d thought of that before I started my current work in progress.

The Easy Way to Write a Book

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Always finish what you start?

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Our teachers and parents told us to finish what we started. They said we would never realize our full potential if we leave things undone, or we were making things harder on ourselves because we’ll have to finish it later.

Do it now and get it over with, they said. Touch things once. Leaving things undone is stressful and distracting.

Yes, but what if we don’t want to finish?

You don’t have to finish reading a book you’re not enjoying. You can abandon projects that aren’t going anywhere. You can end relationships that don’t serve you.

In fact, I think our default setting should be to NOT finish what we start.

Make the project or person prove themselves to us.

If that book doesn’t grab you after one or two chapters, off with it’s head. If you have a friend who is always negative, maybe it’s time to end the relationship.

Not finishing things gives you more time to do other things.

So, let go of that hobby you no longer enjoy. You’ll have time to find a new one. Let go of the client who makes your life difficult. You’ll make room for others.

But here’s the thing.

When you let go, you really have to let go.

Burn your ships. Destroy your notes. Tell yourself you’re truly done and you’re not going back.

Because if you don’t, your subconscious mind will nag you and remind you that you have unfinished business. It’s called the Zeigarnik effect.

And yes, that voice in your head will probably sound like your mom telling you to finish your veggies.

How to get referrals from other lawyers

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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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