110% effort? 


You can accomplish most things worth accomplishing without extreme effort. In fact, giving things your all might be counterproductive. 

You get tired and make mistakes. You have unreasonable expectations and feel bad for falling short. You spend most of your time on one project and your other responsibilities and goals suffer. 

Of course 110% effort isn’t possible. Neither is 100%. Even 90% is too much. Instead, some experts suggest you dial down your effort to 85%.

Supposedly, that’s the sweet spot. Enough effort (time, energy, commitment) to be manageable and avoid burnout. Enough to allow you to do your best work and accomplish your most important goals.  

You’ve only got so much juice to give. Scale back. You’ll be more productive. 


Do more of what works?


Yesterday, I quoted Peter Drucker’s comment about the “aim of marketing” and shared my thoughts. Today, I want to chew on another quote from the man which you will surely recognize. It begins: 

“Do more of what works. . .” 

That sounds like good advice, but how do we know when something works? 

If we get desirable results, we have to say it’s working, but what if we could get better results doing something else?

Or doing the same thing, but differently? 

We might dramatically improve our results by changing our words, our process, our timing, or by involving different people. In which case, continuing to do what’s working might not be best. 

We should always look for ways to make what’s working work better. 

Hold on. What does “better” mean? 

In the context of marketing, better might mean bringing in more clients, but it might instead mean bringing in clients who have more work for us, bigger cases, or work that is more profitable.

“Better” could also mean “easier”. Or more enjoyable. Or more consistent with our values and long-term goals. 

Okay, we get the idea. Don’t stop doing something that produces desirable results unless you find something better and always look for something better

But we can’t ignore the second half of Drucker’s quote, “…and quickly abandon what doesn’t (work)”. 

What does this mean? 

No results? Poor results, compared to what? Results that require too much time and effort, i.e., aren’t worth it? 

And, if we determine that something doesn’t work, should we completely (and quickly) abandon it? Doesn’t it make sense to see if we can fix it?

So many questions. 

The full quote, “Do more of what works and quickly abandon what doesn’t” is easy to understand and remember. It isn’t bad advice, just incomplete. 

But it’s a great place to start. 


Got a minute? Try this. . .


It’s easy to do and makes a lot of sense. A simple way to find things you need to do but often don’t. 

All you do is create a list of small tasks you can do when you don’t have a lot of time, energy, or motivation. Add labels or tags so you can find these tasks when you have a few minutes between appointments, for example, or when you’re tired and don’t want to do anything cognitively demanding.

This isn’t primarily for regular routines or for tasks you schedule in advance. It’s for the things that tend to fall through the cracks. 

When you have 5 or 10 minutes before your next appointment, call, or meeting, for example, you can jot down a few notes about an article you’re planning to write. In the afternoon, when you’re low on energy, you can read an article or watch a video for an upcoming project. 

I’ll bet your task app, or list, is filled with tasks that qualify. Find them, tag them, and do them when you the opportunity presents itself. 

Some people create tags for 5, 10, and 20 minutes. Or “energy” tags for “low, medium, and high”. Some people set up filters for combing time and energy, e.g., “10-minute low-energy” tasks or “5-minute tasks for the xyz project”. 

One benefit to these kinds of lists or filters is that they allow you to more easily bundle tasks, e.g., errands, chores, admin, or involving other people, so you can get them done in one go.

Having lists of tasks you can knock off when you’re tired or busy feels good and might stimulate you to get other things done. 

But I think one of the biggest benefits is that it allows you to create shorter lists devoted to your “most important” tasks each day, without the clutter or distraction of everything else you could do.,

Shorter lists of “must do” tasks allow you to focus and do them. After you do them, you can easily find other things to do.


What do you plan to do with this information? 


Best-selling author Ryan Holiday said, “When intelligent people read, they ask themselves a simple question: What do I plan to do with this information?” 

That’s the reason we read, isn’t it? Yes, we also read for entertainment and to learn about subjects that interest us, but the primary reason we consume content is because we want to do something with the information. 

We have projects to complete and goals to achieve. We want to grow our business and improve our life and we use the information we gather to help us get better results. 

Holiday seems to suggest that deciding what to do with the information is best done before we read it, or at least while we’re doing it. We get more out of it that way because we see the information in the context of our work or an important area of our life.

So, when you buy a book or bookmark an article or video, think about what you want to get out of it. What do you hope to learn? To which project or area of your life do you think it will apply? 

By considering this in advance, when you read the material, you’re more likely to pick up on things you might have missed, and ask yourself more probative questions that can improve your understanding and use of the material. 

Then, when you read the material, take notes and put those notes in your own words. Don’t merely record the facts or ideas, write down what you think about those facts or ideas and how you can use them.

Do you agree with the author? See a better way? Think of additional ideas? 

Add tags or labels to your notes  to make them easier to find. Add links to your other notes to make them more useful. 

And decide if the information is good enough to read more than once.

Finally, if you realize that the material isn’t what you hoped it would be, don’t hesitate to skim the remainder or close the book and find something else to read. 

Because information is only as good at what you can do with it. 


Start with the end in mind


What does it mean to ‘start with the end in mind’? It means instead of starting from where you are and moving forward, you start with your goal and work backwards. 

We usually start with where we are right now, and that’s okay, but it’s not always clear what to do next. You’re shooting into the dark and make it more likely to get distracted or waste time figuring out what to do.

When you start with the end, the last step before reaching the goal is the first step in your plan.

Sounds crazy, but try it with your next project or goal. 

Let’s say your goal is to sign up 10 new estate planning clients in the next 60 days, who pay you an average of $10,000, and you want to accomplish this via referrals from your current and former clients. 

That’s the goal. What do you do?

You ask yourself if you could accomplish that goal tomorrow and when you say you can’t, you ask, “What would I need to do (or what would have to happen) first?”

You might say that you would need appointments with 20 prospective clients (assuming you typically close one out of two). “Could I see 20 prospective clients tomorrow?” No. “What would I have to do first?”

You might answer that question several ways, but let’s say you decide you would need to have 75 clients contact 3 people they know and tell them about you and what you can do for them. 

They would explain to their friend why they hired you and why their friend should do that, too. Your clients would send them information you provide about estate planning, your services, and a special offer or incentive. 

Could you send all that to your clients tomorrow? 

No. First, you would have to write the email you want your clients to send to 3 people they know, your report or other information, and the terms of your special offer. 

You’d also have to compose the email you will send to your clients asking them to email this information, or the outline of a short script you can use if you call them instead. 

Could you write and send all that tomorrow? Let’s say you can’t. You first have to outline what to write and make a list of clients to send it to. 

Could you do that tomorrow? If you could, that’s your plan for tomorrow. That’s your first step. 

There might be more steps, different variables, or a completely different plan, but this is the process for laying out everything you need to do, in the order in which to do it.  

When you have a goal or a project and you’re not sure how to get started, start with the end in mind and work backwards.


You only need 3 lists


We like our lists, our task apps, and our systems. We like planning and managing our days. But many of us overcomplicate things, often spending more time managing our lists than doing the tasks on those lists. And being stressed as we perpetually look for the perfect system. 

I was reminded of that recently when I saw a post on social crediting Marc Andreessen’s way of managing his very busy days. Andreessen puts his tasks into just 3 categories: 

  1. NOW
  2. NEXT
  3. LATER

And I think he puts them on a single page. 

We can quibble about the meaning of “now”. For some of us, that means “immediately,” as soon as we finish making the list. For others, it might mean “today”. Others might include tasks intended to be done over the next few days. 

For me, “now” means “today”. I like to look at the list, see what’s on tap for the day, and not have to think about anything else until it’s time to look at tomorrow. I also put those tasks in the order I intend to do them.

“Next” surely means tasks to do after you complete the tasks on your first list. That might mean later today, later in the week, or as soon as you can. It might include scheduled tasks, projects to review, single tasks, or routines that need to be done, well, routinely.

“Now” and “Next” are pretty clear. It’s “Later” that can cause problems, especially if it becomes a dumping ground for everything you want to do after you do the tasks on the first two lists.

An endless “Later” list isn’t helpful. The best solution is to impose a cutoff. “Later” might mean “next week” or “later this month” for example.  

What do you do with everything else? Things you want to do next month, next quarter, next year, or “someday”? 

Schedule them. 

Put these in your app or on your calendar to either “do” or “review” on a future day. That’s what I do, and it keeps me (reasonably) sane. 

The point of having just 3 lists is to keep things simple, because if it’s simple, you’ll do it.

Each day, look at your “now” list or today’s list and get to work. When you finish the tasks on that list, you can start on “next” (if you have the time and energy), or put those tasks on your list for tomorrow and go have some fun. 

What do you do to keep your task lists manageable?


5 slots


So tell me, how much do you do on a typical day? How many tasks, appointments, or meetings? How many cases or projects do you work on? 

You want to do as much as possible, but you don’t want to burn out. 

You need a plan. 

Most people don’t plan effectively. They do the work that’s in front of them. They look at their calendar and task list, see what’s on deadline, think about their goals, and fill their day with as many tasks and appointments as possible. 

And end the day exhausted. 

They had a busy day. They got a lot done. But they aren’t running their business, their business is running them. 

If you ever feel that way about your practice, consider making a slight change. Instead of seeing what’s in front of you need to do each day, first decide how much you want to do. 

Pick a number. Not too much, not too few. Choose a number of “slots” to fill with work before you fill them.  

Slots first. Work second. 

Let’s say you choose 5 as the number of tasks you want to complete each day. That’s your upper limit. Maybe 2 or 3 are MITs (Most Important Tasks) and the others are less important. 

Whatever number you choose, it doesn’t include routine tasks you also do, such as clearing email, returning phone calls, and reviewing and signing routine letters and documents. 

A task is something that’s both important and takes a fair amount of time and energy to complete. More than a few minutes, anyway. In fact, you might specify that a task is anything that requires 30 minutes or more.

Of course, you can group small tasks, allocating 30 minutes for calls or for emails, for example. And yes, it’s a good idea to block out the time for this on your calendar. 

You can do the same thing with appointments and meetings. Decide in advance how many slots you allow each day. 

Maybe you allow yourself 2 tasks and 2 appointments each day. Or designate certain days for appointments, other days for tasks. 

The point isn’t how many tasks or appointment slots you choose, or when you do them. It’s that you decide how many slots in advance.

Planning this way keeps you from getting overwhelmed. You get your most important work done and have time and energy left to do anything else you choose to do. 

You run the practice instead of the other way around. 


Nobody messes with mom


Promise your mother you’ll do it and you’ll do it. Because nobody messes with mom. 

Accountability is a proven method for getting things done you might otherwise not do. When someone else is watching and will call you out when you don’t do what you said you would do, you are much more likely to do it.

In school, you may have had a study partner you met in the library who kept you accountable. You showed up because you didn’t want to explain why you didn’t.

In law school, you might have been in a study group where you agreed to brief certain cases and present a summary to the other members. You did it because they were counting on you.

Today, it might be your spouse, your law partner, or a business coach. Someone you know who is watching and will call you out if you don’t do what you committed to do.

Try it sometime. If you are pursing a goal and having trouble sticking with your plan, having someone hold you accountable might be just the thing that gets you to stick with it. 

But there’s something else you can do. You can hold yourself accountable to yourself. 

Start your day with a written list of tasks you intend to do. At the end of the day, write down what you did and didn’t do. 

That’s it. The simple act of writing down what you did and comparing it to what you said you would do keeps you self-aware and accountable. You can’t cheat because you know the truth. 

You’ll either follow your plan or change it. Changing it is okay because it’s your plan. So when you change it, you’ll know, and either be okay with that or feel guilty and change it back. 

Unfortunately, there is another possibility. You might quit. 

You’ll quit because accountability is a bitch. That’s why it’s so effective.

And, if holding yourself accountable isn’t working, there’s only one thing left to do. 

Yep, call your mom. She won’t let you get away with anything. 


“You’ve got to explode out of the mud!” 


When you can’t seem to get started on a big project, or make progress on one, or you’re struggling with a difficult situation and don’t know what to do, typically, you change your approach. You do more research, try different tools and different strategies, and little by little, step by step, you climb out of the mud.

And that usually works.

But sometimes, the mud turns into quicksand, and you’re stuck. And the harder you try, the harder it is to get out.

You need a different approach. Instead of tinkering and looking for incremental solutions, you have to do something radical. 

“You’ve got to explode out of the mud,” says CEO and author John Addison. 

To do that, you’ need to change how you think about things. And use your imagination.

Look at what others have done when faced with similar challenges and ask yourself, “What would (this person) do if they were in my position?” You couldn’t find the answer. Maybe they can.

If your goal seems impossibly difficult, ask yourself, “What would I do if this was easy?” If things are going too slowly, ask, “What would have to happen for me to finish this project in the next 30 days?” Or, “What would I do if I had one year to live and failure was not an option?”

If you’re stuck, pretend you’re not. Pretend you know what to do to explode out of the mud.


Daily planning


As I’ve often mentioned, I plan my day the night before it begins, primarily because I like being able to start the day by getting to work. 

But I don’t get to work until I review the plan I made the night before. Just a minute or two, to double check everything. 

I might remember something I didn’t put on the list. Something important might have shown up in my email I need to address. My wife might remind me about something we need to do. Or I might realize I’m not ready to do something because I need to talk to someone, research something, or do something first. 

Plans change, after all. 

But there’s something else. Sometimes, I wake up, look at the list and realize that I’ve over-committed for the day. I overestimated how much I could accomplish and something has to go. Or there’s something on the list I don’t feel like doing that day. Unless there is a compelling reason why I must do it, I push it to another day. It’s my schedule, after all. 

It’s good to be king. 

Finally, once I’ve amended the list, I put things in the order in which I plan to do them. 

And then I get to work. 

Those two minutes in the morning make for a much more productive day.