A simple way to feel better about the future

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I spent extra time doing my weekly review yesterday. I dusted off some projects I had planned to work on last year and prioritized them to work on this year.

I consolidated blocks of notes I have been accumulating and made new lists about what to do next.

For a couple of hours, I ignored the current state of the world and planned my future. When I was done, I felt good.

I have things to do and I’m looking forward to doing them. No matter what the world delivers to my doorstep, I will adapt and move forward.

Because that’s all anyone can do.

I encourage you to go through your apps and lists and notes and make a new plan or update your old one. Make it simple and focus on what you can do, not what you can’t do.

When you’re done, you’ll have a renewed sense of purpose and a picture of a better future, and you’ll feel good about that future, because you have a plan.

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Your idea stinks. Congratulations.

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Your lists are overflowing with ideas. Ideas for growing your practice, managing your investments, raising your kids, places to see and things to do and thousands of other things you saw or heard or thought.

You have pages of notes and “someday/maybe” tasks, deferred projects, techniques for getting more organized, strategies for increasing your productivity, and ways to find inner peace.

You have lists of books to read and videos to watch, ideas for blog posts and articles to write, courses to take, and websites to explore.

Am I right or am I right?

I know I’m right because I have these, too.

Let’s be honest. Let’s admit that most of these ideas aren’t very good and (thankfully) we’ll never do most of them.

But that doesn’t mean we should stop collecting bad ideas because out of that massive list of bad ideas come a few good ones.

And a few good ideas is all we need.

The thing is, if we only pay attention to good ideas, we stifle our ability to find the good ones.

Seth Godin said:

“People who have trouble coming up with good ideas, if they’re telling you the truth, will tell you they don’t have very many bad ideas. But people who have plenty of good ideas, if they’re telling the truth, will say they have even more bad ideas. So the goal isn’t to get good ideas; the goal is to get bad ideas. Because once you get enough bad ideas, then some good ones have to show up.”

Tools of Titans by Tim Ferriss

The lesson is simple: if you want more good ideas, write down more bad ones.

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The perfect time management system

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If you ever find yourself driven by the need to get organized, if you continually try new techniques or apps only to abandon them in favor of something else, if you are on a never ending quest to find the perfect time management system, stop.

Just stop.

Many productive, happy people don’t use a system.

The have a calendar. They write down what they need to do for the day. They have files they can turn to when they need something. And. . . that’s about it.

They don’t make elaborate lists with tags and contexts for every task. They don’t use digital reminders. A post it note is more than enough.

They don’t set goals or write detailed plans. They don’t make ‘New Year’s Resolutions’. They know what they want and spend their time taking action.

And their “system” works.

They don’t forget things. They never worry about having too much to do, or stress out about what they haven’t done.

Their system works because they trust their subconscious mind to know what they want and show them what to do to get it.

I know, you’re life is complicated and you want more. You can still use your favorite tools and techniques. Just don’t obsess over them, or spend so much time tweaking them that you don’t have time for anything else.

The new year is upon us. It’s a good time to re-think your system. Get rid of things that aren’t necessary or don’t serve you and simplify everything else.

You might want to start over. Pretend you have no system. One by one, add back things that work.

And ignore the rest.

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Quicker than search?

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The quickest way to find a digital file is to search for it by keyword, client, or date. Tags, labels, and other meta data can also help.

But they only work if you know what you’re looking for.

Sometimes, you don’t. The only way to find what you want is to manually browse through your files and notes and hope you get lucky.

It’s worse with paper files.

Unless you have a better filing system. One that allows you to narrow your search to a small segment of “everything”.

I’ve been using Tiago Forte’s PARA method to organize things and there’s a lot I like about it. At it’s simplest, you organize everything according to 4 categories: P is for (current) Projects, A is for Areas (of focus), R is for Resources, and A is for Archive (completed projects, settled cases, things you no longer need).

Since I no longer use a separate task manager, I added one more category: Tasks.

Projects and Archive are easy to understand and maintain, but Areas and Resources often overlap. I’m still working my way through this, but I’ve discovered something else I think might help.

It’s called the Johnny.Decimal system and allows you to classify all your “stuff” using numbers, sort of like the Dewey Decimal system used in libraries (but not as complicated or rigid).

The author says that using this system, you can find anything in no more than 2 clicks, but I’m not so sure. I have a lot of stuff! On the other hand, 3 clicks would be a blessing so I’m giving it a go.

Let me know what you think about the PARA system or the Johnny.Decimal system.

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Is your email inbox other people’s to-do list?

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Many people use their email as a task list. Email comes in, they do what is requested or needed, and issue a reply. If the “ask” requires a simple reply, they do it, using the so-called “2-minute rule” (anything that can be done in 2 minutes or less should be done immediately).

But what if the email is informational and doesn’t need a reply? What do they do with the information so they can find it when they need it?

Where do they record what was requested or done? Where do they keep notes about the case or a list of what to do next? And what do they do with email that can’t be handled with a quick reply?

Clearly, email is not a good task manager or a good place to store notes. Use apps that are designed for those purposes.

Keeping a to-do list and notes separate from your email (and postal mail) allows you to record a transactional time-line you can review, along with your thoughts and ideas and a list of what to do next.

Keeping those functions separate also provides you with a buffer of time to consider the request or information, and your response or next action.

Keeping to-dos separate from email helps you to be proactive instead of reactive. You decide what’s best and most important to you at any given time and do that, not necessarily what was asked of you in the morning mail.

Check out my ebook: Evernote for Lawyers

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When you don’t feel up to it, don’t do it

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Finally, a bit of common sense about planning our day.

In the article, “11 Time Management Myths That Are Hurting Your Productivity,” Gabriella Goddard with Brainsparker Leadership Academy, offered this advice:

“When you just focus on managing time, you don’t take into account your natural bio-rhythms and energy levels. Trying to take on a tough task when your energy is at rock bottom is a recipe for procrastination. So, if your energy is high in the morning, then focus on the more difficult projects or actions. If, by Friday, you tend to feel flat, then schedule less important meetings and administration.”

Don’t be rigid about your schedule. Listen to what your body and brain tell you. And don’t follow a productivity author’s advice if it isn’t right for you.

If you’re not a morning person, for example, don’t Eat That Frog first. Don’t tackle your most difficult or important tasks first.

Wake up first.

Start your work day with administrative or other less demanding tasks. Do your most important or most difficult tasks later.

It’s good to get your most important work done as early as possible in the day. Just don’t try it before your third cup of coffee.

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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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