Multi-tasking for the win

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“What’s your best productivity hack?” That’s the question posed to a group of busy executives whose answers were reported in an article I just scanned. (That’s one of my hacks: scan more, read less).

Anyway, a surprising number mentioned a specific type of multi-tasking they do. Several of the respondents use their driving time to make calls.

It lets them use what would otherwise be downtime to get some (billable) work done.

That surprised me because everyone “knows” multi-tasking doesn’t work. You can’t effectively do two things at once.

Yes, but there are exceptions and for some people, talking and driving is one of them.

But not for me.

When I’m driving, I find it difficult to give someone on the phone my full attention. I’m sure I sound distracted because, frankly, I am.

Probably why some states want to outlaw it.

There are other ways to use drive time (or commute time). You can do some dictation, listen to podcasts, rehearse a presentation, or record notes about your current case or project.

I’ve done all of the above, in the car and on my walks. Much easier when it’s just you.

Generally, though, I get my best work done when I concentrate on one thing at a time.

But, there is an exception here, too.

I often do some of my best thinking in the car. I reason my way through problems, brainstorm ideas, and flesh out “the next step” in whatever I’m working on.

But I won’t call anyone to discuss it until I get home.

When you’re ready to take a quantum leap in your practice, click here

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You don’t need a bigger plate

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You know you will always have “too much” to do, don’t you? You’ll never get it all done, no matter how hard you try.

So stopping trying so hard. And don’t worry about what you don’t get done, as long as you’re getting the most important things done.

Instead of getting a bigger plate (so you can work harder), if you’re busier than all hell, figure out what to take off your plate.

Make room to do more of the important things you’re doing now or to do things you want to do but “haven’t had the time.”

Yes?

How do you decide what to take off your plate?

The logical way, the way most people do it, is to use a cost/benefit analysis.

Examine everything, note the amount of time and money and other resources you’ll need to devote to it, and compare that to the potential return.

It’s math. Do this thing, pay this price, earn this amount.

Go over the numbers with your staff or your accountant or your business coach, if that will help, and make a decision.

Ah, but sometimes the numbers don’t add up.

You don’t how much time or effort something is really going to take. Or you can’t project ROI because there are too many variables.

What do you do then?

Forget the numbers and trust your gut.

Your gut may give you the same answer your accountant gave you but it might surprise you.

If you’re really listening to your gut (and not the voice of what you think you’re “supposed to” do), your gut will lead you to what’s best for you.

Things that give you a bigger return than you could imagine or open up new opportunities you didn’t know were there.

Your gut will never fail you. But you might not know that so that’s why you have to TRUST your gut.

So, that’s it. Make decisions based on logic or intuition.

You can use either one, or both.

But a note of caution. If you use logic and it tells you to get a bigger plate, don’t listen.

Because you don’t need a bigger plate.

Make room to do bigger things

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It’s called ‘maybe’ for a reason

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I love hearing how other people structure and use their lists. When I find an idea I like, I try it and see if it works for me. Sometimes, they are a keeper. Sometimes, they don’t work for me and out they go.

And then there are ideas that are DOA.

I read one of these this morning. The author of the article said that he takes the tasks on his ‘someday/maybe’ list and either puts them on his calendar or deletes them.

He says this eliminates a lengthy weekly review of all of the tasks on that list.

I have three issues with this:

Issue no. one: Tasks on my someday/maybe list are merely ideas. I have zero commitment to them. I may do them, someday, but the odds are that I won’t. Why should I schedule anything I probably won’t do?

Issue no. two: When the scheduled date for the task arrives, if the author can’t or doesn’t want to do it, he re-schedules it (or deletes it). Since I don’t see the value in scheduling someday/maybe tasks to begin with, the idea of continually re-scheduling them seems like a poor use of my time.

Don’t they just clog up your calendar or tickler list?

Which leads me to

Issue no. three: Scheduling tasks doesn’t work for me, period.

I know many people do this successfully but unless a task has a due date or I have to get started on it so I can meet a future due date, I don’t schedule it.

Instead, I keep my lists of active tasks nearby and, once a day (usually), decide which of those tasks I’m going to do that day or that week.

I spend no time trying to figure out the priority of tasks I may not get to for weeks or months, and no time scheduling them.

A someday/maybe list does tend to get big and unwieldy, however, and I admit I don’t go through mine every week. I go through it periodically and purge ideas that no longer appeal to me, and move the ones that do to another list.

To save time, sometimes I go through my someday/maybe list and only look at items that have a certain tag or that were added to the list over a year ago.

Of course, the biggest time-saver is not adding ideas (like this one) to the list in the first place.

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What would you do with an extra hour a day?

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If you had an extra hour a day available what would you do with it?

More client work?

More marketing and practice building activities?

More time off?

Would you start a new business project? Work on your hobby? Get in shape? Write a book?

It would be nice, wouldn’t it? It could be life-changing.

But it’s not going to happen. You’re never going to find an hour a day in your busy schedule.

Unless you decide to.

If you do, here are some questions to ask yourself that could help you free up that time:

  • Look at your calendar and task list. What do you regularly do that you could safely stop doing or cut back on? Yesterday, I talked about eliminating unnecessary expenses. Why can’t you do the same thing with your time?
  • What project are you working on you could indefinitely defer?
  • What could you outsource or delegate? (Give this a lot of thought; it could free up days, not hours.)
  • What could you do more quickly by improving your skills, acquiring tools or tech, or streamlining your work-flow or systems?
  • What content, marketing collateral, or work product could you re-purpose or re-use (so you don’t have to spend time creating more)?
  • What marketing activities (networking, presentations, podcasting, videos) could you eliminate, shorten, or replace with something simpler and less time-consuming?
  • Do you have any services or practice areas that take up a disproportionate amount of your time and focus (and could be eliminated)?
  • What meetings could you eliminate or shorten? What boards or committees could you step down from?
  • Could you shorten the commute to your office? Could you work from home or a second office a couple of days a week?

It’s important to ask yourself these questions because you might like the answers.

And because one hour a day is 250 hours per year.

Extra.

What would you do with that time?

If you want some help finding an extra hour per day, let me know.

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Inbox zero problem–solved

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I’ve been pretty good about maintaining inbox zero, that is, cleaning out my email inbox every day (or two).

Things I can do quickly, I do. Things that require more time or I want to save I forward to Evernote. Everything else gets trashed or archived.

Lately, I found myself getting behind. A lot. To the point that I didn’t want to look at my inbox anymore.

Last night, I took action. I added a label to 415 emails (from one guy) and archived them, leaving me with just 39 emails that I’ll handle today.

Yes, that’s a lot of emails from one guy. He writes seven days a week, more when he’s promoting something. I didn’t want to delete them because I get a lot of value from his emails and I want to be able to read them.

Never met the guy but I feel like I know him and I welcome his counsel.

Maybe you feel the same about my emails. You like them, you get information and ideas from them, but you can’t always keep up with me.

You might want to do what I did: label and archive (or put them in a folder) so you can read them later.

You won’t hurt my feelings.

And, if you write a newsletter, you might suggest this to your subscribers, in case they find themselves falling behind.

They can read you later, when they need your help, or when they see the boring dreck written by your competition and miss hearing your “voice”.

It’s not important that your subscribers read everything you write. What’s important is that they see you are still writing to them. See that you’re still helping clients, and still available to them when they need your help.

So, go ahead and write often. Just don’t write dreck.

My email marketing course shows you how to write emails your clients and prospects want to read.

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I only do what pleases me

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I saw this question posted online: “How do you stop procrastinating when you have an upcoming deadline?”

I expected the respondent to say the deadline forced her to get the work done because she had to. Something practical. But no. She said, “I get around that by never accepting projects I don’t want to do. In fact, I pretty much stick to projects that excite me.”

I want what she has.

Wouldn’t it be nice if we could only do work we like and not have to do anything else?

It reminds me of an episode of the old Dick Van Dyke program. Rob and Laura called a house painter to take a look at a problem they were having with a wall in the living room. When the painter arrives, Laura greets him and asks, “How do you do?” The painter, played by Vito Scotti, responds, “Always I do well because I only do what pleases me.”

As unusual as that might sound today, it was even more so when the show played, which is probably why I remember it.

Can you structure your life so you “only do what pleases you?” Maybe not. But you can work towards that.

And you should.

Start avoiding projects, cases, clients, employees, commitments, etc., you don’t like or don’t want to do.

The more you do that, the more you’ll get done and the happier you’ll be in your work. If procrastination has been an issue for you, you’ll probably find you don’t do that anymore.

As you eliminate things that don’t excite you, you make room in your life for things that do.

You could start small, by eliminating minor irritations in your life such as people who drain your energy or routine tasks that bore you. Eventually, consider big things: practice areas, niche markets, types of clients, and partners.

Or, start big. I did that, years ago, when I stopped taking cases and clients outside the practice area I decided to specialize in. Best decision I ever made.

Today, I can’t say I only do what pleases me. But I don’t do much that doesn’t.

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Binge marketing

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So many ideas, so little time. So many ways to promote your services, generate leads, make new business contacts, and improve response to your existing campaigns.

It never stops. Which is why sometimes, you never start.

Having options is a good thing. But it can be overwhelming.

The solution, or at least one sensible approach, is to choose one idea, channel, strategy, tactic or tool, and (temporarily) go “all in”.

Let’s say you’ve decided that LinkedIn is your new bey. You know (or you’ve heard) it’s a good place to find prospective clients, professionals with whom you can network, influencers, bloggers, and other people you’d like to know.

Whether you’re already a LinkedIn ninja or a complete noob, put everything else aside, set up a new project, and dive in.

Read articles and books. Watch videos. Listen to podcasts. Take a course. Talk to friends.

Read, watch, learn, and take notes. Then, do something.

Yes, but what?

Do you go organic? Do you advertise? Do you focus on publishing content?

What do you do first with your profile? How do you get people to see it, read it, and engage with you?

You: “Thanks a lot! Now I’m more confused than before I started.”

Me: Relax. It’s a process. You’re learning something new. Go back to your collection of information, sift through it again, add to it if necessary, and choose. . . something.

It doesn’t matter what. What matters is that you start, because you learn the most by doing, not reading. And because the objective is doing, not learning.

Do something, then do something else.

One more thing. Don’t give yourself too much time. Give yourself a week or a month, but no more. Otherwise, you might wander and get sucked into the muck.

Remember that video I mentioned the other day about how you can learn a new skill in just 20 hours?

Sounds like a plan.

For a simple marketing plan, go here

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Marketing when you don’t feel like marketing

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How do you keep the marketing fires lit when you’d rather do other things? What strategies or tactics do you use?

Have you’ve eliminated things you especially don’t like and replaced them with a few you do?

Do you automate and delegate as much as possible?

Do you “chunk it down” into small, easy-to-do tasks you can do a few minutes at a time?

Do you accept that marketing is important, put on your big boy pants, and do it anyway?

All of these are good solutions. I do them, too.

When I have to write something and I’m not feeling it, I’ll break it up into baby steps–a few minutes to find the idea, then take a break; a few more minutes to make some notes, then another break; write for five minutes, then walk away.

And so on.

And, if I’m still not feeling it, I do it anyway. Because it has to get done.

Something else I suggest. It works for marketing or any activity you may be resisting:

Put it on your calendar.

Make an appointment with yourself. Don’t schedule anything else at that time. Don’t take calls or check email. Use the time you’ve scheduled to do the thing you’ve committed to doing.

For extra credit, schedule the appointment early in the day, first thing if possible. You’ll get it out of the way and won’t have to think about it for the rest of the day.

You know this. But do you do it? If I look at your calendar right now, what would I see?

We all have things to do we don’t want to do. Client work, errands, things around the house. We do them because they’re part of the job we signed up for.

But sometimes, we need something in writing staring back at us, reminding us to do it.

Want bigger marketing results with less effort? Here’s what you need

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Busy? You might want to rethink that

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The gold standard for success isn’t doing lots of things, it’s doing the right things enough to accomplish your goals.

It’s about focus.

In ‘The Dip’, Seth Godin said,

“A woodpecker can tap twenty times on a thousand trees and get nowhere, but stay busy. Or he can tap twenty-thousand times on one tree and get dinner.”

If you’re networking, instead of going to ten different events trying to meet dozens of new people, it’s better to stick with one event and get to know a few key people.

Instead of “spraying and praying” on social media, hoping someone will notice something you say, it’s better to develop a loyal following on one platform before moving on to others.

Instead of marketing to “anyone with a legal problem” and compete with all the other lawyers in your practice area, it’s better to target specific niche markets where you can stand out.

When you focus on one group, one platform, one niche market, you use the power of leverage to get bigger results with less effort.

The woodpecker understands this. Because he’s focused, not busy.

If you’re ready to use leverage like a pro and take a quantum leap in your practice, the Quantum Leap Marketing System shows you what to do.

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Too much to read? Here’s what I’m doing

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In days gone by, I used to have huge stacks of unread magazines piled up in my office. Every once in awhile, when I was tripping over those stacks, I would spend a couple of hours and go through them.

I tore out the articles I wanted to read, staple the pages together (or fold the corners to hold the pages together) and throw out the rest of the magazine.

Much better.

The “to read” pile was more manageable, but the pile was still huge and more often than not, I didn’t read anything.

I knew there was gold in those articles so I started doing something to lessen the load. Every few days, I’d throw a handful of articles in my briefcase, to read at night or waiting in court or at the doctor’s office.

I’d read them and when they were gone, I’d grab a few more. Eventually, that huge pile of articles was gone (until I added more).

It’s been a long time since I subscribed to a paper magazine (or newspaper), but going digital has made things worse. Until recently, I had hundreds of unread articles and blog posts and pdfs in a reading list in Evernote.

I did something similar to what I used to do with magazines.

I set up two notebooks in Evernote. (You can do the same thing with tags, folders, labels, or briefcases if you have paper.)

I put (no more than) 20 articles in the first notebook. Everything else goes in a second notebook.

When I’ve read those 20 articles, I go to the second notebook and move 20 more to the first notebook.

If I find myself with more than 20 articles in my first notebook, I move the overage to the second notebook.

I still have hundreds of unread articles in Evernote but I don’t see them. I only see 20 (at a time).

My reading list is manageable and I get a lot more reading done.

My ebook: Evernote for Lawyers

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