My latest productivity hack you might want to use

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You’ve heard me say, “Plan tomorrow before tomorrow begins”. Make a list of what you intend to do each day so you can focus on your most important tasks, instead of being distracted by whatever might come up.

Sometimes I do that in the morning. Usually I do it the night before, when things are quiet and I can think about what I want to do. The next day, I know what’s on tap and I can immediately get to work.

I get my important tasks done early in the day, which means that no matter what else I do (or don’t do) the rest of the day, every day is productive.

As you know, I write a blog post/newsletter article every weekday and have done so for many years. Writing the post doesn’t take long. I can usually crank out a first draft in a few minutes. What takes time is figuring out what I want to talk about.

And sometimes, that can take a minute.

Recently, I made a small change to my workflow that makes things easier. I choose the topic for my blog the night before.

I go through my notes and choose an idea. I jot down a line or two or some bullet points, things I want to say about the topic. I might also add a working title.

That’s all. But that’s enough, because the next day I don’t have to do any of that, I can just start writing.

I get my post done quickly and I’m on to other things.

Anyway, you can use this idea even if you don’t write a blog or newsletter. You can use it to flesh out any project or case you’re working on.

Gather up your notes and resources and make a list of tasks or steps to do the next day.

Who will you call? What will you say? What do you need to research?

When you plan and organize your day the night before, your subconscious mind works on your project or post while you sleep.

Which is why the next day, your work is easier to start and quicker to finish.

How to get more referrals without asking for referrals

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Would you write more often if you could do this?

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A blog post or newsletter can be brief. A few paragraphs, even a few sentences.

As long as you say something valuable or interesting.

Seth Godin and others do it. I just did it. You can, too.

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‘Til your daddy takes your T-Bird away

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I’m guilty of this myself. Too much information in my articles and posts. Telling you what and how, why and when. Giving you bullet points and instructions, telling you what to do and how to do it.

There’s nothing wrong with the how-to’s, of course. It’s just that there are other things to talk about.

Suppose you and I were buds. We get together for to hang out, shoot the shite, bring each other up to speed on what’s going on.

We have a few adult beverages and share a few laughs. In other words, we have some fun.

Why can’t we do that online?

We can and we should.

When we write a blog post or article, when we record a video or podcast, when we post on social media, we don’t have to be “all business, all the time.”

That doesn’t mean being unprofessional or always going for the laugh. It means letting down our hair, speaking or writing informally, and sharing information and ideas that aren’t strictly law-related.

If you had an interesting day, tell people about it. If your son or daughter tells you something funny that happened in school, share it. If your neighbor charges his Tesla at night and you can hear that annoying electric hum through the wall of your house and it drives you crazy, mention it–like I just did about my neighbor.

We can also have fun playing with language. One way is to use phrases your readers don’t expect you to use. You feel me? Are you picking up what I’m laying down?

You know, fun.

Now, you may be wondering, why. Why should we put fun in our writing or speaking, or for those of us who do it already, why should we do it more?

Because our readers want us to.

They want to see our human side. They want us to make them smile. They want to have more fun, and and they don’t want us to give them homework every time they hear from us.

Yes, we should teach our readers something. But we can do that and also entertain them for the few minutes it takes for them to read what we write.

It’s called infotainment. A friend of mine describes it as “Education wrapped in candy.”

Give your readers their peas and carrots but also give them dessert.

You may find it difficult to do this, to loosen up in front of an audience who is used to you being straight. But you can do it (it just takes practice) and when you do, you’ll be glad you did.

You’ll enjoy writing more. You’ll get more replies and engagement from your readers. You’ll build a following instead of just a list of people who consume your content.

Which means you’ll also get more business.

Start slowly. Add a sprinkle of lighter material here and there. One way you could do that is to make your usual (boring) legal point and then use a colorful analogy or story to illustrate it.

A spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down.

Give it a try. You might find you’re good at it. You might enjoy it immensely. It might give new life to your writing and speaking.

One thing’s for sure. Your subscribers will love it.

They’ll look forward to your next post or email or presentation, and they’ll tell their friends about you, because you’re not like all those other (boring) lawyers.

Email Marketing for Attorneys

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You can write this type of article in 15 minutes

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In a previous post, I said the quickest and easiest type of article to write is a listicle. Ten ways to do this, five reasons you shouldn’t do that, seven steps to getting this result.

They’re easy to write because they are basically just bullet points or short paragraphs.

But while the writing is easy, if you don’t happen to know “five things” or “seven steps,” you may have to do some research to flesh out your article. Which means that this type of article may take you more time to write than you would like.

If you want to write an article in a matter of minutes, you need to write one that doesn’t require any research.

You need to write a personal recollection.

Something you did, something someone told you, something you thought.

Think about the last client you signed up who said something that made you smile, or something interesting or unusual about their case.

Think about something you did last weekend, something that happened to you when you were in college, or something you’ve been thinking about for a long time.

The idea may not come to you right away, which is why it’s important to keep a running list of ideas you can dip into. Interesting things, helpful ideas, amusing stories. Things that contain a lesson or illustrate something your readers might like (or need) to know.

But when you have the idea, you can write the article quickly, because it’s just a matter of telling the story. No research required.

Describe what happened and what you thought about it or why it’s important. Invite your readers to tell you what they think or ask them if they have had a similar experience. Make a final point and. . . you’re done.

If you’re taking more than a few minutes to write a personal recollection, you’re working too hard.

Want more ways to write faster? Get my email marketing course here

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The problem with keeping a journal–and a surprisingly simple solution

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Many of us who have kept a journal in the past, or are trying to do that now, face the challenge of keeping it up.

We get caught up in our day’s activities and don’t seem to find the time to do it. At the end of the day, we’re tired or have forgotten what we wanted to say. We miss a day and then another and soon, we’re not doing it anymore.

Which is a shame because a journal is a powerful tool for improving productivity, creativity, mindfulness, and more.

A journal can help us:

  • memorialize our days accomplishments
  • gain clarity about our goals and the path to achieving them
  • record ideas
  • improve our writing skills
  • prioritize our day
  • plan the future
  • make better decisions
  • track how we spend our time
  • track our daily state of mind
  • track our habits
  • record inspiring thoughts and ideas
  • and so much more

The solution? Instead of scheduling time to write in your journal, write in between your other tasks. It’s called “interstitial journaling” and for me, it’s just what the doctor ordered.

As you go about your day and think of something you need to do or want to remember, or you want to reflect on something you did well or something you want to improve, take a minute to write it down–in the moment.

No need to wait until it’s time for journaling.

Nor do you have to write it in an actual journal. Write it down in whatever you have available to you–your notes app, your task app, your legal pad, or your calendar.

Capture the thought or idea and get back to what you were doing. Do this throughout the day and at the end of the day, your journaling is done.

You might be recording notes about a file your working on when you have an idea about your upcoming presentation. Record that idea alongside your other notes.

No need to switch apps if you won’t want to, or wait until you’re working on the presentation.

Won’t those ideas get lost or buried under your other notes?

Not if you do this digitally and tag your thoughts or tasks or ideas. When you want to review your journal notes, click the tag or link to call them up. You can then transfer your journal notes to other apps if you want to, or keep them where they are.

When you get in the habit of journaling this way, you’ll find yourself doing more journaling than you ever thought possible. I write “journal” notes every day now, something I’ve never done before.

I don’t schedule time to write in a journal. I spend a few seconds, a minute or two, throughout the day writing a few lines here and there, between tasks or appointments or calls, or whenever I take a break. I write what I thought, how I felt, what I did and what else I want to do.

Not only has this made me more productive, it’s also liberating to be able to empty my head any time it fills up.

Keeping a journal this way is simple because your journal isn’t a special notebook, you don’t have to allocate time to write in it, and you don’t have to worry about having anything to say.

Write in between the cracks of life and you might be surprised at how much you have to say, and how easy it is to record it.

Do you keep a journal? Have your tried interstitial journaling?

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5 easy-to-write topics for your newsletter or blog

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If you’re struggling to find topics to write about in your newsletter or blog, or to post on social media, the place to look for ideas is right under your nose.

Start with the obvious. The things you do every day. 

These also tend to be the easiest ideas to write about–the kinds of things you could write in your sleep, or in the shower as one subscriber recently told me she does.

Here you go:

1. Check your email. What questions are your clients, prospects, and subscribers asking you? Answering their questions is about as simple as it gets. 
2. Check your files. No doubt you have or have had an interesting case or client at some time. It may be nothing special to you, but it’s the kind of thing your readers would love to hear.  
3. Put on your law professor’s hat. Explain the law or procedure or legal terms in your practice area. What does it mean, how does it work, what are the steps?
4. Check your calendar. Describe a typical day in the life of a lawyer: meetings, calls, letters, research, drafting, negotiations, settlements, discovery, arbitration, or whatever else you do. 
5. Go through your reading pile. Share your thoughts about an article, book, or blog you read, or a podcast or video you heard or saw. Summarize it, give your opinion, or use the ideas presented to write your own article or post.  

Writing is easy when you write about your world. The things you do or consume daily may be mundane to you but your readers will find them fascinating. 

How to build your practice with a simple email newsletter

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How to monetize your brain farts

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A lot of people want to know where I get ideas for my newsletter and how I’m able to write something half-way intelligent every weekday without fail.

They think its alchemy. An amalgam of pixie dust, good looks, and a lot of luck.

Not at all. I’ve simply trained my mind to produce a steady stream of ideas.

How? By a daily dose of reading and watching videos and taking notes.

A good percentage of what I write comes from reflecting on what others have written or said and putting my own take on it. Someone else thought it was an idea worth writing about and that’s often good enough for me.

But sometimes, often, actually, I start with something much simpler.

I’ll see a quote I like, hear an interesting statistic or fact, or, as I did yesterday, I’ll start by asking a question.

Yesterday, I asked myself, “Is it okay to tell a client you don’t know?”

Just a question. No article to play off of, no notes, no stories, no questions from subscribers, nada. And no idea what I would say or even what I thought about the subject.

I had the question in front of me. Other than that, I was naked.

Sometimes, I realize I have nothing to say about the subject and the idea goes back into the idea pile. And sometimes, a simple question is enough to ignite the kindling and before I can say Jumpin’ Jehosafats, I’ve written hundreds of words.

After I wrote down the question, I thought that admitting you don’t know tells a client you’re honest, not trying to fake things. It shows respect for the client. And I asked myself, “What if you should know the answer?” and “Doesn’t it make you look weak if you admit you don’t know?”

I had a place to start.

Naturally, I thought about how we tell clients not to guess, that unless they’re sure of their answer they should say they don’t know or don’t remember, and I had my lead.

The rest kind of wrote itself.

Because I basically asked and answered a few simple questions, put my fingers on the keyboard, and let my thoughts spill out of my head and onto the page.

If you’re not writing as often as you’d like to, this same “seat of the britches” method might work for you, too.

Try it. Write down a question that pops into your head, or a question a client asked you recently, or a quote or story or idea that catches your attention. Something you’re curious about and think other people might be, too.

Write it down, play with it on paper, and see where it takes you.

Imagine you’re writing to your mom, a good client, or a friend. Someone who will listen to you merely because its you. Say what you think about the subject or what you’d like to know.

You may be pleasantly surprised at how much you have to say.

If nothing happens, if your brain just won’t cooperate, let it go and try something else tomorrow.

Before you know it, you’ll be writing a post about where you get so many ideas and how you’re able to write so often.

How to get more writing ideas than you can shake a stick at here

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Give people what they want? Maybe

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A YouTuber who “reacts” to musical artists posted a survey on her channel. She asked her subscribers to vote on which artist she should (continue to) react to.

87% chose one artist over the others.

As a result, she’s going to do more reactions to the fan favorite. But she’s also going to react to other artists, “out of fairness” to people who have other preferences.

Is that a good strategy? Or should she stick with what her subscribers overwhelmingly told her they want, because the customer is always right and we are all in the business of serving our customers (or clients)?

Well, if you polled your subscribers and followers, clients and prospects, and asked them what topics they wanted you to write or talk about, or what services they wanted you to provide, would you give them what they want because they want it?

Your answer should be “maybe”. Because the customer (client) isn’t always right.

Steve Jobs put it this way:

“Some people say, “Give the customers what they want.” But that’s not my approach. Our job is to figure out what they’re going to want before they do. I think Henry Ford once said, “If I’d asked customers what they wanted, they would have told me, ‘A faster horse!'” People don’t know what they want until you show it to them. That’s why I never rely on market research. Our task is to read things that are not yet on the page.”

If I write about a marketing method you aren’t interested in, you might tune me out. If I write about it all the time, you might find someone else to read.

On the other hand, you might hear me talk about the benefits of that method and how you can do it effectively, and change your mind.

You might not know what you want until I show it to you.

But sometimes, our subscribers want things we can’t give them. If your readers or clients ask you to write about investing in crypto currencies or precious metals and you don’t know anything about the subject, don’t be too quick to say no and don’t try to fake your way through it.

Think like a marketer, not a lawyer and invite an expert to write a guest post on the subject. Or interview them. Because we really are in the business of serving our customers.

Give people what they want. If you can’t or don’t want to, find someone who can.

How to get more referrals from other lawyers

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How to fool everyone into thinking you’re smarter than you really are

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Attorney Lowell Steiger tells me he is “impressed by the fact that you come up with something new every single day”. He says my newsletter is useful and helpful, and dubs me a marketing guru who generously helps “people like me, the less talented.”

Poppycock. (I’ve been wanting to use that word for awhile now, so thanks for giving me the opportunity.)

The thing is, while I know a thing or two about a thing or two, I am not any smarter or more talented than the average bear.

Including Lowell, who I happen to know really is smarter than the average bear, and a very good writer to boot.

Anyway, most of what I write comes from subjects that interest me. I read a lot and share the ideas I find and what I think about them. I tell you about my experiences and give you my opinion about things I like and things that drive me crazy.

You could do that, too.

Trust me, if you want to write (or speak) and use that to build your practice via a newsletter or podcast or blog, you can. You know enough and have done enough, in your practice or business or personal life, to provide you with a library of material.

So stop telling yourself you don’t have anything to say. That’s a one-way ticket to Palookaville.

You also know how to write. If you’re not yet where you think you need to be on the write-o-meter, you can get there. Just keep writing (or speaking). Before you can say Joker Joker Joker, you’ll win the big prize.

What should you write about? Well, what did you do yesterday?

This week, I told you about a conversation I had with my accountant and a visit to the eye doctor. Next week, I’ll probably tell you about my gardener (again), and something he did or didn’t do. And here I am, telling you about someone who thinks I’m the bee’s knees in the marketing world, confessing to you that I’m not.

Hardly brilliant stuff. But I make it interesting, and that’s the key. It’s the one thing you need to get good at if you want people to read your stuff and keep reading it until they need your help or talk to someone they can refer.

The easy way to do that? Talk about things you know your reader is already interested in. To do that, you have to know your reader.

When you do, you know what they think about, what they want and don’t want, what they fear and what they covet.

Talk about those things. Or at least think about those things while you write about other things.

I know lawyers. It’s easy for me to talk about what’s in your head because it’s in my head, too. If I had a different market, if I was writing to physicians or engineers or real estate pros, I would research that market, to find out what they know and how they think.

I’d read what they read, listen to the speakers they listen to, talk to centers of influence in their market, and get to know what makes them tick.

That’s the easy part. But you have to do it.

The hard part, the part many lawyers have trouble with, is coming down from the ivory tower we tend to inhabit.

If you want to win friends and influence clients, you have to be yourself. Not your lawyer-self. Your human self, warts and all.

You have talk to folks, not at them. Have a conversation, not deliver a lecture or submit a brief.

You can’t connect with people by being aloof and professional and unapproachable. Just talk, like you would if they were sitting next to them having a beer or a cup of coffee.

That doesn’t mean you have to be unprofessional. Just human.

I know, I know, I get away with murder because I’m writing to you, a colleague. We’re comrades, made from the same cloth, brothers and sisters, friends with benefits. . . uh, well, you know what I mean.

When you’re a lawyer writing to clients and prospects, you can’t have a potty mouth or joke about whatever comes into your head. You need to be more decorous, so they don’t think you’re too weird to be their lawyer.

But this is only a matter of degree.

I can write “friends with benefits” and get away with you. You (probably) can’t. But you can still connect with people, by using a lighter touch, writing plainly and directly, and by not trying to impress anyone.

Don’t be the stuffy professor that puts everyone to sleep, be the cool teacher who’s smart and funny and tells great stories and makes learning fun.

Are you picking up on what I’m laying down?

One more thing.

Stop saying you don’t have time to do this. You do.

You don’t need to write every day. Once a week is great. Invest an hour writing something and sending it to the people who pay for your groceries and rent. The people who know, like, and trust you, or soon will.

Keep doing that, have fun with it, and one day, someone will call you a guru.

How to write a kickass newsletter that pays your mortgage

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The easiest (and quickest) type of article or post you can write

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When you’re in a hurry and you need to crank out a blog post, a newsletter article, a social media post, or any other type of content to be consumed by others, one of the easiest (and quickest) types of post to write is a “list” post.

  • !0 Ways to (do something)
  • 3 Reasons (something doesn’t work),
  • 7 Steps to (getting a specific result)
  • 5 Things I tell all my clients about (something)
  • 4 Places to Find (information, people, forms)

Yeah, a list.

Write the list, add an intro and a closing comment or call to action, and you’re done.

Readers enjoy these types of articles because they can read them quickly, they’re easy to understand, and if some of the items on your list don’t apply to them or resonate with them, something else might.

These are easy to write because it’s just a list. Each item is a sentence or two. Or, go crazy and write 3.

Where do you get items to include in the list?

You can start with this short “article” I just wrote to answer your question:

5 Places to Find Ideas For Your Blog Post or Newsletter Article

  • From articles you’ve saved in an “ideas” folder
  • From your old articles and posts. Find something you wrote two years ago and reuse part of it
  • From presentations, videos, or podcasts, you’ve consumed (including CLE)
  • From websites or newsletters dedicated to clients and advisors in your niche market
  • From memory. Interesting clients, strange cases, funny answers in depos, things you tell clients to do or avoid

Just about anywhere.

So, here’s my challenge to you. Take ten minutes right now and outline a list article, AKA a “Listicle”.

You’ll thank me later.

For more article ideas, see my Email Marketing for Attorneys course

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