Can you really earn more by working less?

We’ve all been taught that more is better so how is it that some people earn more and achieve more by working less?

They do it by choosing the right things to do.

The most successful among us focus on doing things that allow them to take giant leaps instead of incremental steps. The kinds of things that let them leverage their resources and get “eighty percent results with twenty percent effort”.

It’s not that they ignore the little things. It’s that at any given moment, they’re able to zero in on the one thing they can do that will give them the most bang for their buck.

Real estate entrepreneur, Gary Keller, made this the theme of his bestselling book, The ONE Thing. He says that we can become much more successful by finding and doing the one thing (activity, task, decision, etc.) that can allow us to achieve extraordinary results.

Keller suggests that we look at our goals and for each one, ask, “What’s the ‘ONE Thing’ [I] can do such that by doing it, everything else will be easier or unnecessary?”

If your goal is to bring in ten new clients per month within 90 days, for example, out of all the things you MIGHT do, you should find and do the one thing that is likely to make it most likely that you will achieve that goal.

Start by brainstorming possibilities. You’ll probably think of hundreds of ideas, and if you don’t, read through my blog and courses. Put your list aside for a few days, come back to it and look for your ‘one thing’.

You may reason your way to a decision, but it is just as likely that your “gut” will tell you. If you’re not sure, go through your list slowly, think about each idea and see how you feel about it. If it feels good to think about it, if you find yourself getting excited about it, the odds are that’s what you should choose.

Your ‘one thing’ will likely be different than any other lawyer’s. You might decide that your one thing is to hire someone to create a new website for you. Another lawyer might decide that his or her one thing is to meet prospective new referral sources. Someone else may decide that advertising is the right thing for them.

All of these things, and others, might help you reach your goal, but you should consider them later. Right now,  you should find your one thing and do it.

Your website can bring you a lot of new clients

Are you investing in yourself?

Among other things, The 80/20 Principle, one of my favorite books on the subject, tells us to “pursue those few things where you are amazingly better than others and that you enjoy most.” Do them to the exclusion of other things you’re not as good at.

Another author puts it this way: “Do very few things, but be awesome at them.”

To do this, you must work on your strengths, not your weaknesses. Figure out what you do best and find ways to do it even better.

I do a lot of writing. It’s one of my strengths. I invest in getting better at it by reading books and blogs about writing, watching videos, listening to podcasts, and making sure I work at it every day.

I also invest in tools that help me write better and faster. I’ve mentioned Scrivener before and told you that I now do all my long-form writing in it.

I got a new chair recently that helps me sit longer. It helps me get more writing done because I don’t need to take as many breaks.

Yesterday, I went out and looked at mechanical keyboards. (They’re in the “gaming” section.) I’ve been reading about these for awhile and I’m about ready to order one. I’m told they help you type faster and with fewer typos. They also last longer than the rubber membrane keyboards found on most laptops and computer desktops. I like the tactile feel of these keyboards, and the clicky sound they make. (You can get ones that don’t make that sound, if you prefer.)

After that, I’ll probably look at external monitors. A bigger screen will allow me to look at two documents at one time, instead of having to switch back and forth. Maybe dual monitors is the thing.

For a long time now, I’ve been using the track pad on my laptop. I might start using a mouse again.

It’s all about getting that edge. Making a good thing even better.

How about you? What do you do best? How are you investing in yourself to get better?

If John Wooden managed your law practice

Basketball coaching legend John Wooden was known as a perfectionist. He believed that planning and preparation and attention to detail were the keys to winning. He expected the best from his teams and usually got it.

In his long career, Wooden proved that his methods worked. He left a legacy unmatched in the field of sports and we can learn a lot by studying his methods and his life.

But how much of what he teaches can we use to build a law practice? Can we demand as much from ourselves and our staff as Wooden demanded from his teams?

Let’s think about that in the context of the first client interview.

I suspect that Wooden would have us regularly drill on the questions we ask and the things we say, continually improving how we sound, our body language, and our timing. He would have us study the client intake form to the point where we could recite it in our sleep. He would have us practice everything several times a day.

Every minute would be scripted, every detail drilled to perfection. He would evaluate us not just on whether or not the client signed up but on how many referrals we got before they left the office.

Is that the standard we should seek?

Not in my book.

I’m not saying we can’t learn by paying attention to detail. We can, and we can use what we learn to sign up more clients and get more referrals. But I don’t believe we need to work that hard to get every detail right.

According to the 80/20 rule or The Pareto Principle, in anything we do, only a few things make a difference; most things don’t. If we get the few things right, we don’t need to obsess over everything else.

Let’s say that body language is one of the few things that make a big difference. (I believe it is). If we make eye contact, smile appropriately, and otherwise show the client that we are listening to them and sincerely care about helping them, we’re more than half-way home.

But this doesn’t mean we need to drill on every word we say, where we place our hands, or how we time our gestures. If you truly care about the people in your office, none of that is necessary. If you don’t, none of that will help.

With most things we do, good enough is good enough. Get the important things right, the 20% that delivers 80% of your results, and you won’t need to sweat the small stuff.

Wooden would probably disagree . He said, “If you don’t have time to do it right, when will you have time to do it over?”

Yes, but what if you don’t need to do it at all?

Want to sign up more clients? Get this

Is hard work the key to success? Umm, no

Everyone and his brother says that hard work is the key to success. But is it?

I can point to many times in my life when I was successful without hard work. In fact, many of my successes came with little or no effort.

I can also point to times when I worked my fingers to the proverbial bone and accomplished nothing. Goose eggs. Bupkis.

I’m sure you could say the same thing.

A mentor of mine once said, “If you’re not having the success you want, there are only two reasons. Either you’re not doing something right, or you’re not doing it enough.”

No mention of hard work.

“Doing it enough” implies persistence, but that isn’t necessarily hard. In fact, the more you do something, the easier it usually gets.

“Doing something right” is important, of course. With a little practice, you can usually improve your skills (and your results).

Let’s flip around the phrase “doing something right”. Could this also mean “doing the right things”? Yes it could. In fact, I think doing the right things is the key to success.

It’s the 80/20 principle that I talked about recently. We are much more successful at some things that others. Choose the right things to do, and you will have more success.

Don’t tell anyone, but I found law school and the bar exam to be relatively easy. I have always been good at exams, especially essays. Essays are a “right activity” for me.

Other things, not so much.

Ever meet someone who seems to lead a charmed life? They don’t work hard and yet they go from one successful outcome to another. They have a great career, and everything seems to come to them quickly and without a lot of effort. Is it talent? Luck? Magic spells?

Maybe. Or maybe they’ve simply made the right choices.

I’m not saying “don’t work hard”. Working hard is a way to hedge our bets, in case we’re not as good as we think, or in case we haven’t chosen the right activity.

Work hard if you want to. Just don’t depend on it.

Keeping it simple

Look at your phone. How many apps do you have? Now, look at your hard drive and answer the same question.

If you’re like most people, you have many more apps and programs (and tools in your garage) than you use. It’s unlikely that you’ll ever use them, or if you used them once, use them again.

But we can’t help ourselves. We like new. New apps, new techniques, new ideas. Even if we never use them, and even if what we’re already using works just fine.

There’s nothing wrong with looking. I do it, too. But I don’t spend a lot of time on it because what’s new today is often gone tomorrow. I’ll wait until others have vetted the app or the process and recommended it. Then I’ll look. Maybe. I might be too busy using what I’ve already got and getting some work done.

Anyway, the point is that simple is better. A few apps. A few tools. A few techniques. If you’re not keeping it simple, the odds are you’re not getting things done.

Take marketing for example. If it’s not simple, the odds are you won’t do it. True or true?

According to the 80/20 rule, “a minority of causes, inputs, or effort usually lead to a majority of the results, outputs, or rewards”. Figure out which inputs (efforts, tools, apps, techniques) are producing most of your results and do those. Don’t worry about (most of) the rest.

For a SIMPLE marketing plan that really works, get this

Lawyer networking and the 80/20 rule

Lawyer networking–is it a good use of your time?

Some say that formal networking (the way most people do it) is a low yield activity. They say that the people you meet at chamber of commerce and other formal networking events are unlikely to have much business to give you. They are networking because they need business. The ones who have plenty of business, and thus plenty of referrals to give you, are not at the events, they’re at the office helping their clients.

I’m not sure I’m willing to accept this as a universal truth, but let’s say it was true. If you’re thinking about networking as a means to grow your practice, does this mean you should reconsider?

No. It means you need to approach networking with a different agenda.

One way to do this is to forgo meeting most of the attendees at these events and instead focus on meeting the organizers and speakers. These people know the people at the events, and many more who aren’t. They can steer you towards prospective clients and other professionals who might be a good match.

Meeting these centers of influence allows you to leverage your time. You will have to work just as hard to build a relationship with them as you would with anyone else, but if you are successful, that relationship could yield far more results than a relationship with someone who is just starting out.

On the other hand, networking with people on their way up can also be a good thing. They may not have much business to give you right now, but if you stick with them while they grow and become successful, they could become good clients or referral sources.

Spend 80% of your networking time courting high-value connectors and centers of influence. Note that these people are probably sought after by others who want to know them and may also have attorneys to whom they are already committed. These people may be a tougher nut to crack, but if you are successful, they could open many doors for you.

Spend 20% of your networking time building relationships with people who can’t do much for you now, but might someday. They may be small potatoes, but in a few years, they may be so busy, you’ll never have a chance to meet them.

The Attorney Marketing Formula helps you create a plan for marketing your practice

Hack away at the unessential

I just heard about a hoarder who had 30 years of newspapers and magazines stacked floor to ceiling in nearly every room of his house. Yeah, he had a lot of issues.

(Rim shot.)

So last weekend, I cleaned out my closet and armoire and got rid of a lot of old clothes. There’s empty space now, and it feels good. Next stop, my office.

Once a year, I get the bug to de-clutter. I like to, “Hack away at the unessential,” as Bruce Lee said. Getting rid of things I don’t use, simplifying my life.

It’s not just about possessions. I try to do the same in my digital word. Eliminating (or at least filing away in a place I won’t see them) forms, emails, notes, and assorted paperwork. I pare down the apps on my iPhone, too.

I like looking at an empty email inbox and a slimmed down “My documents”. It gives me a sense of peace and control over my world. Fewer things to look at, think about, or update.

Bruce Lee talked about getting rid of the unessential to better focus on the few things that mattered most. He concentrated his work outs, his energy, and his focus on a few things. It made him more efficient, quicker and more powerful. He may never have described it as such, but he appears to have embraced the Pareto Principle, eliminating the “trivial many” so he could focus on the “precious few”.

In a law practice, that might be achieved by getting rid of (or filing away) eighty percent of your forms (letters, checklists), so you can focus on the twenty percent you use the most. You’ll have time to make them even better.

You could do something similar with client intake. Identify the most important parts of the process and spend more time on them. Do you really need to know all of the facts or review all of the documents at the first meeting or might some of this be done later? Freeing up some time at the first meeting would allow you to get to know the client better and he, you.

It could also mean paring down your client list, getting rid of marginal clients who pay the least or give you the most trouble, so you can focus on your best clients.

Bruce Lee believed that simpler is better. When you hack away at the unessential, you aren’t mired in complexity or distracted by minutia. Fewer moving parts makes you more agile. You get better at the most important things.

How can you hack away at the unessential in your law practice?

How to make next year better

If you want to make next year better than this year, start by taking a look back at your practice over the last 12 months. Look at every new case or client and figure out where they came from.

Who referred them? How did they get on your list? What did you do to get them to call?

Do the same thing for repeat clients.

Also look at the quality of those clients. Some clients are better than others. They hire you more often, pay higher fees, and provide more referrals. Which of your new and repeat clients fall into the category of “better”? Where did they come from?

Grab your calendar, your bank statements, your website statistics, your notes and records, and take a mile high look at what you did last year and your results.

Look at your networking, speaking, writing, and blogging. Look at your keywords, your content, your offers.

What worked for you? What worked better? What worked best?

Look at your professional relationships. Who provided referrals or other help? Who referred more or better clients? Who provided you with important intangibles–support, ideas, friendship?

(Note to self: “Make sure to keep better records next year so the next time I do this analysis I’ll have everything in front of me.”)

You can see that some things you did this year worked great, many didn’t work at all, and most fell somewhere in the middle. The same with your relationships.

If you look hard enough, you will see that although a lot of things produced a lot of results (clients, money, subscribers), a few things produced the majority of your results. You may find that

  • Eighty percent of your results came from just twenty percent of your activities
  • Eighty percent of your referrals came from twenty percent of your clients and professional contacts
  • Eighty percent of your income came from twenty percent of your cases
  • Eighty percent of your new subscribers came from twenty percent of your posts, keywords, speaking gigs, ads, (etc.)

Or not. It doesn’t have to be eighty percent and twenty percent. But it is almost certain that a big percentage of your results came from a small percentage of efforts or sources.

Identify the activities that produced most of your results so you can do more of them. Identify the handful of referral sources that sent you most of your referrals or your best referrals, so you can strengthen your relationship with them and leverage those relationships to meet their counterparts.

If you want next year to be better than this year, you need to find what worked best and do more of it. To find the time and resources to do that, cut down on or eliminate things that didn’t work, or that didn’t work as well.

For me, one thing worked better than any other. My twenty percent activity was writing. The books, courses, and blog posts I produced brought me more traffic, subscribers, and revenue than anything else I did. Knowing this means I can make next year a better year by being more prolific.

I know where to focus. I know my priorities. I know where to spend my time.

How about you? What will you do more of next year? What can you cut down on or eliminate? How will you make next year better?

The Attorney Marketing Formula comes with a simple marketing plan that works. Check it out here.

The smartest way to grow your law practice

the smartest way to grow your law practiceSo, what’s your plan for growing your practice next year?

Before you take on anything new, there’s something you should do first.

The first thing you should do is make a list of everything you have tried in the past. Go through your calendar, your notes, ask your staff, and write down everything you did that could be called “marketing”.

What meetings did you go to? Whom did you meet for the first time? What did you write? Where did you speak? What did you mail?

Put everything that worked on your list, and everything that didn’t.

It’s easy to identify what worked. If you track where new clients come from (referrals, ads, seminars, web site, social media, etc.), all you have to do is look at your stats. If you don’t track this, go through your new client list and see if you can reconstruct what you were doing just prior to being hired. (And make a note to start tracking every new client from now on.)

It’s not as easy to identify what has not worked, but it’s just as important. Do the best you can with this and in the future, keep a marketing diary and make an entry every day about anything you did that day that could be construed as marketing.

Don’t forget repeat clients. Keeping your clients happy, keeping them informed about the progress of their case, communicating and building a relationship with them, all have marketing implications.

And don’t forget referral sources. Those coffees and lunches, thank you letters and Christmas gifts are also part of your marketing mix.

Also, check your web site stats. Where is your traffic coming from? Which key words are bringing not just clicks but clients.

Making these two lists–what’s worked and what hasn’t–is one of the smartest things you can do in marketing (or anything else you want to improve) and you should do this before you even think about doing anything new.

The reason? The 80/20 principle, which tells us that the best way to achieve more is to, “do more of what worked in the past and less of what didn’t”.

Now that you have your two lists, you can identify the things that have worked for you and do more of them. You’ll find the time for this by cutting down on or eliminating those things that have not worked or haven’t worked as well.

You may find that eliminating things that aren’t working is difficult, especially if you’ve been doing them for awhile. This is common for all of us. Our fears prevent us from letting go or we tell ourselves we just need to get better or do it longer and the results will kick in. If we spent money on something, it’s even harder to let go because we get attached to earning back our investment.

Trust the numbers. Let go of what’s not working, no matter how much time or money you’ve invested.

Yes, sometimes you will let go of something too soon that could have been a big winner for you had you kept going. But what makes more sense, hanging on to things that might work or cutting them out in favor of doing more of what you know works?

If social media hasn’t brought in new business, for example, it could be because you’re doing it wrong and with some training and experience, you’ll get better and you will get lots of news clients, just as many attorneys now do. But our time is limited and if it’s not working for you right now, I’d rather see you put social media aside and do more of what your numbers tell you, unequivocally, has brought in most of your new business last year.

You can go back later and try social media marketing (or whatever) again. I’ve let go of things that weren’t working for me and been successful when I tried them again. But right now, when you’re looking at your plans for the new year, start by doing more of what you know works.

It’s the smartest way to grow your practice.