A simple way to enhance focus

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My wife and I just closed out the storage unit we’ve had for decades. We brought a handful of boxes home and got rid of the rest.

I recently donated several hundred books to the library bookstore. I’m down to one bookcase.

I’ve lost weight in the last year and recently got rid of about half of the clothes in my closet.

I thought I was just getting rid of junk but I find I’m actually practicing minimalism. I just figured out why that appeals to me.

Minimalism makes it easier to focus. Focus creates clarity. And clarity helps you become more efficient and effective.

You’re more efficient because fewer options (e.g., using just a few apps or a few marketing strategies) reduces distractions and the loss of momentum occasioned by switching from one option to another.

You are more effective because you’re able to spend more time getting the right things done which helps you accomplish your most important goals.

There’s also an esthetic quality to minimalism. A cleaner desk (and desktop), for example, helps me feel relaxed and in control.

If you like the idea but resist doing it, start slowly. Put most of your apps into one or two folders and leave only a few on your desktop. Clean out one closet or one drawer. Give yourself just one hour this weekend to gather up stuff to give away or throw away.

And if that’s too much, don’t get rid of anything yet, just make piles or lists of giveaway “candidates”. When you’re ready, you can take the next step.

I guess you could call that a minimalistic approach to minimalism.

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A simple way to get more done in less time

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You’ve heard that multitasking is less efficient than doing one thing at a time. But do you know why?

The answer is that we’re not really multitasking. That’s a misnomer. The term implies that we’re doing two (or more) tasks at the same time. In truth, our brains won’t allow this. What we’re really doing is “task switching”.

We may switch rapidly from one task to the next but according to research, the simple act of constantly switching tasks can cost us up to 40 percent more time.

Apparently, when we stop one task and start another, in order to help us focus, our brains go through a process of shutting down the rules it is following for the first task and opening up a different set of rules for the task we are about to switch to.

Minimize task switching, and you might be able to get the same amount of work done in five hours that would otherwise take eight.

To minimize task switching, we should do whatever we can to finish one task before starting another. That means giving ourselves a big enough block of time to complete a project, or take it as far as we can, in one sitting.

Researching and writing a brief for a solid two hours is better than doing it 30 minutes at a time.

If you have smaller tasks, do them in batches. For example, do all of your research or make all of your calls during the same block of time.

And, minimize distractions and interruptions. Turn off your phone when you’re working on a writing project. Make sure your staff knows not to disturb you. Because according to other research, every time we get interrupted or distracted, it takes an average of twenty minutes to get back to where we left off.

Step-by-step: How to get more referrals

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Are you focusing on referrals?

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What you focus on, grows. If you want more referrals, you should focus on referrals.

Most lawyers don’t. Do you?

It’s not difficult. Dedicate a few minutes each week specifically for referral development.

Here’s how that might go:

The first week of the month could be dedicated to communicating with your referral network. Send an email and update them about what’s new in your practice–new content on your website, guest posts you have written, where you will be speaking, success stories, changes in the law that might necessitate a consultation, interesting cases or clients you have acquired–and offer ideas they can use to spread the word.

You could have two email lists: one for clients and former clients, another for professional contacts. Or just one list for everyone who has provided referrals or indicated a willingness to do so.

The second week of each month might be dedicated to brainstorming and executing ideas for improving client relations. What can you do to help your clients have a better experience with your firm?

The third week could be used for reaching out to prospective referral sources. Introduce yourself, find out about what they do and how you can help them, and tell them how you can help their clients or customers.

The fourth week might be used for improving systems and marketing collateral. Update your website, edit your social media profiles, develop new handouts and other marketing documents, and so on.

Focus on referrals thirty minutes a week, every week. Over time, you should see a dramatic increase in referrals and client retention.

Make sense? Good. Now go make some dollars.

A system for getting more referrals from your clients 

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Focus, yes, but on what?

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Everyone tells you to focus. Be a master of one thing, not a jack-of-all-trades. I’m in that choir, singing that same hymn. You know we’re right and you want to focus. But on what?

Which practice area? Which target market? Which strategy?

Which project should you work on? Which task should you get done today?

Nobody has the answer for you. You have to decide for yourself. But how?

Should you use logic? Trust your gut?

Should you do what nobody else is doing?

Should you do what others do but do it better?

There’s really only one definitive way to figure out where you should focus and that is to try lots of things.

Look at 100 ideas. Get rid of 90 that don’t make sense or that don’t inspire you. Out of the ten that are left, run with the top three. That’s what Steve Jobs did and those three ideas became the company’s focus over the next year.

Experiment constantly. Test lots of variables. Don’t try one or two headlines or email subjects, try fifty. Don’t try five keywords, try 105.

Talk to more people, write more articles, give more talks.

When you find something that works well and feels right to you, make that your focus. At least for now. What works this year may not work next year. Something new may work even better.

Keep learning, keep trying new ideas and different ways of implementing them. And always, keep your eyes on the market. It will tell you what it wants and how much it will pay.

The formula for building a successful practice 

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The secret to my success

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Want to know the secret to my success? The secret is simple. I do a few things well.

That’s it. A few things. The “precious few” in 80/20 parlance, that deliver the majority of my results.

I run three businesses. In each business, there are only a few things I focus on to keep the wheels turning. Well, actually, one business is nearly 100% passive income and requires almost none of my time anymore. The other two businesses are flexible enough that I can work at them when (and if) I choose. So for me, at this stage of my life, my precious few are “writing, learning, and marketing.”

How about you?

If you run a law practice, your precious few probably include, “marketing, management, personal development, and work product”. Am I right?

[Sidebar: Don’t be one of those lawyers who foolishly boasts that they don’t do any marketing. Everything you do is marketing.

Every time you speak to a client you’re showing them why they should remain your client and refer their friends. Every time you give someone your card or mention your website you’re inviting them to learn more about you do. Every time you talk to a prospective client or fellow professional you’re showing them why they should do business with you. It’s all marketing. All of it.

Okay, back on the record.]

Let’s start with “areas of focus”. You run a law practice, you have a personal life. That’s two. You might also do charitable work, be active in your church, or have a hobby or outside interest that’s important to you.

What are your precious few areas of focus?

Next, for each area of focus, think about the precious few things you focus on (or need to).

For your practice, what are the precious few things you do for marketing?

You may focus on a few types of clients, niche markets, or practice areas. Your strategies might include client referrals, professional referrals, and driving traffic to your website. If you advertise, your precious few might include a group of niche publications, keywords, or offers that deliver the majority of your results. You might create content, build a social media following, or speak or network in the “real world”.

What are they? What are precious few in your marketing?

For work product, you might derive most of your income from a certain type of case or client or a certain type of work. What are your precious few?

For management, you might focus on new client intake procedures (although that’s also marketing), billing, and document management. You might focus on hiring the best people, training, or building culture. What are your precious few?

For personal development, you might work on building a new habit, improving a particular skill, or acquiring a certain type of knowledge. What do you focus on? What are your precious few?

In the end, success comes from doing a few simple things. It can’t be any other way. You can’t do 100 things and expect to do them all well. You can’t focus on 100 things you can only focus on a few.

I built my practice with referrals. It was one of my precious few.

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Focus and grow rich

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If you can remember getting interest on your savings account (if you can remember savings accounts), you recall that compound interest, as opposed to simple interest, allowed you to earn a bigger return because you earned interest on the interest.

Compounding gave you more bang for your savings buck.

The same principle applies to investments you make in your marketing.

One reason I preach the value of targeting niche markets is that by targeting small(er) niche markets, instead of “all” markets or “no” markets, your money, time, and energy compounds.

You get bigger results with less effort.

Instead of getting one new client when you deliver a presentation, for example, you might get five new clients because the people in that niche not only see your presentation, they also see your ads or read your articles or hear your name mentioned by one or more colleagues or friends.

Each instance of “you” in a niche market has a greater impact.

If you want to get more bang for your marketing buck, concentrate your efforts and dollars in smaller markets, especially where people know each other and word of mouth is strong.

In addition, group your “shots” by publishing more articles or running more ads in one or two publications (in the same week or month) instead of multiple publications. Publish a weekly or daily newsletter instead of a monthly newsletter.

You can expand your reach later, after you have saturated and dominated one publication (ads, articles), one organization (speaking, networking), or one niche market.

Most lawyers use a shotgun approach to marketing. Their message is weaker because they try to appeal to everyone. Their message is diluted, if not drowned out, by a sea of messages from other lawyers. They waste time and money and make a smaller impact by spreading their time and money too thin.

If you want to get more results (clients, referrals, traffic, subscribers, publicity, etc.), focus your message, your time, and your dollars in smaller markets, and let the magic of compounding go to work for you.

How to choose the right niche markets for your practice: click here

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Can you really earn more by working less?

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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

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Focus on your destination (with exceptions)

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I walked my daughter down the aisle a couple of weeks ago. It was an outdoor ceremony at a country club, with a panoramic view of rolling hills and lush gardens.

My daughter and I waited at the top of the hill overlooking the wedding party below. Everyone was seated except for the groom and minister. We received the cue to begin walking, my daughter took my arm, and we walked down a series of stone steps which led to the aisle at the bottom of the hill.

The steps were steep and uneven and I had to look down to make sure we didn’t trip. I knew we were being videotaped and that looking down would look awkward but it couldn’t be helped. All I could think about was that if I tripped on the steps or stepped on her gown, my daughter and I would go tumbling down the hill.

At the bottom of the steps was the aisle. We walked down it, I gave her away, took my seat next to my wife, and we watched our beautiful daughter and her groom exchange their vows.

It was a proud and happy day.

A marriage is a journey. The destination is a long and happy life. You get there by staying focused on the big picture and by not letting little problems stop you.

Your work is also a journey. The destination is a long and successful career. You also get there by focusing on the big picture and by not letting bumps in the road throw you off course.

Swedish diplomat and author, Dag Hammarskjold, said, “Never look down to test the ground before taking your next step; only he who keeps his eye fixed on the far horizon will find the right road.”

Long term. Big picture. Stay focused on your destination.

Good advice for a marriage or a career. Glad I didn’t listen to it when we were walking down those steps.

A successful career starts with a plan

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Getting the right things done

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Venture capitalist Mark Suster has a rule he lives by that helps him be more productive and successful. The rule: “Do Less. More.” It means doing fewer things overall, and getting the right things done. “Success often comes from doing a few things extraordinarily well and noticeably better than the competition,” he says.

Richard Koch, author of The 80/20 Principle, says, “Everyone can achieve something significant. The key is not effort, but finding the right thing to achieve. You are hugely more productive at some things than at others, but dilute the effectiveness of this by doing too many things where your comparative skill is nowhere near as good.”

Koch also says, “Few people take objectives really seriously. They put average effort into too many things, rather than superior thought and effort into a few important things. People who achieve the most are selective as well as determined.”

So, what do you do better than most? What should you focus on? I asked this question in an earlier post:

Look at your practice and tell me what you see.

  • Practice areas: Are you a Jack or Jill of all trades or a master of one? Are you good at many things or outstanding at one or two?
  • Clients: Do you target anyone who needs what you do or a very specifically defined “ideal client” who can hire you more often, pay higher fees, and refer others like themselves who can do the same?
  • Services: Do you offer low fee/low margin services because they contribute something to overhead or do you keep your overhead low and maximize profits?
  • Fees: Do you trade your time for dollars or do you get paid commensurate with the value you deliver?
  • Marketing: Do you do too many things that produce no results, or modest results, or one or two things that bring in the bulk of your new business?
  • Time: Do you do too much yourself, or do you delegate as much as possible and do “only that which only you can do”?
  • Work: Do you do everything from scratch or do you save time, reduce errors, and increase speed by using forms, checklists, and templates?

Leverage is the key to the 80/20 principle. It is the key to getting more done with less effort and to earning more without working more.

Take some time to examine your practice, and yourself. Make a short list of the things you do better than most and focus on them. Eliminate or delegate the rest.

Do Less. More.

This will help with getting the right things done

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Put all your eggs in one basket, just make sure it’s YOUR basket

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I constantly beat the “focus” drum–do a few things and do them well, don’t spread yourself too thin, don’t try to be all things to all people.

I agree with Mark Twain who said, “Put all your eggs in one basket and then watch that basket.”

On the other hand. . . you’ve got to be smart about things.

You shouldn’t rely on one client for 100% of your business, no matter how much business they give you.

Things happen. You think you’ve got it made in the shade and then the client hires someone else. Or they grind you on fees, knowing you have no choice. I spoke with an attorney yesterday who is now “starting over” because this very thing happened to him.

Neither should you rely on one marketing platform or methodology.

Also yesterday, I learned that a Facebook friend of mine had his account shut down. I don’t know what he did to incur the wrath of the Blue-and-White Devil. Insulted someone? Promoted something “too much”? All I know is that hundreds of his Facebook “friends” have signed a petition asking that he be allowed back.

It’s touching to see this outpouring of love, pleading for this man’s digital life. It’s also frightening to imagine that if he loses his appeal, his business might be in big trouble.

I thought about what I would do if this happened to me. If my account was shut down, would I lose business? Go out of business?

No. Not at all. I don’t depend on Facebook, or any other social media platform. I get some business through social media, but I don’t depend on it. Having my account shut down would be inconvenient, but not insurmountable. I would open a new account and start over.

Or not.

Truth be told, I find social media to be depressing. I really wouldn’t miss it.

I’ve got my blog and my email list and I have complete control over them. Nobody can tell me what I can and can’t post. I can insult anyone I want to. Nobody can shut me down.

So yes, put all your eggs in one basket. Just make sure you own the basket.

Want a simple marketing plan for your law practice? Get this.

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