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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What you focus on is what you get

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You can’t be successful at everything. If you’re smart, you’ll make a big list of everything you’d like to do this year, narrow it down to ten things, and then choose just 3 or 4 goals or objectives to focus on this year.

That’s what Steve Jobs did with Apple.

The key to success is focus. Choose a few things and spend most of your time on those.

I have one major business goal this year. If I accomplish it, it will transform my business and I will be a happy camper. To achieve this goal, I have two big projects I’m working on. Depending on how things go, I might take on a third project, but no more. To achieve exceptional results, I must stay focused.

It’s not a lack of discipline that keeps us from achieving our goals. It’s a lack of focus.

Clarity gives us focus. If you are clear about what you want to accomplish in the next few years, you can focus on the work that will help you get there. If you are unclear about your future, your focus will be fuzzy and your efforts will be scattered and inconsistent.

Clarity gives you focus and focus gives you momentum.

So, what do you want? What are 3 or 4 goals or projects you intend to focus on this year?

You may not need 3 or 4. You may need only one. A major goal that will decidedly advance you towards your long term vision.

Perhaps that one goal is to reach a certain income level. If you achieve this, it will take care of a lot of other goals. If you increase your income enough, you don’t need a separate goal of paying off back taxes, for example.

Now, with goal in hand, you can focus on achievement. What do you need to do to accomplish this goal?

You can accomplish anything you want in life, you just can’t accomplish everything. Get clear about what you really want and focus on that. Because what you focus on is what you get.

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How to get maximum bang for your marketing buck

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I talk a lot about the value of doing a few minutes of marketing activity every day rather than several hours once in awhile. I do that because if you’re like me (and I know you are), if you don’t do something every day you probably won’t do it at all.

(I find it easier to write a daily blog post than the monthly print newsletter I used to write because my daily scribblings are now part of my regular routine.)

But if you want to get maximum returns for your marketing efforts, think in terms of marketing campaigns.

Here’s what I mean.

Instead of writing a blog post this week, doing a speaking engagement next week, and a video the week after that, do it all in the same week. Don’t run one ad per month over the next year, run 12 spots this week. Instead of setting up a table at a networking event (if that’s something you are inclined to do), do the table, run an ad in the newsletter, get yourself booked to speak, and invite three centers of influence who belong to that group to lunch–in the same week.

Pile up the activity in a short period of time. And use one thing (e.g., your ad) to promote another (e.g., your talk).

In this way, prospective clients and referral sources will see and hear you “everywhere”. You will appear to be more prominent and in demand. More people will notice you, remember you, and want to associate with you.

If I told you that this week I’ll be the guest on three different podcasts and have two articles and a new book coming out, even if you don’t hear the podcasts or see the articles or book, I will have made an impression on you. You’re thinking, “he’s busy, he’s in demand, I should probably listen to him.” I would not have made that impression if that activity were spaced out over the next year.

But here’s the thing. With a whirlwind week like that, I might not do much else for several months and you won’t notice. The impression that I’m busy will remain.

Do something every day that could be called marketing. Release it to the world in waves.

Have you done a 30 Day Referral Blitz

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The one thing. . .

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If an angel sat on your shoulder and whispered in your ear the one thing you need to know or do right now, what would it be?

Not two or ten things, just one.

You may have to search for it, but deep down, you know the answer. There’s a message you need to hear, something that will profoundly change your life in a positive way. What is it?

It’s simple, a single word or a short phrase, but important. You’ve thought about it before. Now it’s time to embrace it.

It might be personal, like a reminder to “lose weight” or “smile” or “call her”. It might be work related like “new clients” or “start the blog” or “networking”.

It might be anything.

When you have the answer, write it down and keep it in front of you, so you will see it often. You might put sticky notes on your computer, on your bathroom mirror, and on the visor in your car. If you have a reminder app, set it to pop up several times a day and display your “one thing”.

Mine came to me last night. The message to myself is “write faster”. I have several projects in the works that involve writing and I’m not an especially fast writer. If I can get the work done more quickly, good things will happen for me.

Note, these aren’t affirmations or goals or anything formal or structured. Just something to think about. A place to start. You might turn it into a project, with specific tasks, or you may leave it as a simple touchstone.

This is supposed to be easy, and inspiring. When you look at your “one thing” you should feel good. If what you wrote makes you feel guilty or unhappy or any other negative emotion, change it.

Aside from inspiration, there is a practical application for writing down your one thing. It summons the power of your subconscious mind to make your one thing come true.

Every time I look at “write faster,” my subconscious mind is working on my behalf to make it so. It will help me notice tools and techniques that can help me write faster. It will help me stop editing as I write, so I will get first drafts done more quickly. When I slow down or go off on a tangent, it will pull me back to the task at hand.

When I got up this morning, I had forgotten that I had written down my “one thing”. When I saw it for the first time, I smiled and started thinking about what it will be like to write faster and get more done, and what a wonderful year it will be to have that play out.

What’s your “one thing”?

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The 80/20 Principle and your law practice

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One of my favorite books is The 80/20 Principle by Richard Koch. In it, Koch makes the case first articulated as The Pareto Principle, that “a minority of causes, inputs, or effort usually lead to a majority of the results, outputs, or rewards”.

The idea is that as much as 80% of your results may come from 20% of your effort. In the context of practicing law, that might mean that 20% of your clients produce 80% of your income. The actual numbers, however, aren’t necessarily 80/20. They might be 90/30, 60/20, or 55/5. The point is that some things we do bring results that are disproportionate to our effort and that it behooves us to look for those things and do more of them.

Koch 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.”

We’re talking about focus. About doing more of what works and less of what doesn’t. About using leverage to earn more without working more.

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 inventory of where you are today. If you’re not on track to meeting your goals, if you are working too hard and earning too little, the answer may be to do less of most things, the “trivial many,” as Koch defines them, so you can do more of the “precious few”.

My course, The Attorney Marketing Formula, can help you.

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How to stay focused when you need to get things done

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You’ve got work to do, deadlines to meet, things that must get done, and you know you need to focus but it’s difficult because there are so many interruptions.

How do you cope?

“6 Ways to Minimize Interruptions When You Need to Focus,” offers some ideas:

  1. Close the door while you’re working
  2. Wear headphones to prevent colleagues chatting
  3. Say, “Could you come back in ten minutes?”
  4. Let your phone go to voice-mail
  5. Turn off Skype, Email, Facebook, Twitter, etc. . .
  6. Get into the office early

In short, these tips remind us to, “avoid outside stimuli”. That’s why we went to the library to study for exams, isn’t it?

Interruptions by others are easy to fix, if you want to. But do you really want to? I think we enjoy interruptions–we like the respite they provide from the tedium of our work.

I’ve found that when I really do need to shut off outside stimuli, because of a deadline, for example, I do it. The fear of loss of the looming deadline motivates me to do what we need to do–and I do it.

The greater challenge is not with outside stimuli or interruptions by others, it is with interruptions we impose on ourselves.

When we’re working, we’re also thinking about other things we have to do. Our neurons are firing, reminding us of promises unkept, other tasks that must get done, thinking about the game tonight, and imagining what will happen if we don’t meet our deadline. It is this internal chatter that is so hard to turn off.

So, how do you focus when your brain keeps interrupting you?

One way to do that is by removing all of those tasks and reminders from your brain and putting them into a “trusted system” to be processed and done at a later time. The term “trusted system” comes from the Getting Things Done™ (GTD) system which I’ve written about before.

Another technique for increasing focus is to give yourself short segments of time during which you are committed to working on the task at hand. Twenty-five minutes, fifteen, ten, or two, whatever you can handle. No matter how busy your brain may be, it can focus for two minutes. Once those two minutes are up, you are allowed to do something else or think about something else for, say, another two minutes. And then, you return to the work you were doing in the first segment, or onto something else.

It’s called, “The Pomodoro Technique.”

The most common implementation is a twenty-five minute block of time, followed by a five minute break. A timer is set, and when the bell sounds, you take your break. Kinda like prize-fighting. After the break, you return for the next round.

The technique was originally promoted via the use of a kitchen timer resembling a tomato (“pomodoro is Italian for tomato”) , like the one depicted above. I use something a bit more high tech.

On my PC’s desktop is an icon to launch an app that takes the place of a kitchen timer. There are many apps that do the same thing. The one I use is called, “Focus Booster,” and it’s available for free for Mac and PC.

Give it a try. Start with a twenty-five minute pomodoro. When you’re done and you’ve taken a break, go for another. If you can’t stay focused for twenty-five minutes, start with ten. Or one.

Have you tried the Pomodoro Technique? How has it worked for you? Do you have a favorite app or do you use a kitchen timer?

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