Slowing down to speed up: getting ready for the new year


It’s time. The last few days of the year when the holiday craziness is nearly over, the tree and the lights are coming down, but the new year has not begun. This is the time when I tie up loose ends from the current year and get ready for the new one.

I’m sure you’re doing something similar. Or you will in the next few days. Much like we do in the days leading up to a vacation.

It’s called “slowing down to speed up”. We shut off the flow of regular business and look at things from a different perspective. Because we’re not consumed with taking care of clients and projects, we can better see where we are and make plans for where we want to be.

In addition to doing some goal setting and planning, I’m getting caught up on CLE and learning some new software I plan to use extensively next year. I’m also cleaning up my computer workspace, catching up on email, consolidating files and folders in “my documents,” and consolidating my Evernote tags.

Not difficult stuff. Kinda fun, actually. But important, because it will allow me to start the new year with fresh eyes and fewer distractions and, therefore, be more productive with “real” work.

At least it feels that way. And that’s why we do this year-end ritual, isn’t it? So that we’ll feel refreshed and empowered?

So, how about you? How are you getting ready for the new year?

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Taking inventory and getting organized


Most people have way more “stuff” in their life than they need or want or even know they have. I was reminded of this over the last few days while setting up my new laptop.

I went through the old hard drive, making a list of programs to install on the new drive, and realized I didn’t recognize half of the program, and others I never used. There were many programs I didn’t install on the new drive. I mean, how many pdf makers and readers does one really need?

I’ve organized documents and folders. Put things in a more logical order. The new machine is lean and uncluttered. I can see what I have and find what I need. It feels good to be on top of things.

So now, I’m looking at other things in my life I can inventory and organize. December is a good month to do that. I’ll start with my projects and someday/maybes, so I can make decisions and set goals based on what’s important rather than what happens to be in front of me.

Why not do the same?

An easy place to begin is with your physical environment–closets, drawers, desks, the tool shed, the trunk of your car. What can you get rid of? As you eliminate things you don’t use, you make room for new and better things.

In the office, you might organize forms, form letters, and templates. Get rid of or update the ones that are obsolete or that you don’t use. Do the same for books, email subscriptions, and blog feeds.

How about taking inventory of your clients? Some are more valuable to you than others. Which ones can you ask to find another attorney? Which clients should you give more attention to?

How about your friends? Are there people in your life who enervate you? Cut down on how often you see them, or resolve to not see them at all. Do you have a friend you don’t see often enough? Now you’ll have more time for them.

Do you belong to too many groups? Support too many causes? Have too many hobbies or take too many classes? By cutting down on some, you can do more with the ones that matter.

Take inventory of the people and things in your life and pare things down to a more manageable number. Organize what’s left so you can access it more quickly. You’ll be better able to see what you have, what you need, and what you want to accomplish in the coming year and beyond.

Taking inventory and getting organized is a process of deciding what’s important so you can focus on it. When I’m not sure whether or not to keep something, I ask myself if it can be replaced. If not, I’ll hang onto it and look at it again some time down the road. If it can be replaced, out it goes. Usually.

If you’re too busy to take inventory of everything right now, take inventory of what needs to be inventoried. Make a list of possible areas of your life you’d like to streamline and organize. Then, tackle one area each month. By next year at this time, you’ll be a lean, mean, organized machine. With lots of room for new stuff.

Learn how I organize my digital life in my Evernote for Lawyers ebook.


My favorite productivity tool


It’s been cold in southern California. Okay, you can stop laughing now. We think it’s cold, even if the rest of the country thinks we’re crazy. Anyway, when the weather warms up, it will be time to go through the closets again and get rid of old clothes.

If you haven’t worn it in a year, you’re probably not going to wear it again, yes? It’s clutter and it needs to go.

I’ve gotten rid of hundreds of books for the same reason. They were taking up space and collecting dust and needed to go. If I want to read them again, I can buy them on kindle.

I find that the more I get rid of clutter, the more peaceful I am. Lean and clean. The new me.

The same is true in my digital world. That’s why my favorite productivity tool is the delete key.

The more I get rid of, the more productive I am. When I delete emails or notes, it frees up visual and mental space so that I can concentrate on what’s important. I chop through a forest of digital trees with my digital machete, carving a path towards the place I want to go. By getting rid of the clutter in my way, I can move more quickly and with more clarity.

If you’re not sure you’re going to read something or need something, delete it or put it in a searchable archive. That’s how I got to “inbox zero,” finally. I archived 15,000 emails in my inbox all at once. I got rid of the clutter.

I still have a long way to go. I have many hundreds of blog posts saved in “read later” apps and I know I’ll never read most of them. Leo Babauta suggests that we delete everything in these apps once a week. If we haven’t read them this week, we’re probably not going to read them next week.

Maybe after I tackle the closet.

Have you read Evernote for Lawyers? It’s a guide for getting organized & increasing productivity.