Keystone habits for the win

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Charles Duhigg, author of “The Power of Habit,” talked about “keystone habits”. These are habits that tend to lead to other good habits and behaviors.

Exercise is an example of a keystone habit. Duhigg said,

“Typically, people who exercise start eating better and becoming more productive at work. They smoke less and show more patience with colleagues and family. They use their credit cards less frequently and say they feel less stressed. Exercise is a keystone habit that triggers widespread change.”

Other keystone habits might include meditation or prayer, reading personal development books for 30 minutes daily, writing in a journal, getting more sleep or learning a new skill.

Marketing is a keystone habit. Writing a weekly email to your clients and prospects, for example, can not only bring in more business, it can also improve your presentations, help you develop more content (and better content) for your website, and improve your conversational skills.

You don’t have to change every habit to achieve your goals. Focus on developing a few keystone habits that will allow you to create a wave of successful outcomes in your work or personal life.

Start by identifying one keystone habit and working on it every day. If you’ve chosen well, one small change in what you do or how you do it can cause a trickle-down effect and generate a plethora of positive outcomes.

Keystone habit: teaching clients how to identify your ideal client and refer them

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What’s all the fuss about habits?

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Aristotle said, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” Your value isn’t determined by what you know it’s determined by what you do.

All the little things you do or don’t do cumulate, compound, and create who you are. They also determine what you achieve.

One author put it this way: “You are at this point in your life because of the way you have treated every ‘today’ for decades. You will never change your life until you change something you do daily.”

If you keep some kind of journal, you might start tracking your habits. Write down the things you do (and fail to do) during the course of your day.

Some habits are good. Some are bad. And some are neither good nor bad, except for the fact that they use time and energy that might be used for something else.

Note your good habits and look for ways to do them more often or for longer periods of time. Look for ways to improve the way you do them and, therefore, the results they bring.

Note your bad habits and look for ways to eliminate them, do them less often, or neutralize them by changing them in some way.

Note your habits that are neither good nor bad. The potential time-wasters. Look for ways to do them less often or for shorter periods of time, and find positive habits to replace them.

Because you are what you repeatedly do.

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Is your cat too thin?

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The last time my daughter was in town she commented on how much weight our cat had lost. My wife and I didn’t see it. Maybe he was a little thinner but not that much.

But we were wrong. Our vet confirmed that the cat had lost too much weight. (Change of food and other measures and he’s back to normal now.)

Why was our daughter able to see that the cat had was too thin and we couldn’t? We couldn’t see his gradual loss of weight because we saw him every day and our daughter didn’t.

We were too close and couldn’t see what was right in front of us.

I want to make the case for periodically taking a step back from your routines and changing up what you do. When you interview a new client, for example, instead of following the same checklist in the same order, mix it up. Ask the questions in a different order or ask different questions.

You may be surprised at what you find.

The same goes for anything you do habitually. Your exercise routine, the way you do research, the way you arrange your desk or the desktop on your computer.

When you always do the same things, and you always do them the same way, you can get stale and miss things.

Change your routines. Change the people you hang out with. Change the way you drive to work.

Change your perspective and you may see things you no longer see (or have never seen).

Your cat’s health may depend on it.

Change your marketing habits

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Sometimes, you’ve got to break the chain

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Routines are a good thing. You always know what you’re going to do and by doing it regularly, you get good at it.

Exercise, taking your vitamins, drinking water–check. Reviewing your todo list and calendar in the evening to prepare for the following day–check. Opening a file, preparing a pleading, posting to your blog–all made easier because your routine helps you do them without a lot of extra thought or effort.

I have an app I use to record my daily walks. I check off the days I’ve done them (and record my steps in another app), because I don’t want to break the chain. (Search: “Seinfeld, don’t break the chain” if you’re not familiar with the concept.)

Last week it was hotter than Hades. Even early in the morning. I missed a day’s walk. Then I missed another.

I broke the friggin chain! (Don’t worry, I started a new one. All is well.)

I’m walking earlier now. BC (before coffee) if you can believe it. I see a different crowd of walkers, runners, and dogs, the light is different, it’s quieter, and I get my walk done early. I seem to have more day.

It’s too soon to tell for certain but walking earlier may be a game changer for me. I probably wouldn’t have done it if the weather hadn’t forced me to.

Anyway, I got to thinking that sometimes, we should intentionally change our routines. Just for the hell of it. A new routine provides fresh stimuli for our brain. It can lead to ideas and improvements. It keeps things fresh.

I’ve never been a morning person. Never started my day without coffee. If I can do this, who knows what I can accomplish.

Do you know any professionals? Here’s how to get them to send you business

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What? You STILL don’t want to do it?

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Yesterday, I talked about coming to grips with doing things you don’t want to do. Like marketing.

Basically, I talked about sneaking up on a task and giving it a big hug, until it feels familiar and you can give it a go. But there’s another way to do things you don’t want to do.

Do them anyway.

Who says you have to feel like it? Who says you have to like it? You have work to do so do it.

You may have legal work you don’t “feel” like doing. You do it anyway because if you don’t, your clients leave you, sue you, and complain about you. You can’t pay your bills. You lose your license. Your home. Your spouse.

There’s no choice here, you do the work.

With marketing, it’s different. Or so we tell ourselves. If we don’t do the work, we don’t lose, we just don’t gain.

Of course, that’s not true. If you don’t do any marketing, eventually you will lose everything.

Fear of loss is powerful. That’s why we do our legal work even when we might not want to. The desire for gain doesn’t motivate us in the same way.

That’s why we have to create habits and routines for marketing, why we have to hold ourselves accountable to others, why we have to block out time on our calendar for marketing (even five minutes a day), and why we have to force ourselves to do it.

But not forever. Eventually, we see that marketing isn’t that bad and it really does work. Eventually, we come to like it.

Or we don’t. But we do it anyway.

Your clients want to send you referrals

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The power of a daily habit

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When I began walking for exercise I usually walked three days a week. Some days, I didn’t feel like it and had to force myself out the door. Some days I simply forgot.

Now I walk six days a week and I do it without thinking about it.

My walks are longer, because I’ve built up my strength, and I enjoy them. Not only are they good for my health, I use the time for thinking, dictating, or listening to podcasts.

Because I walk every day, I don’t have to be reminded to do it or talk myself into it. It’s part of my routine. And I (usually) look forward to it.

I had a similar experience when I started writing a daily email/blog post. Before I wrote daily, I wrote once a week. It was easy to do but what’s easy to do is also easy to not do. Miss a day and it could easily turn into a week. Before you know it, a month has gone by and you’re on your way to not doing it anymore.

Am I saying it’s easier to write every day instead of once a week? Yes.

If you write a newsletter, blog post, or article once a month or once a week you have to plan for it. When the day comes, it’s easy to postpone it. “Hey, I’ve got the whole month”. But do you? Without a deadline, it’s easy to blow it off.

If you write once a week, or every day, it becomes a natural part of your workflow.

So, write shorter pieces but more often. Make it a habit and you’ll get it done.

Whatever it is you’re thinking of doing, whatever habit you want to create, start where you need to start but look for a way to transition to doing it every day. Because every day really is easier.

Are you getting daily referrals

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If your mom managed your law firm

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When we were kids our moms made sure we followed the rules. We ate our peas, did our homework, studied for tests, and told them if we were going to be late for dinner. Our parents wanted to protect us and get a good start in life so they made us follow the rules. Or else.

If your mom managed your law firm, she would do the same thing.

She’d make sure you did your work, calendared every date, filed every document, and billed every client. If a client didn’t pay, she’d be on the phone, reminding them and threatening to call their mom.

No doubt, she’d also make you tidy up your office at the end of the day.

You would be more productive and profitable but nobody wants their mom telling them what to do, or telling everyone embarrassing stories about something we did when we were six.

Besides, we have administrators to do most of the things our mom would do.

The problem is, an administrator does what you tell them to do, not the other way around.

So you need self-discipline. Which is loosely defined as doing things you need to do whether you feel like doing them or not.

Self-discipline means conquering procrastination and developing consistency. Not because your mom made you but because you made yourself.

One way to develop self-discipline is to start small. If you find it difficult to do marketing 15 minutes a day, start with 5 minutes. Or one minute. Or start doing it once a week.

Develop the habit of doing it consistently, first, and go from there.

Another way to develop self-discipline is to first develop it in other areas of your life. If you are undisciplined about following your task management system, start by getting self-disciplined about reading every day or going to bed 30 minutes earlier.

Someone said, “How you do anything is how you do everything,” and if that’s true, when you develop discipline in one area of your life, it helps you become disciplined in others.

A good place to start is with physical activity. Taking a twenty-minute walk three days a week, for example, is easy to do and easy to measure. You’re either doing it or you’re not.

Walking will not only improve your health and give you more energy, it will help you to become more disciplined about doing more cerebral activities like writing, personal development, or marketing.

Walking is also good for getting ideas. Where do you think I got the idea for this post?

Does your website need more content? This will help

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Are you a finicky lawyer?

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I told you about a program I saw profiling a 20-year-old woman with a strange and dangerous addiction to sugar. She drinks 30 cans of cola a day and is on the fast track to a major illness.

The program is called “Finicky Eaters”. My wife found replays on YouTube. We’ve since seen episodes about a guy who has eaten nothing but cheeseburgers for the last 25 years (yep, three meals a day), the gal who eats nothing but french fries, and another about a man who likes to eat raw meat and little else.

As far as I’m concerned, this is more than finicky eating, it’s a sickness. Had these folks not received professional help, they would no doubt be looking at debilitating illness or death.

I was thinking about these poor souls on my walk this morning. It made me think about how many lawyers also have unhealthy habits with respect to their practices. Although usually not fatal, these habits prevent them from reaching their potential.

Many lawyers steadfastly refuse to delegate, for example. Doing all the work themselves can add stress and lead to burnout. It also limits their income. (I know, there’s a trade-off. If you’re not careful, delegating can lead to other problems. Note to self: delegate, but be careful.)

When it comes to marketing, many lawyers also have bad habits. They get set in their ways, refusing to try new strategies, or update old ones, and find themselves falling behind the competition.

How about you? Do you have any bad habits about how you manage your practice? Things you do that you shouldn’t, or things you should do but don’t?

Do you continue doing something a certain way because that’s how you’ve always done it, or because that’s how everyone else does it?

Do you stay in a bad partnership out of habit or fear that the alternative might be worse?

Do you continue paying for products or services you no longer need or could replace with lower-cost or better alternatives?

Start a new habit today of regularly examining what you do and how you do it. Pay attention to your habits, routines, and go-to strategies and consider what you might change or improve.

If you decide that you’re doing fine and no changes are necessary, I have one last suggestion for you: get someone else to take a look. Ask a friend, or hire a professional, to examine your ways and tell you what they see.

Because most of those finicky eaters didn’t realize they had a problem until someone else pointed it out to them.

Are you getting all of the referrals you want? 

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Baby steps, baby cakes

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Imagine drinking 30 cans of cola a day, every day. I saw a program profiling a 20-year old girl who’s been doing that for years and can’t seem to stop. To make matters worse, the rest of her diet consists of Twinkies and Ding Dongs and an assortment of other blocks of sugar.

Yikes.

She’s pre-diabetic and has the lab report to prove it, but she isn’t doing anything about it. She’s in the medical field and should know better, but like a lot of addicts, she’s in complete denial.

Call in the professionals: a nutritionist and a mental health doctor, tasked to help her.

They couldn’t have her quit cold turkey because she would suffer withdrawal symptoms that could put her in the hospital. They asked her to reduce her consumption in stages. Within a couple of weeks, she was supposed to be off the sauce.

She didn’t last a day.

Why? Two reasons, as I see it. The first reason is that they had her cutting down too quickly. Not only was she physically addicted to sugar (and caffeine), she had long-term emotional attachments to her habit.

It was too much, too soon.

I’m a doctor of laws, not medicine, but I would have asked her to cut her intake by a single can per day, or even every two or three days. Wean her off the stuff slowly. In a month or two might be down to a few cans a day, and from there, quitting would be relatively easy.

Breaking a bad habit, especially one that has physical and emotional addiction components, should be done slowly, shouldn’t it? A little bit each day.

That’s equally true for adopting good habits. Don’t run a half marathon this weekend if you currently do no exercise.

I talk about doing marketing 15 minutes a day because (a) anyone can do 15 minutes, and (b) if you do 15 minutes every day, eventually you might build up to 30. (NB: if you can’t do 15 minutes, start with 10. Or five.)

Do a little, but do it every day until it becomes a habit.

Besides being asked to taper off too quickly, the second reason cola girl couldn’t quit is that she didn’t want to. She admitted as much at the end of the program.

Even when a habit poses serious health risks, if you don’t want to quit, you won’t. Or you’ll quit but go right back to your old ways.

That’s also true for starting a good habit.

A lack of marketing might pose a serious risk to the financial health of your practice, but if you don’t want to change, you won’t.

Start with a simple marketing plan

 

 

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The benefits of a daily writing routine

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Most attorneys write every day. It’s a big part of the job. But let’s face it, most of that writing is formulaic and dull. Here’s our demand, this is what that case held, the facts are as follows.

You can dictate this stuff in your sleep.

Set aside 15 minutes every day to do a different kind of writing. Write something that expresses what you THINK and how you FEEL. Share your professional and personal experiences and observations. Inspire people to think, act, and buy.

Writing every day will make you a better writer. Faster, too. You’ll also produce more content (articles, blog posts, ebooks, reports, presentations, newsletters) that can bring you new business.

You don’t have to show your writing to anyone just yet. Just keep writing. The day will come, sooner than you think, when you know it’s time to put your writing to work.

If you love to write, writing every day can be a guilty pleasure you don’t usually get to experience. If you hate to write, talk. Record yourself “thinking out loud”.

Write every day, even when you don’t feel like it. Especially when you don’t feel like it. If 15 minutes is too much, start with ten. Or five. Do three-minute writing sprints, squirting out words as quickly as possible, without thinking or stopping.

Have fun with it. Be funny, or bitch and moan. Write whatever you want to write. But don’t break the chain. Writing daily is as much about discipline as it is communication. Once you’ve established this new habit, who knows what you might be empowered to do next.

Make a habit of getting referrals

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