How I prioritize my day

In the past, before I knew any better, I allowed my client work to dictate my schedule. Unless I had a court appearance, an appointment or a hearing to prepare for, my day consisted of starting at the top of the stack of files on my desk and trying to get through as much of it as possible before it was time to go home. 

As my secretary took calls and did the work I had assigned her, she would replenish the stack of files. When the phone rang, when the mail or a delivery arrived, that work got added to the mix.

I got a lot done but every day was chaotic and stressful and every day I went home exhausted. My big projects, therefore,  usually resided on the back burner.   

Today, I prioritize work differently. I do my best to follow two simple rules.

1. Instead of trying to get everything done, I focus on getting the most important thing(s) done;

2. I try to do the most important thing(s) first. 

The most important things are tasks and projects that provide me with the most value. In productivity parlance, they are my “big rocks” and big rocks go in first. (If you’re unfamiliar with the concept, watch this video.)

If I was still practicing, my big rocks would include things that provide my clients with the most value because that usually provides me with the most value.

I don’t always start with the most important work. Urgent matters crop up. Sometimes, I haven’t allowed enough time to finish something that’s due and I have to fit that in. And sometimes, I like to take care of a bunch of small things first, to get them out of the way and free up more time to work on a big project. 

But generally speaking, I prioritize my day by focusing on quality, not quantity. 

If want to do this, start by figuring out what quality means to you, not just at work but in other aspects of your life. If time with your family is important to you, for example, add this “big rock” to your schedule before you schedule anything else.

Because big rocks go in first.

Have you seen my referral marketing course?

What does success look like to you?

What does success look like to you? Fame? Fortune? Raising your kids to be good people? Leading a long and healthy life? Loving relationships? Changing the world? Seeing the world?

There isn’t a right or wrong answer. It’s your life, after all. Nor are you limited to choosing any one thing. (You can make a boatload of money and raise great kids.)

If I had to choose one thing, one metric for defining and measuring success, I would probably use the following definition that just arrived in my email: 

“The standard of success in life isn’t the things. It isn’t the money or the stuff — it is absolutely the amount of joy you feel.”

This takes care of everything, doesn’t it? If you are happy about your income, for example, doesn’t that mean you are successful? 

Now, if you’re happy about something like your income, it doesn’t mean you can’t increase it. In fact, I believe that being happy about your income is the very thing that will allow you to increase it. 

Why?

Because we get what we focus on.

Focus on the joy you feel about your income (or whatever), and you’ll get more of it. Focus on “not enough” income, however,  and you’ll get more of “not enough”.

Is this The Law of Attraction? Our subconscious mind and reticular activating system at work? God’s will? 

I’m not sure. But it’s what I believe. 

Thing is, we don’t have to understand how this works. We don’t even have to believe it. We just need to do it. 

And, even if I’m wrong about all of this, if we don’t get what we focus on and joy is just a three-letter word, there’s nothing wrong with feeling good about your life, is there?

It feels good to get more referrals

Be happy. Get rich. Part deux.

Last month, I shared a quote from Albert Schweitzer, who said: “Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success. If you love what you are doing, you will be successful.”

“Actually, science says he’s right,” I said. “By mapping the brain to identify dopamine production they found that pleasure results in greater productivity.

I reasoned that, “When you feel good about what you’re doing, you give it more energy. You work harder and get better results.”

How it works might be open to debate. But I’m convinced that it works.

Another attorney who would tell you the same is my friend, Steve Emmert, who shared something I’d like to pass along to you:

Thanks for this note, my brother. It reminded me of something I reasoned out many years ago, before I decided to specialize in what I love doing.

I perceive that there are four kinds of jobs. Type A is one that pays you well, and you love doing it. That’s ideal. Type B makes you happy even though you aren’t getting rich. Type C doesn’t make you happy, but it makes you plenty of income. And Type D makes you neither happy nor wealthy, but it’s the best job you can get.

Many years ago – you know the story, because you told it – I knew I wasn’t happy in what I was doing. A quick check of my bank balance told me that I wasn’t starving, but I was nowhere near rich. That meant that, by default, I had a Type D job. I decided to transition to Type B, and spent plenty of time planning, then building, and then growing it. Guess what? I missed my target. I wound with a Type A career, by accident. Who knew? I mean besides Albert Schweitzer.

When he said I told his story, he was referring to the book I published based on the interview we did, wherein he shared many other pearls of marketing and practice-building wisdom.

It’s a good read, no matter what your practice area. It might be just what you need to create a Type A practice.

Read it free on Kindle Unlimited

Can you be successful doing work you don’t love?

Can you be successful doing work you don’t love? If you define success in material terms, I think you can. But success is not just about money. To be truly successful, you have to be happy.

And here’s the thing. When you are happy, when you love your work, financial success is much easier to achieve.

You don’t have to push yourself to get up early. Mondays are your favorite day of the week. You can’t wait until your next speaking engagement, trial, or networking event.

When you love what you do, the work is almost effortless. Problems seem smaller and easier to resolve. You don’t have to work hard to find clients, you attract them, in droves.

When you love what you do, you are happy, and when you are happy, you love what you do.

What if you don’t love your work? What if it’s just okay?

You eliminate or marginalize the things you don’t like and do more of the things you enjoy.

You can delegate, outsource, and partner. You can change practice areas, client types, and target markets. You can get rid of the marketing techniques that make your stomach churn and replace them with things that come naturally.

You can also give it time. You may learn to love your work eventually. As you hear sad stories about friends who have lost their jobs and can’t find any work, for example, you might start appreciating things you previously took for granted.

Or you might see your current situation as a stepping stone to something else.

Whatever you do, make sure you don’t dwell on the negative aspects of your work. Focus on the things that make you feel good.

Think about the things that are going well and come easily to you. Think about your accomplishments and victories. Think about how good it is that you are paying your bills and that you have the time and space to turn an okay situation into something great.

Focus on the things that make you happy in your work because what you focus on grows.

Success is easier when you have a plan

Happy people don’t become terrorists

If more people in the world were happy, there would be less murder and mayhem and more peace and prosperity.

If more people were happy, the world would be a better place.

A happy world starts with happy people. It starts with you and me. We have a duty to the world, to our families, and to ourselves, to be happy. To infect our neighbors with our happiness, so they can do the same.

Let’s create a worldwide epidemic of happiness, shall we?

And so we have a plan. Our ongoing task is to find happiness in everything we do. To look at and think about things that make us happy, and avoid things that don’t.

Indeed, our thoughts are the only way to become happy. Dale Carnegie said, “It isn’t what you have, or who you are, or where you are, or what you are doing that makes you happy or unhappy. It is what you think about.”

If you’re not happy, change your thoughts. Stop thinking about what’s missing or wrong and start thinking about what could be.

When you see evil, recognize it and call it out. Protect yourself from it and take action to defeat it. But don’t dwell on it. Don’t let it consume you. Don’t let it stop you from being happy.

Over the years, I have become quite good at compartmentalizing my thoughts. If a negative thought enters my mind, or when I hear someone say something negative, I say “cancel” and let go of any emotions attached to it. For good measure, I often replace that negative thought with its positive counterpart.

We become what we think about. I want to make sure I think about what I want, not what I don’t want, and what I want is to be happy.

Success is not the key to happiness

Albert Schweitzer said, “Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success. If you love what you are doing, you’ll be a success.”

If you don’t love what you’re doing, are you doomed to fail? What if you don’t love your work but you don’t hate it, either?

The way I see it, if you’re miserable, you probably need to get another gig. If things are okay but you’re not completely happy, you’ve got a couple of choices.

The first is to find some aspect of your work that does make you happy and focus on that. Surely you love some part of your work. (Yes, but don’t call me Shirley.)

I didn’t love practicing law, and after more than twenty years, I moved on. While I was practicing, I focused on the things I enjoyed such as how good it felt when a client said thank you. I liked writing creative demand letters and getting judges, juries, and arbitrators to rule in my favor. I also liked the money and what it allowed me to do.

The rest of my work I found boring, stress-inducing, or otherwise unrewarding. Research (before computers) seemed unending. Discovery was a drag. Dealing with nasty opposing counsel was enervating.

But there were enough things I enjoyed doing and they allowed me to handle the things I didn’t.

If your work doesn’t provide you with enough joy to make up for the things that drag you down, the other thing you can do is find your happiness outside of work.

Time with your family may make your heart sing. You may have a hobby or side project that you are passionate about. Charitable work may give your life meaning. Whatever it is, spend more time doing it, thinking about it, and looking forward to doing it. Let your work support your passion.

I did this, too. For several years prior to my transition out of a law practice and into a publishing and consulting career, I worked on creating the marketing course that was to make that new career possible. I worked on it at lunch, in the evenings, and on weekends. It was hard work and I didn’t know if it would be successful, but I was happy working on this project and thinking about my future.

Your work may not make you happy or successful, but if you have enough happiness in your life outside of work, then you have a happy and successful life.

Happiness is a choice

Yesterday, I had one of those moments. You know the one I mean. It’s when you’re having a bad day and you are convinced that you don’t know what you’re doing, you’re not good at anything, and you should probably give up and go do something else.

Yeah, that kind of moment.

But then I paused and thought about it. I thought about things that were going well, things that had amazing potential, and things that I was really good at, and the cloud of doom over my head floated away.

Just like that, I went from near despair to being excited about the future, and with that, I got back to work.

Do we really have that kind of power? Can we really just think ourselves into being happy?

You betcha.

Dale Carnegie said, “Remember, happiness doesn’t depend on who you are or what you have; it depends solely on what you think.”

Yes, you can work your way through a funk. But had I tried to suck it up and work my way through my malaise, I’m pretty sure I would have simply found more “proof” of my inadequacies and justification for feeling sorry for myself.

Eventually, I would have forgotten about what was bothering me and returned to my regular chipper self. But instead of having an entire day being down, I was able to get back to “me” in just a few seconds.

When you are feeling blue, or experiencing any kind of negative emotion, instead of charging ahead despite those feelings, “change the subject”. Think about something that feels better when you think it. I might have thought about walking on the beach. That would certainly have felt better and my mood would surely have improved.

I chose another way. Instead of distracting myself from the issue (not being good enough), I found some aspect of that thought that felt better (thinking about what I was good at).

Either way works.

When we are unhappy, we can wait until our circumstances improve and then be happy. Or we can choose to be happy now and use that feeling to improve our circumstances.

Because happiness is a choice.