The last piece of work I do every day


Years ago, I used to plan my day in the morning. Check the calendar, to-do list, and the pile of documents, letters and files I need to work on.  

Today, I do that the night before. 

“Plan tomorrow before tomorrow begins,” became my motto after I heard the wisdom of doing that from an expert in productivity and tried it. It’s made a big difference.  

I start my day knowing what to do, when and for how long  

I’m not trying to plan my day in the morning when my energy is high and is best used doing the actual work.  

If something unexpected comes up during the day, I don’t stress about it. I either fit it in, or more likely, (calmly) schedule it for another day.

I’m more realistic about my tasks and time

When I wrote my task list in the morning, I usually put down too many things I “planned” to do. I focused on being busy, not productive, and usually finished the day with a lot of tasks undone. 

Now, I take a moment to reflect on my day and imagine myself doing those tasks. I’m more mindful and selective about what I do and have more time to do my most important tasks. 

I’m also more likely to start my workday doing something important instead of whatever is at the top of the list. 

Planning and executing are different. I execute better (more quickly, more thoughtfully, with fewer mistakes, and less likely to get distracted) when I’m not also doing the planning. 

I’m less likely to procrastinate

Not only do I have a schedule for the day, planning it the night before allows me to break down the various steps and schedule those as well. 

I know what I will do first, and what I will do after that, and because each step is smaller, I’m more likely to do them. 

I don’t feel guilty about relaxing in the evening, or compelled to get to work first thing the next day

Once I’ve planned my day, I go “off the clock”. I take it easy, watch videos or shows with my wife, read, play a few word games, and do other things humans do. 

Similarly, in the morning, I don’t feel in a rush to get to work.  

Sometimes, I get to it. Sometimes, I don’t. 

I might do some light admin work in the morning before I do my “deep work”. Or I might watch some frivolous videos and do nothing meaningful at all until I’m ready for “work mode”. Either way, because I have a plan, I don’t stress about starting my day. 

I sleep better

According to one study I heard, spending five minutes in the evening writing a task list for the next day often makes it easier to fall asleep. 

I don’t toss and turn as I remember things I need to do the following day. I’ve already decided what I will do and recorded it.

Yes, sometimes I remember things I neglected to schedule, but my phone is always nearby and I can record a quick reminder. But because I know I have a well-planned day, I can forget about it until the morning. 

I’m more productive

By making a schedule the night before instead of “the day of,” I may or may not get more work done, but I almost always get my most important work done. 

Planning your day in the morning is okay. It’s better than starting the day without a plan. But planning my day before it begins has been (to use an overused term) life-changing for me.

And I recommend you try it. 


Start with the end in mind


What does it mean to ‘start with the end in mind’? It means instead of starting from where you are and moving forward, you start with your goal and work backwards. 

We usually start with where we are right now, and that’s okay, but it’s not always clear what to do next. You’re shooting into the dark and make it more likely to get distracted or waste time figuring out what to do.

When you start with the end, the last step before reaching the goal is the first step in your plan.

Sounds crazy, but try it with your next project or goal. 

Let’s say your goal is to sign up 10 new estate planning clients in the next 60 days, who pay you an average of $10,000, and you want to accomplish this via referrals from your current and former clients. 

That’s the goal. What do you do?

You ask yourself if you could accomplish that goal tomorrow and when you say you can’t, you ask, “What would I need to do (or what would have to happen) first?”

You might say that you would need appointments with 20 prospective clients (assuming you typically close one out of two). “Could I see 20 prospective clients tomorrow?” No. “What would I have to do first?”

You might answer that question several ways, but let’s say you decide you would need to have 75 clients contact 3 people they know and tell them about you and what you can do for them. 

They would explain to their friend why they hired you and why their friend should do that, too. Your clients would send them information you provide about estate planning, your services, and a special offer or incentive. 

Could you send all that to your clients tomorrow? 

No. First, you would have to write the email you want your clients to send to 3 people they know, your report or other information, and the terms of your special offer. 

You’d also have to compose the email you will send to your clients asking them to email this information, or the outline of a short script you can use if you call them instead. 

Could you write and send all that tomorrow? Let’s say you can’t. You first have to outline what to write and make a list of clients to send it to. 

Could you do that tomorrow? If you could, that’s your plan for tomorrow. That’s your first step. 

There might be more steps, different variables, or a completely different plan, but this is the process for laying out everything you need to do, in the order in which to do it.  

When you have a goal or a project and you’re not sure how to get started, start with the end in mind and work backwards.


What’s your DMO?


Many people use the last few days of the year to plan their next year. If you’re among them, one thing you might want to do is create (or update) your DMO.

Your “Daily Method of Operation” is a list of essential recurring tasks, and a process for handling other things that comes your way. Your DMO helps you make progress on your top priorities and minimize distractions and omissions.

Your DMO might include a list of tasks you want to do every day or on certain days of the week, and lay out the order in which you will do them.

It might include a list of tasks for starting your day and another list delineating how you will end it.

At the start of the year, you can only lay out general plans about how you will use your time–the “big rocks” of your day. One of these should be scheduling time to look at your calendar and list of projects so you can plan the bulk of your day.

One thing you’ll discover is that no matter what your DMO includes today it will surely change tomorrow.

And that’s okay.

Because the value of planning your DMO–or anything else–isn’t in the plan, it’s in the planning.

The Attorney Marketing Formula includes a simple but effective marketing plan


Plan, do, review redux


Success means different things to different people. And the definition changes. Your goals from three years ago might be very different today.

So today, review your goals and plans, to make sure you’re going where you want to go and you’re on track to getting there.

Here are some questions to ask:

  1. RESULTS: What does success look like for me? Imagine things five or ten years from now. What are you doing? Who are you doing it with? Big firm or small? How many clients? What type of cases? How much money? How much time?
  2. SKILLS: In order to achieve the results I want, what skills do I need to acquire or improve? Which tools do I need to acquire, upgrade or master? What books should I read? How should I continue my education?
  3. NICHES: Which niche markets should I target? What does my ideal client look like? What kinds of referral sources would be a good fit? What can I do to dominate my niche(s)?
  4. PEOPLE: What kinds of people should I associate with? Who do I want to meet, model, and work with? Who should I spend less time with?
  5. HABITS: What should I do more often? What should I stop doing or curtail? Which new habits should I acquire? How can I do them more consistently?
  6. SYSTEMS: What processes should I implement into my workflow? What checklists, forms, templates, and methods should I develop or adopt? How should I manage and track my tasks, projects, and goals?

Answering these questions will help you create a plan. Answering these questions again, at least annually, will help you evaluate your progress, correct course, and get where you want to go.

This will help you choose your niche market and ideal client


Are you managing your law practice or is it managing you?


See the client. Review the document. Write the letter. See the next client. Document the file. Mail the letter. Read. Read some more. Email. Email some more. Prepare the complaint. Prepare the motion. Make the calls. Go to the meeting. Check your email. Check your calendar. Oops, late for court. Out the door. Fight traffic. Wait to be called. Back to the office. Record notes. Send the email. Look at the time. Oops, late for dinner. Fight traffic. Kiss the wife. Eat, read, news, sleep, get up, eat, dress, fight traffic, see the client. . .

Another day. Another week. Another month. Another year.

Who has time for marketing? Thinking about the future? Planning?

You want to, there’s just no time. Too much to do and it never gets done. At the end of the day you’re tired and want to go home.

You aren’t managing your law practice. It’s managing you.

Believe me, I understand.

It’s time for you to take control. Tell your practice who is in charge. Decide what kinds of clients and cases you want instead of taking what shows up. Decide how much you want to earn this year and do what you need to do to earn it.

But to do that, you have stand down from the daily grind, clear your mind, and make some decisions.

What do you have to decide? Start with the end in mind. What do you want your future to be like? What is your long term vision?

What do you want your life to be like five or ten years from today? Imagine things the way you would like them to be. What are you doing? Where are you living? How much are you earning? What is a typical day like?

Write a “vision statement” describing your life, in the present tense, five years in the future. One page is all you need. The only rule is there are no rules. Describe the life you want, not the life you think you might have.

Your vision statement is where you want to go. From this point forward, you can make choices that are consistent with your vision. You’ll do things that move you towards your vision. You’ll reject activities that don’t.

Instead of being pushed through life by circumstance, you’ll be pulled forward by your vision.

Once you have a vision statement, the next step is yearly goals. What do you want to happen in the next 12 months that is consistent with your long term vision?

You can set one big goal or a handful of goals in different areas of your life. Goals should be specific and measurable. At the end of the year you should be able to say that yes, you did reach the goal, or no you did not.

Goals should be bold and exciting. They should require you to stretch and grow, but not be so far out of reach that you don’t have a chance of achieving them.

Once you have yearly goals, the next step is to write monthly plans. What will you focus on this month? What projects will you work on? When will you start? When will you be done? What will you do after that?

Schedule your monthly plans in your calendar. Set up files to collect information and track your progress.

While you’ve got your calendar handy, also schedule a recurring weekly review. Once a week, take an hour or two to review what you have done during the week and what you will do the following week. This keeps you focused and accountable. This is you managing your practice instead of it managing you.

Finally, from you yearly goals, monthly plans, and weekly review, you choose your daily activities. What will you do today to move you forward? Choose a few things but make sure they are important.

It’s best to write down your daily activities the night before. “Plan your day before your day begins,” one of my mentors taught me.

A well-lived life is a well-planned life. If your law practice is managing you, it’s time to show it who’s boss.

The Attorney Marketing Formula will help you plan your future. Click here for details.


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?

If you’re planning to upgrade your Internet presence next year, you need this.