In Black & White

In Black & White

Common Sense Strategies for Growing Your Legal Practice

3 Ways to Maximize Your Time and Produce More Results.

We never have enough time. There is no disputing the fact that there are only 24 hours in a day. So instead of wishing for more time our focus should be on how to maximize our time. Forbes contributor… The Muse has written an article… 3 Ways To Get More Out Of Every Single Hour

Here are a few research-backed suggestions that can help you make the most of the time you have.

1. Value Every Single Minute… We tend to sell ourselves short in the time department. In many cases, we even allow others to take advantage of our time. So the most important step in time management is to take ownership of our time, making room for the activities that are meaningful and productive, and eliminating those that have less long-term value.

What sets worthy tasks apart are the outcomes associated with your time investment. For example, you might routinely attend a meeting that includes a lot of back-and-forth, but not a lot of action. Could that allotted time be better spent on an alternative activity, such as connecting with clients or collaborating with colleagues? Often, there are opportunities to “mine” time for more productive activities—we simply overlook them.

To this end, take a hard look at how you’ve been spending your time by completing a calendar audit. Start with this exercise: Record your hour-by-hour activities for two weeks. Then review your entries with these questions in mind: Was the time well spent? Were there solid benefits associated with the time spent? Would you go the same route again? In many cases, a “time” issue is actually a “task” issue. So jettison the tasks that add little to your effectiveness.

Most lawyers keep track of time. However it is with the focus of “more time, more billing” not with a focus of efficiency. Try this time audit as The Muse suggests and see if you can shed a little light on a more efficient use of every single minute.

2. Make Room for More Focus. From ringing phones to co-workers stopping by your desk for a chat, distractions are plentiful in most office environments. (Handling the “drive-bys” can be a real challenge.) While these distractions have become an accepted part of work life, they can wreak havoc on our levels of productivity. When we’re in stop-and-start mode all day, we find ourselves repeating tasks, losing our place, and spinning our wheels. In fact, it can take 20 minutes or longer to re-focus after an interruption.

In some cases, open offices are the culprit. However, we also contribute to the problem with the choices that we make. Psychologist Daniel Goleman discusses that we need to take control and protect ourselves from our own schedules—building time into our work lives to focus deeply on important tasks. We need to identify slices of time when, as Goleman explains, we have the opportunity to “cocoon” and concentrate fully.

You might consider silencing your cell phone or utilizing Google’s Inbox Pause feature to turn off incoming email for an hour or so each day. You can also ask your manager about setting aside two, uninterrupted 30-minute time periods during your workday, perhaps as your day begins, at lunchtime, or at the close of the day, where you can hunker down and do focused work.

You’ll likely be surprised just how much you get out of that time.

There is no doubt that when we can focus we are more productive, so take control of your time. So I suggest that you close your door and hang a “Do Not Disturb” sign on the doorknob with a time you expect to be accessible again. This will help to manage the expectations of those that need you.

3. Tame Procrastination. Procrastination is one of the most common workplace challenges—and for some of us; it can become a huge time waster. While procrastination can stem from feeling overwhelmed or under-prepared (in which case, don’t delay seeking guidance), research also suggests that procrastination can occur as the result of how we view tasks and goals. Specifically, we cast certain tasks in a very negative light—for, example, “I’ll finish the report by Friday, so my manager won’t be upset with me.” These are called “avoidance” goals—you complete them to avoid a negative consequence—and interestingly, they have a greater tendency to be correlated with procrastination.

But here’s the good news: You can curb procrastination by attempting to view these tasks differently, reframing them as an “approach” goal versus an “avoidance” goal. If you’re dreading a certain task, attempt to see it in the context of a possibly more appealing outcome. Could its completion contribute to advancing a larger, more positive goal—for example, impressing clients or being viewed as a team player? This may help you stay on course. An added bonus? Approach goals seem to offer more satisfaction when they are ultimately accomplished.

What I have learned from my own procrastination is that the task that I have put off generally doesn’t take as much time as I expected,and when I finish it, I often ask myself “Why didn’t I just do it sooner?” I could have avoided hours and sometimes days of feeling guilty that it was still on my “To Do List.” As the saying goes… Just Do It!

Want to discuss this subject further? Give me a call or shoot me an email!

 

Posted in Inspired Thought, Marketing Time Commitment

One Sure-Fire Way To Predict When Something Will Go Terribly Wrong

Do you want a sure-fire way to predict when something is going to go terribly wrong? I do. There is a way but it’s not a crystal ball or Ouija board. The answer is in Forbes contributor Paul B. Brown’s article… The One Sign Something Is About To Go Wrong… And What You Can Do Before It Does. The legal profession is changing rapidly, and the ability to spot and adapt to these changes is invaluable.

Brown was asked for a formula to predict success…

While I haven’t found a foolproof formula to predict success, I know I have come up with a way to tell when something is going to go horribly wrong.

That is going to occur immediately after you become complacent.  I have never seen it fail.

The moment you think you have nailed it—you believe your product or service is perfect; you have mastered everything there is to know about leading their organization—something or someone is going to upset your proverbial apple cart.

For example, a new competitor will enter the market with a new way of doing things.

I am sure that Blockbuster thought everything was fine even when Netflix NFLX +1.21% first came along. The large box consumer electronic stores were doing quite nicely and remained unconcerned when an increasing number of people starting shopping their stores, asking lots of questions about the merchandise and then leaving empty handed (so that they could buy the product cheaper online.)

Or there will be a management challenge that you didn’t see coming. (“Wait a second! It looks like these Millennials want to be managed differently than all the baby boomers we have in our ranks.”)

You have two choices when you face these kinds of situations.

You can assume the new information/problem/challenge is an aberration and there is nothing to worry about. (People will always want to rent movies from a freestanding store; or in the case of the big box stores “this Internet shopping thing is just a fad.)

As for management challenges you can simply say: “These new workers will just have to get used to the way we have always done things. Our systems are perfect the way they are.”

Or you can take every potential change to the marketplace seriously.

No, not every new entrant or new idea could put you out of business, but it only takes one significant threat as Blockbuster and the consumer electronic stores learned the hard way.

The problem with worrying about every threat and every change in the marketplace is that you can never become complacent. You can never truly relax and enjoy what you have accomplished.

Accept that. The alternative is becoming obsolete or irrelevant.

While it is tiring—because you can never rest on your well-earned laurels—it is far better to be vigilant.

Complacency comes in many forms. The most harmful to a lawyer’s business is… “I’m too busy!” Yes, I acknowledge that you may have a heavy workload, but I ask you… Are you working as efficiently as you could? Are you leveraging the skills of a team? Are you making every minute you spend on business development count? If not maybe you have become complacent and begun to settle for business as usual! Now that you know complacency is a sure sign of impending disaster… what are you going to do about it?

If you would like to explore how this insight applies to your situation… give me a call.

 

Posted in Business Development, Inspired Thought, Marketing Time Commitment

8 Questions to Help You Bring Your “A” Game to Business Development

Are you in a rut? Are you just going through the motions of your business development? Are you not seeing results? Are you overwhelmed and going in too many directions? Maybe it’s time to take a closer look!

At the end of EVERY week reflect on your performance and results of the week. Here is a list of eight questions to ask yourself…

1. Was your client service so solid that your clients will give you more work?

2. How many referral sources did you reach out to this week?

3. Did you do something to develop a relationship this week?

4. What did you do to increase your credibility with clients, colleagues or potential clients? (Examples could include writing an article, giving a speech or even spending ten minutes on the phone answering questions for a client or a colleague.)

5.  Did you feel “in control” this week… or did you feel that external events dictated how you spent your time and energy?

6. What did you enjoy doing this week?

7. What will you do differently next week?

8. What are you most proud of this week?

Write your answers down and look back on the progress you’ve made from week to week. Are there obstacles and issues that keep occurring? Find solutions. Are you feeling out of control more often then not? Look for the root cause of it and and see if you can find ways to alter the situation. It’s important to write down what you will do differently and to acknowledge what you are proud of… that is how change occurs!

If you’d like to discuss this process further, give me a call or shoot me an email today!

Posted in Business Development, Developing A Strategic Plan

Legal Business Development: Accountability to Yourself

Accountability. I know you understand the importance of accountability to others, otherwise you wouldn’t be as successful as you are. But… I suspect that when it comes to accountability to yourself, you’re not quite as masterful. It’s not easy! You make plans and 15 minutes later they’re derailed by circumstances beyond your control… this happens to me more often than I would like, how about you?  When I read 4 Simple Ways to Boost Accountability by Lee Colan, Inc. Magazine contributor and author, I thought it would be valuable for all of us.

 This is what Colan has to say about accountability when dealing with a team, but imagine that the team is YOU…

 1. Be specific. Ambiguity is the Achilles’ heel of accountability.

What is it that you really need and want? It can’t be a vague idea, it must have details.

 2. Consider timelines in addition to deadlines. Whether you are requesting or delivering on a task, first consider your ability and bandwidth to get it done before you agree to the deadline.

Deadlines to yourself are often blurred lines with unrealistic estimates of your bandwidth. Get real and create a timeline.

3. Increase your say/do ratio. Being accountable is really about being reliable. How reliable are you to act upon what you say? The key is to be careful about what you say–and if you say something, be committed to doing it. Applying Tip No. 2 will help drive up your say/do ratio.

Avoid overwhelm and carefully commit to the things you truly care about.

 4. Use 3 Ws. Leave every meeting with a simple, three-column 3W form: What, Who, and When. What needs to be done by whom, and by when? You can even use the 3W form as a mental template for conversations to confirm agreement on what you just talked about: “OK, so you will identify our top three prospects by noon today, and I will call them by noon tomorrow.”

Imagine how powerful this concept could be when you hold yourself accountable.

Accountability to your clients and your partners is critical to your success as a lawyer. Accountability to yourself gives you the ability to complete important steps on the path to achieving your ultimate goals and dreams. So be accountable, to others… and to yourself! If you’d like some help along the way, I’m here! Just shoot me an email.

Posted in Developing A Strategic Plan, Inspired Thought, Marketing Time Commitment

Legal Business Development: What Do You Want?

What do you want? If you “want to have your cake and eat it too” as the saying goes this (true) story just might help you see that it’s possible.

When a client of mine left her prestigious firm she told me… “I want to spend time with my kids… but I still want to build my practice. Do you think I can do that?”

My answer: Absolutely… you can do it your way. We just have to figure out your priorities.

So my client and I figured out what her priorities were…

1. Flexibility. Flexibility was important to her, so she managed her client’s expectations where possible. She worked when the kids were at school and after they went to bed. But she was there to take them to school most mornings and to various activities in the afternoon.

2. Maintain her reputation for exceptional client service and legal work. This one was tough because she had to be real with herself. It required acknowledging what clients really wanted… not what she thought they should have. Some clients were not a good fit and she had to fire them.

3. Maintain at least 50% of what she was making at her firm. So we got to work. We set hourly targets. Billable: 20 hours a week. Business development: 10 hours. And personal hours… as much as she could get! In her previous position she was working 45-60 hours and personal time was scarce.

She tracked her hours everyday and we reviewed them monthly. We made her business development hours count! We looked for quality clients that could pay good rates and have repetitive matters. And an astonishing thing happened… she is working probably a 3rd of the time she was working before and her income has nearly doubled that of which she was making at the firm! And best of all her family is happy to have her around… what could get any better than that?

Let me tell you that YOU CAN have it your way! You have to FOCUS and you can’t have it ALL at the same time. What are your priorities? How can we make them mesh and build a life that is in harmony?

If you would like to chat about how you can have it YOUR way, give me a call or send me an email.

 

Posted in Business Development, Inspired Thought

Speaking: 7 Key Strategies That Make A Difference

Last week I made a speech about making a speech. I first asked the audience to raise their hands if they give speeches on a regular basis, how many do it occasionally, how many lead meetings, how many share their expertise with their colleagues and clients. As you can imagine more and more hands were raised until it was everyone in the room… because we all share our expertise with our colleagues and clients. So even though “giving a speech” may sound intimidating, most of us practice the basics each and every day. Speaking is a powerful tool for business development, and here are 7 key strategies to make you more effective (or help you get started!)

  1.  Can you simply share? We do it everyday, but when we think of delivering a speech we elevate it to lofty academic pearls. Yes, there are times that would be appropriate but most of the time it can simply be the act of sharing what you know, as you do every single day.
  2. Is your message clear? Make sure your message is crystal clear. Get rid of acronyms and insider terms.
  3. Does your audience care about this topic? If not find a connection that will make them care or pick another topic. Just because you think they NEED to know about this topic doesn’t mean they care.
  4. Be a storyteller. Tell a compelling story that will resonate with your audience. This is the best way to be memorable.
  5. Repetition, repetition, repetition! Get in front of an audience again and again. The more you speak the better you’ll be, and the better you are the more fun you’ll have, and the more fun you are having, the more your audience will engage with you and your message!
  6. You can do it your way. There are many ways to be a successful speaker… so do it YOUR way. Do what feels comfortable, if you have a great sense of humor… use it.
  7. Strive to be real… not perfect! I’ve saved the most important for last. REAL trumps perfect every time. An audience wants to see you, not a performance.

Here is a great TED Talk by Joe Kowan, How I Beat Stage Fright, that will engage, inspire and make you laugh!

Posted in Branding and Positioning, Increasing Credibility, Increasing Visibility, Inspired Thought

Legal Business Development: A New Year… A Big Idea

Happy New Year! I love this time of year because it signals a “fresh start.” We can look at our lives and decide what might need some adjusting. You noticed that I didn’t say,  ”New Year’s Resolutions,” since we generally make them and break them in record time. What I have found works much better is committing to a “big idea,” one that is important and that inspires you.

Progress Over Perfection - One of the obstacles that gets in the way of progress for many of my clients is waiting for things to be “perfect” before they make the next step. Sometimes achieving positive results just requires a little faith in yourself, not perfection. Let me ask you: When was the last time you, REALLY failed at something? Probably NEVER. You wouldn’t be where you are if you had. Yes… you have made mistakes and taken the wrong path…  we all have. But you are smart and have many experiences that will help you avoid pitfalls, so have a little faith in yourself and take the leap even if things aren’t perfect. Your instincts will guide you. Let’s face it… PERFECT doesn’t exist anyway. Every single thing can be improved.

For example, when is an article ready for publication… after 4 hours, 40 hours or 400 hours? If you are writing about what you know it can be 4 hours or even less for that matter. Some people work on an article for weeks.  If it is for business development purposes… stop!

Think about the results you could achieve this year if you take a leap of faith… then assess the situation, make adjustments and try again. I have had the pleasure of watching many clients do just that and the results are amazing. So, you can choose to adjust and adjust until you think something is perfect OR you can choose PROGRESS. What would you like your 2014 results to look like?  Make your 2014 Big Idea … Progress Over Perfection!

If you’d like to discuss this topic further, shoot me an email!

Posted in Developing A Strategic Plan, Inspired Thought

“I Am, Because of You”

In the celebration of Nelson Mandela’s life we learned an African word… “ubuntu.” It is defined as “I am, because of you.” Of all the stories I heard in the steady stream of heart felt illustrations, there is one story that stands out…Take 15 minutes to listen to this TED Talk, a very special illustration of “ubuntu” by a wildlife activist from South Africa, Boyd Varty…

Posted in Inspired Thought

Legal Business Development: It’s All About Focus!

Focus… it’s a hard skill to perfect when there are so many demands, options and desires. There is one thing I have a lot of experience with… and that is being scattered and unfocused and dealing with the results of my lack of focus. Every single time I wanted to shift my focus and go in a new direction I made a very convincing argument as to why it was a good idea. My gut was sending out alarm signals, making me feel the need to convince someone. In truth it was me making excuses for myself! Does this sound familiar? I bet it does!

So what did I learn from those experiences that helped me create a different course of action? It turns out that the solution was very simple. I created a strategic plan… a well thought out strategic plan. One that made me look at my long-term goals and in some cases create them where there weren’t any. I looked at things like the path of profitability, of joy and fulfillment and how much time I have to get there. When you create a strategic plan like that it gives purpose to your actions and when your gut sounds the alarms of caution you will be more likely to hear it. When that scattered voice distracts you, ask yourself… Does this action or new initiative get me closer to my goals or am I making excuses for it just because I WANT to do it? If the answer is just because you WANT it then get to the core of what you want about it and find a way to nourish that desire in a way that complements your strategy, and doesn’t detract from it … don’t kid yourself that it is good for business.

Many years ago I lost a quarter of a million dollars because I took on a project convincing myself that it was a sound business idea when in reality it was because I WANTED to travel and create. At the time I had no strategic plan to guide my thinking. By the way, I now take exotic vacations and travel between my two offices in Miami and Denver. As far as fueling my creativity… I write books, blogs and help others do the same. Those things fit into my strategic plan AND fuel my desires. It was a VERY expensive lesson to learn… but I learned it well!

What should go into your strategic plan? What kinds of things get you off-track? Would you like assistance in figuring it out? Shoot me an email and let’s talk.

Posted in Developing A Strategic Plan, Inspired Thought

Do You Love What You Do?

There is no greater gift than to be able to do what you love. When people talk about their work as a passion, they often say that they would do it even if they were not paid. Their enthusiasm is contagious, their clients and colleagues feel it.

Do you love what you’re doing… or do you dread going into the office each morning? Many of the clients I work with are sick and tired of having that feeling of dread each morning. We explore what’s at the heart of the frustration…

1. Do you hate the practice area you find yourself in?

2. Do you hate the way your superiors, colleagues or clients treat you?

3. Do you hate the hours you are required to work?

Life is too short to “hate” what you do for a living. That isn’t why you went to law school. The big question is… What are you going to do about it?

Here’s a video I ran across on a LinkedIn article by Richard BransonHow to Find a Fulfilling Career.  He featured this video created by his son’s production company Sundog Pictures. Take 10 minutes and see if you don’t find a bit of inspiration.

If you would like to discuss this subject further, I’m here! Just shoot me an email.

Posted in Inspired Thought