I must confess… sleep isn’t my priority. Just like you, I have more work on my plate than I can get done in a day. So what do we do? We work into the wee hours of the morning and on occasion pull, all-nighters! Sound familiar?

You can imagine my reaction when I read this headline in Inc Magazine5 Ways Science Says Lack of Sleep will Ruin Your Life, by contributor Bill Murphy Jr. OMG!

So, listen up (I know I will) Here’s what Murphy has to say…

1. Lack of sleep harms productivity. Are you skipping sleep to work more? According to the Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School, even if skipping sleep allows you to accomplish more in the short term, it will kill your long-term productivity:

Not getting enough sleep–whether for just one night or over the course of weeks to months–has a significant effect on our ability to function. Sleep deprivation negatively impacts our mood, our ability to focus, and our ability to access higher-level cognitive functions.

2. Lack of sleep kills you slowly. The next time you’re tempted to think that you’ll sleep when you’re dead–well, you just might be making that day come sooner. Just a short perusal of research on what lack of sleep does to your body will make you want to go back to bed. Among the worst effects, according to WebMD: all kinds of heart issues (including risk of heart attack and stroke), diabetes, and obesity.

3. Lack of sleep harms other people. It’s not just the increased irritability and lack of focus that you are certainly familiar with; it’s that your ability to do even simple tasks is measurably impaired. For example, Harvard found that “drowsy driving” is among the causes of one-fifth of U.S. car crashes, leading to the deaths of 8,000 people a year.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that fatigue is a cause in 100,000 auto crashes and 1,550 crash-related deaths a year in the U.S. The problem is greatest among people under 25 years old.

4. Lack of sleep hurts your appearance. Yes, you know what it’s like to look tired. However, now data shows that it’s not just black circles under your eyes. According to one study, those who sleep fewer than six hours a night have a 30 percent higher chance of becoming obese than those who sleep between seven and nine hours. Moreover, it also ages your skin.

When you don’t get enough sleep, your body releases more of the stress hormone cortisol. In excess amounts, cortisol can break down skin collagen, the protein that keeps skin smooth and elastic. Sleep loss also causes the body to release too little human growth hormone.

 5. Lack of sleep kills your sex drive. If nothing else in this list will get your attention, maybe this will. It’s not just a matter of being too tired to do anything else in bed; lack of sleep kills libido. At least for men, there is at least one scientific study that says it can also wreck your testosterone levels.

Fortunately, we seem to be on the crest of a trend in which people are coming clean about making sleep a priority. If you can’t pull off a full eight hours, at least take a nap.

Excuse me… I’m off to take a nap!

All kidding aside, if you’d like to figure out a way to have a thriving practice so that you HAVE a life outside of work, not to mention a good night’s sleep, I can help. Shoot me an email today!

 

To be a strong business developer you don’t have to be a shark… but meek won’t do either! People hire those that are confident in what the do and know, and make no apologies for it. Inc. magazine’s staff writer, Abigail Tracy attended the National Association of Professional Women conference where the keynote speaker was Barbara Corcoran, entrepreneur, real estate mogul, ABC’s Shark Tank fame and as Tracy puts it, “a wildly successful and unapologetic businesswoman.”

Tracy passes on Ms. Corcoran’s wisdom…

The meek shall not inherit the earth. After entering the New York real estate business, Corcoran quickly realized that what her mother taught her and her siblings during their childhood didn’t necessarily hold true in the big city. ‘I found as a real estate broker that people really respond to how you look–especially in a town like New York,’ Corcoran said. ‘If you act and look successful, people will make the wrongful assumption that you are.’

That was a lesson, she said, that she stumbled upon by accident during the first real estate recession she experienced. On a whim, a desperate Corcoran totaled up all the sales that she made that year, found the average apartment price, typed up the results, labeled the document ‘The Corcoran Report,’ and mailed it to The New York Times.

‘I didn’t expect anything good. I didn’t expect anything bad. I was just trying everything,’ Corcoran said. Shortly after, she opened up the newspaper and saw that her off-the-cuff report made the front page of the real estate section. It was a turning point for The Corcoran Group and changed the way she did business.

‘If you want to be a somebody or you want to grab a market that you didn’t have before or you want to look bigger than you are–go brag about it before you have it,’ Corcoran said. ‘Its not illegal. I have used that technique again and again and again on anything I have wanted.’

It is important to remember that you must market for what you want… NOT for what you have. That creates a dilemma for some lawyers. True, you may not be an expert at this chosen practice. But, can you do it? Of course you can. That is all you have to state. Did Corcoran miss represent her sales? No, she just stated the facts in a bold way… ‘The Corcoran Report.’ With this approach, soon, like Corcoran you will be the expert. You have to feel successful in order to be successful. If YOU don’t believe it, you will never convince others.

If you would like a little help with this process, let’s talk! Shoot me an email today.

Confidence. Do you have it? Sure, there are times that your confidence has been shaken… but deep down, are you confident in yourself and your ability?  And how important is confidence to your success as a lawyer, a community leader or a parent? A new book by journalists Katty Kay (BBC News) and Claire Shipman (Good Morning America) sheds some light on the subject in… Confidence Code.

Shipman explains in a short TV segment for ABC News, that you can transform yourself from a worrier to a warrior… We can create more confidence by creating better habits. In our brains: practice makes permanent… Embrace failure… Be authentic and listen to your wise inner voice, instead of your critic.

Lack of confidence seems to be a predominately female issue (at least on the surface), but guys listen up, if you aren’t the alpha-male in your firm, there is valuable insight for you as well.

Confidence can be a choice. Shipman writes:

We all know those familiar, frustrating feelings. We’re afraid to speak up at a meeting because we aren’t sure what we have to say is perfect. And then a few minutes later, a male colleague says exactly what we had in mind.

Perhaps we’ve contemplated taking a larger step – a run for local office or a change of career – but we opt for caution over risk. For most women, such feelings are so commonplace we’ve discount them. But, in truth, they represent a profound confidence gap between men and women, especially in the workplace.

My co-author on “The Confidence Code,” Katty Kay, and I have come to believe that gap is in large measure why we have failed to reach the highest levels in the workplace.

– Women won’t seek promotions unless they feel they have close to 100 percent of the qualifications, while men will go for it if they think they have 60 percent. Hewlett-Packard and others have done these studies, and quickly grasped what this meant in terms of women’s getting ahead.

– Numerous studies have been done in which men and women are given the same test, usually a math or science test, and are then asked how they believe they have performed. The women always predict they’ve performed much worse than they have. The men tend to think they’ve done better. Indeed, the scores are almost identical. Imagine what that self-criticism does to women on a day-to-day basis.

– One Princeton research team decided to study just how much less women speak than men do, when they are in the minority.  In some cases, researchers found, up to 75 percent less.

That nugget really caught my attention. For years I’d had an inkling that I wasn’t talking as much as the men on political programs I was on. I was constantly aware of trying to stick to the question, and not take too much time. Although I wasn’t aware of it at the time, it was quite classic “good girl” behavior.

In writing “The Confidence Code,” I did a quick comparison of my appearances on “This Week.” My self-editing got me 30 percent less talk time on average than the men. There’s nothing terrible about that, of course, but it was sobering to have a number put on my hesitation.

In the course of our research project, we dug into the origins of the confidence gap. Our book looks at genetic influences, brain architecture and function and the impact of society. All play a role. But we also discovered that part of our confidence is volitional: it’s something we can control. We can increase our confidence level at any age.

Five Common Confidence Mistakes Women Make:

1. We think too much. Women are much more likely than men to ruminate. Excessive examination actually inhibits confidence because it can keep women from taking action. Consider this: You’re debating whether to recommend a course of action at work. It’s a tough call, and you dig in to examining both sides in-depth. But your examination takes so long, that you start to lose your ability to make a decision. Frozen, you decide not to weigh in at all.

2. We believe failure is a failure.  Failing is actually cool now.  Fail fast is a hot tech buzz phrase. In today’s business climate, failing means you’ve been willing to try, to get in the game. And it means you’ve learned.

3. We carry criticism around with us far too long. We have to learn to toughen our hides, as Hillary Clinton said last week.  Imagining that the rest of the world, or your boss, or whomever, is still focused on that thing involving you is not only a waste of time, but also a confidence killer.

4. We never leave our comfort zones. Confidence comes from risk-taking, but we are too determined to be perfect.

5. We don’t speak up, and too often, we use upspeak.  It’s a habit we know you’ll recognize, raising the tone of your voice at the end of a sentence in a way that suggests a question rather than a declaration. Try these: “I think we should go with the on-line marketing strategy.” “I think we should go with the online marketing strategy?” One professor told us he thinks women use upspeak in an effort to seek approval.  Lose the questioning tone, and boost your confidence.

Take the confidence quiz, it will only take 5 to 7 minutes. You just might be surprised at what you learn about yourself.

If you would like to discuss how a boost of confidence can kick-start your legal business development efforts, shoot me an email.

 

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!

 

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.

 

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.

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.

 

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!

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!

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…