Marketing Time Commitment

Most lawyers I know jam their calendars each day with more than two people could accomplish in a week. Is this you? It’s a vicious cycle because we feel terrible not being able to accomplish what’s on the list… instead of feeling great about what was accomplished. We literally sabotage our success and the feeling of accomplishment! Now, how ridiculous is that! Maybe it’s time to start looking at things differently. I read a blog post by Alex Cavoulacos from an online magazine at WeWork, that makes a lot of sense… One Founders Best Productivity Trick: Save time and do less.

Cavoulacos proposes questions that will help you save time and do less.

1. Do You Say No? Most people have a deep need to be liked. As a result, we say yes to almost everything that’s asked of us, which makes it impossible to do everything well, and zaps our time and productivity.

As a lawyer there are big reasons you feel compelled to say yes… you are asked by your partners or clients that require a yes. But there is still a way to control the load and stress. You can say… “Yes, will next Tuesday work for you?” When you do that you are able to gauge the urgency of the matter, since most people are not asking you to drop everything you’re doing to address their matter. But when urgency is needed you have let the person know that you can’t get to it until next Tuesday, so they can choose to move on to ask someone else. And you have the opportunity to drop what you’re doing to help with this matter.

2. Are You Delegating Enough? Whether or not you’re a manager, there are opportunities to delegate to colleagues. If you’re doing everything yourself, and think “it’s just faster for me to do it,” you may be a delegatophobe. Take a good look at your tasks over the last week—are all of those really your job description?

This is a never-ending cycle for lawyers. Yes, it may be faster for you to do it yourself now… but if that happens several times, not so! Often times it would be much more efficient if you spent the time it requires to teach someone how you like the task done… consequently it’s permanently off your desk, saving a a much bigger chunk of time.

3. Is Everything on Your To-Do List Necessary? Don’t consider an endless to-do list a challenge to get it all done, when it’s in fact a challenge to prioritize. If you haven’t done a task in weeks, or it’s always what’s pushed to a later date that might be a sign that it’s not actually necessary.

Consider NECESSARY vs. DISLIKE. Often times we put the things we don’t like doing to the end of the priority list. AND it’s usually business development activities that you don’t like doing. Figure out a different way to accomplish the same outcome… something you like doing.

4. Are All of the Recurring Meetings on Your Calendar Necessary? Cancel any that aren’t impactful or that could be replaced by an email update. For meetings you keep, reassess if the format, length, and attendees are contributing to their effectiveness. As entrepreneur Jim Belosic explains, this saves both time and money—a one-hour meeting with 17 employees who make an average of $40,000 per year costs $232.88. Yikes.

I would like to point out that in a law firm those dollar figures are outrageous! Six people: 2 partners, 3 associates and one paralegal, could cost you $1500 – $2000 in non-billable time. That’s a very costly meeting!

5. Are You a Slave to Your Inbox? Speaking of things you don’t need to do: You do not need to answer every email that comes in. Give yourself permission to archive irrelevant cold emails and FYI emails you’re cc:ed or bcc:ed on. And while you’re at it, unsubscribe from anything you don’t read (no, you don’t need to read every ecommerce newsletter you get signed up for). Saying no to email is key to making time for real work.

A key strategy for managing email is NOT to look at it every time you hear an email come in. Consider this… if you were with a client you would concentrate on that meeting and get to your emails when you finish. Why not adopt the same strategy through out your day and only review emails every 60 minutes. Imagine how much better you could concentrate on your pressing priorities.

Productivity is about setting priorities and not letting outside forces hijack your time. Give me a call today if you’d like to discuss this further!

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.

As I write this, I’m sitting at the Miami Airport heading to my Denver office. Yes I work from two locations. Why? Lifestyle, getting to do work on my terms, a change in climate and most of all family.

I was born and raised in Denver and have been away since college. I’m back in Denver, because I want to reconnect with my family and in the process build a book of business. I am discovering a fascinating legal and business community in Denver.

When I read this article in the Huffington Post, it stopped me in my tracks. It’s by Alpita ShahSometimes, ‘Right Where You Started From’ Is Right Where You Belong (At Least Right Now.) It is an eye opening account of one woman who took the leap… to be present and do what’s right for her and her husband.

I don’t post articles in their entirety often, but in this case I don’t want you to miss a word from Alpita’s moving story. As you read it you may be inspired to rethink where you started from… your home, your first passion, your dreams or whatever you have been putting on the back burner:

 One of my favorite parables illustrating differing visions of success is about a Mexican fisherman and an American banker. It goes like this:

An American investment banker was on a much-needed vacation in a small coastal Mexican village when a small boat with one fisherman docked.

The banker was impressed by the quality of the fish and asked the Mexican how long it took to catch them. The Mexican replied, “Only a little while.” The banker asked why he didn’t stay out longer and catch more fish.

The fisherman replied he had enough to support his family’s immediate needs.

The American then asked, “But what do you do with the rest of your time?”

The Mexican replied, “I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, take siesta with my wife and stroll into the village each evening where I sip wine and play guitar with my amigos. I have a full and busy life, señor.”

The banker scoffed, “I am an Ivy League MBA, and I could help you. You could spend more time fishing and buy a bigger boat with the proceeds, and with the proceeds from the bigger boat you could buy several boats until eventually, you would have a whole fleet of fishing boats. Instead of selling your catch to the middleman, you could sell directly to the processor, eventually opening your own cannery. You could control the product, processing and distribution.”

He added, “Of course, you would need to leave this small coastal fishing village and move to Mexico City to run your growing enterprise.”

The fisherman asked, “But señor, how long will this all take?”

To which the banker replied, “15 to 20 years.”

“But what then?” asked the Mexican.

The American laughed and said, “That’s the best part. When the time is right, you would announce an IPO and sell your company stock to the public and become very rich. You could make millions.”

“Millions, señor? Then what?”

To which the banker replied, “Then you would retire. You could move to a small coastal fishing village where you would sleep late, fish a little, play with your kids, take siesta with your wife and stroll to the village in the evenings, where you could sip wine and play your guitar with your amigos.”

As I write this, I am in a coffee house in my hometown 40 miles west of Chicago, where I’m spending a few months at my mother’s house — the same house I grew up in. I’m texting with two childhood friends about meeting at local wine bar.

Why am I here? I sometimes ask myself. I earned my JD from Yale and spent 15 years in law, government and international affairs. As a senior advisor at the U.S. Department of the Treasury, I met with heads of state from around the world. I traveled to remote African villages with armed security guards to assess U.S. development programs and left on military jets from Andrews Air Force Base to attend donor conferences for reconstruction projects in Iraq. While advising the U.S. director on the World Bank board, I negotiated with international officials on pressing global issues on a weekly basis. Outside the office, I reconstructed my own house in the historic district of Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C.

Am I going backwards? Not in my mind. I am shifting my strategic focus to what is most valuable to me now. I am redefining success with my own yardstick by strengthening ties to family and friends, and aligning my professional work with more sustainable practices for my own wellbeing.

A few years ago, my mom was diagnosed with cancer for the second time. At that point, I had been in government and international service for over a decade; I had begun questioning whether exporting Western capitalism to developing countries was how I wanted to spend the rest of my life. Personally, I was fighting fatigue through Ayurvedic medicines and finding wise inspiration in Eastern spiritual practices.

Soon thereafter, I returned to the Midwest. While transitioning was not easy, I know that I am right where I am supposed to be right now. I’m spending time with my mother, a retired physician, who, even with her health challenges, has enough energy to give me Indian cooking lessons. I’m hitting golf balls with my niece and nephews, who were born while I was living inside the bubble of Washington’s Beltway.

I’m reconnecting with childhood friends who happen to be here at this point in their lives. One recently returned from Switzerland, where her husband was posted, and may move again; the other is a professional musician who has traveled extensively with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and now, with four children, is considering a university teaching position in another state. We’re re-bonding as we share similar visions about what it means to lead a fulfilling life.

I stay engaged with work in a way that reflects my evolving definition of success. I’m currently of counsel at a global law firm in Chicago and pro-bono counsel for nonprofits focused on community economic development. I’m studying mediation and yoga more deeply; I’m on the board of a local Zen meditation center and investing in a yoga eco-retreat center in Illinois farm country.

I also get on Skype regularly with my significant other as we find our path to be together on a daily basis. He understands this in-between space. He has taught me that life is less like a symphony with a preset score and more like a pick-up jazz quartet where improvisation is part of the process.

What the fisherman/banker parable teaches us is that one’s measure of success depends on the metrics used. This is true for individuals, corporations (i.e., triple bottom line) and nations (i.e., Bhutan’s gross national happiness index). “The Third Metric” is a visionary movement for all levels of this debate, and one that I support wholeheartedly.

 

 

 

 

Are you overwhelmed? Are you finding it difficult just to keep up with the legal work that is required of you? Then… when you think of business development, it’s hard to imagine how you could possibly manage even one new matter?

That is something many lawyers struggle with. Whether management is requiring you to develop business or you are requiring it of yourself the issue of “overwhelm” needs to be addressed. Your practice needs help! Get your infrastructure in place. Here are a few ideas to help you create a process that will keep “overwhelm” to a minimum.

1. Identify your team. Who can you count on? Who produces work that is of the quality and standards you require? I’m a fan of identifying contract professionals that can be called upon when needed. You need to do this in advance, when there is time to have meaningful conversations. Not at the moment of “overwhelm.” Get a team of good, qualified, happy people around you. People that will be thrilled when you bring in a new matter, and that you can count on to get the job done right.

2. Learn to say no. Sometimes our “overwhelm” is imposed by others. Practice saying, “No… not at this time.” When you say it this way, your “no” isn’t personal. Then follow it up with… “I can fit it in next Monday, would that work for you?” With this method you are in control of your schedule, instead of letting someone else be in charge.

3. Plan in advance. This will help you identify where you will need assistance and what tasks can be done ahead of time. Advanced planning makes the crunch time easier to manage.

Make a commitment to do it! It’s easy to become complacent when things are under control. But just as sure as the sun comes up in the morning… you will have another crisis of “overwhelm.” It will happen; it’s just a question of when. Be prepared and you’ll get through it with a minimal amount of stress and chaos.

If you would like to explore this a bit further, drop me an email, I’d love to help!

Our days turn into weeks and our weeks into months… and before we know it the year is gone. We often look back and are stunned that so much time has gone by and we didn’t do the things we wanted and needed to do. How can we change that? The author and blogger Peter Bregman has a great idea

Here’s the question I’d like to propose you ask yourself throughout your day: What can I do, right now, that would be the most powerful use of this moment?

What can I say? What action can I take? What question can I ask? What issue can I bring up? What decision can I make that would have the greatest impact?

Asking these questions — and answering them honestly — is the path to choosing new actions that could bring better outcomes. The hard part is following through on the answers and taking the risks to reap the full benefits of each moment. That takes courage. But it’s also what brings the payoff.

The MOST powerful use of a moment. That could be a game changer. That would mean that its not just about finding something constructive to do at the moment, or going down your “to do” list in the order you wrote it. It means that we have to stay focused on the big picture… our client service values, business development goals and commitment to accomplishing them. That’s where we will find the answers to Bregman’s question… “What can I do, right now, that would be the most powerful use of this moment?”

I worked with a client this week that has made this concept real. He has taken action and has created  a business plan that he will present to his managing partner without being asked. He has made the most powerful use of many moments, and I can promise you that when the year ends and he is reflecting on 2013 he will be glad that he spent his time the way he did.

If you would like some help in this area, I’d love to chat… just shoot me an email!

I work with lawyers every day that ask me… “How in the world am I going to find the time to focus on business development?”

Yes… there are only 24 hours in a day and no one gets an extension. But what if you could squeeze more time out of every single week? It’s all about priorities and the discipline to stick to your priorities. So, ask yourself…

1. How often do you check your email? Do you check it every few minutes and then get pulled into addressing things that don’t need to be addressed at that moment? Then you justify it with… “It will just take a few minutes to get this off my desk.” Think about what is happening here. You are allowing someone else’s priorities to hi-jack your time. My suggestion is to schedule  15 – 30 minutes two or three times a day, that you will address your email and allow time for those quick fixes. Then at the end of the allotted time you go back to your priorities.

2. Do you go to “networking events” to meet people and collect cards? Only to have those cards sit on your desk collecting dust?  Stop wasting time. If you aren’t going to follow up don’t go! If you do want to make this process productive… have a meaningful conversation with 1 or 2 people, then you are done, you can leave. But, make sure you follow up with them.

3. Are you spending your time on matters that could be handled by others? Do you say… I can do my own bookkeeping, I can build my own website, I can do my own research? Yes… you are smart and very capable of learning lots of new skills… but should you? A bookkeeper, a web developer or an associate can probably do many of these things faster than you could, and at a fraction of your rate. You should be spending your time working with clients and working on their legal issues, developing business and looking for new opportunities. I can just hear you… “I can do it faster than explaining it to someone.” Yes, maybe it will take a bit some time to get started while delegating a task, but once the individual  understands what you need, it will save you loads of time in the long run.

I’m not telling you these three tips just because I think they are good ideas… I am telling you this because I have seen clients do them and and gain hours of productivity to focus on business development. We all have the same challenge… to get more done and find the time to do it. It’s a “trial and error” process. I challenge you… find the time to “do something every single day ” to develop business. Because let’s face it… you don’t have work without clients.

 

I don’t know a lawyer that isn’t trying to squeeze more out of every single day… maximum productivity. We would all like to find a silver bullet… the answer to the demanding obligations we have in our lives. Jeff Haden contributor to Inc. Magazine wrote… 14 Simple Ways to Get Considerably More Done. It’s an eye-opening list and I think there are 8 tips that will be particularly helpful for lawyers.

1. Craft your “just say no” elevator speech. Entrepreneurs work hard on their elevator speech. They revise, they hone, and they rehearse because their elevator speech is important.

It’s also important to know, with grace and tact, how to say no. Most of us default to “yes” because we don’t want to seem rude or unfriendly or unhelpful. Unfortunately, that also means we default to taking on more than we want or can handle. Maybe your response will be as simple as what I plan to use, “I’m sorry, but I just don’t have time.”

Whatever yours is, rehearse so it comes naturally. That way you won’t say yes simply because you think you should; you’ll say yes because you think it’s right for you.

2. Set limits. Deadlines and time frames establish parameters, but typically not in a good way. We instinctively adjust our effort so our activities take whatever time we let them take. Tasks should only take as long as they need to take–or as long as you decide they should take.

Pick a task, set a time limit, and stick to that time limit. Necessity, even artificial necessity, is the mother of creativity. I promise you’ll figure out how to make it work.

3. Rework your nighttime routine. Every day the first thing you do is the most important thing you will do: It sets the tone for the rest of the day.

Prepare for it the night before. Make a list. Make a few notes. Review information. Prime yourself to hit the ground at an all-out sprint the next day; a body in super-fast motion tends to stay in super-fast motion.

4. Rework your morning routine. Then make sure you can get to that task as smoothly as possible. Pretend you’re an Olympic sprinter and your morning routine is like the warm-up for a race. Don’t dawdle, don’t ease your way into your morning, and don’t make sure you get some “me” time (hey, sleep time is me time). Get up, get cleaned up, get fueled up–and start rolling.

5. Rework one repetitive task. Think of a task you do on a regular basis. Now deconstruct it. Make it faster. Or improve the quality. Pick something you do that has become automatic and actively work to make it better.

Even if you only save five minutes, that’s five minutes every time.

6. Outsource one task. I was raised to think that any job I could do myself was a job I should do myself. Starting next week the kid down the street will cut my grass. He can use the money. I can use the time.

7. Fix that one thing you often screw up. I’m terrible about putting meetings and phone calls on my calendar. I figure I’ll get to it later and then I never do. I spend way too much time, often in a panic, trying to figure out when and where and who…

You probably have at least one thing you tend to mess up. Maybe you don’t file stuff properly. Maybe you put off dealing with certain emails and then forget them. Maybe you regularly find you’re unprepared for a call or meeting. Whatever your “thing” is, fix it. You’ll save time and aggravation.

8. Pick one task during which you won’t multi-task. Plenty of research says multi-tasking doesn’t work. Some research says multi-tasking actually makes you stupid. Maybe you agree. Maybe you don’t. Either way, I feel sure there is at least one thing you do that is so important you should never allow a distraction or a loss of focus.

Choose an important task and when you perform it turn everything else off. Focus solely on that task.

I think there is good sound advice here for lawyers and if you would put each and everyone into practice imagine how productive you could be… it’s likely to be life changing. Why not give it a try? I know I will!

If you are a frequent reader of my blog you know that I have a motto for business development… Do Something Every Single Day! Creating a business development habit is key to building a book of business. But along with that we must look at the habits that we have acquired along the way that are counter-productive to building a book of business. Inc. Magazine contributor Jeff Haden writes about those little annoying things and the not-so-productive things we should consider NOT doing. He advises…

Every day, make the commitment not to:

1. Check my phone while I’m talking to someone. You’ve done it. You’ve played the, “Is that your phone? Oh, it must be mine,” game.

Want to stand out? Want to be that person everyone loves because they make you feel, when they’re talking to you, like you’re the most important person in the world? Stop checking your phone.

2. Multitask during a meeting. The easiest way to be the smartest person in the room is to be the person who pays the most attention to the room.

You’ll be amazed by what you can learn, both about the topic of the meeting and about the people in the meeting if you stop multitasking and start paying close attention. You’ll flush out and understand hidden agendas, you’ll spot opportunities to build bridges, and you’ll find ways to make yourself indispensable to the people who matter. It’s easy, because you’ll be the only one trying.

3. Think about people who don’t make any difference in my life. Trust me: The inhabitants of planet Kardashian are okay without you. But your family, your friends, your employees–all the people that really matter to you–are not. Give them your time and attention. They’re the ones who deserve it.

4. Use multiple notifications. You don’t need to know the instant you get an email. Or a text. Or a tweet. Or anything else that pops up on your phone or computer.

If something is important enough for you to do, it’s important enough for you to do without interruptions. Focus totally on what you’re doing. Then, on a schedule you set–instead of a schedule you let everyone else set–play prairie dog and pop your head up to see what’s happening.

5. Let the past dictate the future. Mistakes are valuable. Learn from them. Then let them go.

Easier said than done? It all depends on your perspective. When something goes wrong, turn it into an opportunity to learn something you didn’t know–especially about yourself. When something goes wrong for someone else, turn it into an opportunity to be gracious, forgiving, and understanding.

6. Wait until I’m sure I will succeed. You can never feel sure you will succeed at something new, but you can always feel sure you are committed to giving something your best. And you can always feel sure you will try again if you fail.

Stop waiting. You have a lot less to lose than you think, and everything to gain.

7. Talk behind someone’s back. If only because being the focus of gossip sucks. (And so do the people who gossip.) If you’ve talked to more than one person about something Joe is doing, wouldn’t everyone be better off if you stepped up and actually talked to Joe about it? And if it’s “not your place” to talk to Joe, it’s probably not your place to talk about Joe.

8. Say “yes” when I really mean “no.” Refusing a request from colleagues, customers, or even friends is really hard. But rarely does saying no go as badly as you expect. Most people will understand, and if they don’t, should you care too much about what they think?

When you say no, at least you’ll only feel bad for a few moments. When you say yes to something you really don’t want to do you might feel bad for a long time–or at least as long as it takes you to do what you didn’t want to do in the first place.

Imagine… if you truly committed to NOT doing these 8 things, how much more success you would have building relationships. Not to mention your productivity could go through the roof! Maybe it’s a bit much to ask that you tackle all eight at once. Try one for a week, then the next week add a second and so on. In two months you will have tackled all eight. What’s at stake? Strong relationships and productivity. So give it a shot!