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Lawyers and New Year Resolutions

January 9, 2015

Filed under: Enjoying Life,Lawyer Coaching,Stress Management,Uncategorized — admin @ 2:02 pm

I recently read an interesting article in The Wall Street Journal about the best way to make your New Year’s resolutions stick. It got me to thinking about why so many lawyers struggle with their goals and what keeps them from making progress.

The article quoted an expert in cognitive behavior therapy who explained the benefits of a buddy system and why vague goals fail.

I believe lawyers must have an accountability system for implementing resolutions and goals. It is absolutely crucial to achieving them. If you don’t have someone or something holding you accountable to taking steps to achieve the goals you set forth, you are almost certain to fail. This includes goals for your practice and personal life.

The first accountability system every lawyer should start with is a time and focus management system. I won’t waste time with making recommendations on which one to use. There are several great software and cloud-based options for attorneys that are easily found with a simple search engine query. However, you will want something that allows you to block out a weekly or monthly template for times you should work on production, marketing, client appointments and projects. Don’t let your schedule or your focus be at the mercy of someone calling the office with “a quick question.”

The second accountability system you need is flesh and bone. If you don’t have a one-on-one coach or practice advisor working with you on attaining your goals, then consider joining a group coaching workshop. If neither of those things are possible for you because of constraints on time or money, then I encourage you to find a peer you would feel comfortable asking to talk with you on a weekly or monthly basis.

Ask this friend or colleague if he or she would be willing to hold you accountable to the things you’ve said you’re going to do. If you’re like most lawyers I’ve met, you’ll need this person to follow up with you on how you’re doing with your plan, so give him or her 100 percent permission to call you out on your excuses. Because you’ll make excuses. You know you will. They’ll be pretty lame ones, too.

“Oh gosh. Things are so busy right now. I haven’t had any time to do anything with this plan.”

“My staff has (insert scapegoat excuse) and that has really taken up my time.”

“One of my clients has (insert excuse), and I haven’t been able to focus on anything else.”

“Between everything going on at the office and what’s been happening at home, I couldn’t work on this.”

Another reason people fail to keep annual resolutions is because they’re making commitments to do something really big that they’ve been putting off. But the problem, according to the article, is that these “big” things are really hard to accomplish – “otherwise we would have done them already.”

Big goals sound impressive, but they’re often too much for us to take regular action on without a compelling reason – like say impending death. Nothing will make a person stick to a healthy diet or keep exercising like suffering a recent health scare. Resolutions without a “sticky” factor also are doomed.

There’s also the “no choice” category of resolutions, the article said. There are some new habits we employ without any struggle because we don’t give ourselves a choice. For some of us, these can be things like paying your bills as soon as they arrive in the mail or always wearing a bike helmet when you go riding. If you never give yourself the option to waver from this kind of habit, you don’t struggle to keep it.

For attorneys, I recommend a good place to start with a “no choice” resolution is only answering emails and returning phone calls at a specific hour during the workday – not as they come in, in between meetings, and definitely not on the weekends.

In closing: Have an accountability system. Tackle attainable goals. Give yourself no choice but to follow through with good habits.

I hope this has helped you. I’d love to hear what you’re using that has helped you make good on your New Year’s resolutions – or even your quarterly or annual goals.



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