Year End Advisory Board
It’s HOURS before Christmas and about a week before a brand New Year. You’ve been running at 130 miles an hour since Thanksgiving for the proverbial year end sprint to get cash flow in and the piles of lingering “stuff” cleaned up. You still have a daunting “To Do” list, both business and personal. You’re feeling like your knee deep in the danger zone…days away from time off with family and friends and already have subscribed to the year-end advisory board (aka self talk) that goes something like this – “I’m thinking I should come into the office over the holiday ‘just for a bit’ to finish up some work while its quiet and nobody will bother me.”
DON’T DO IT! We know that you have committed to do what it takes to move your practice in the direction you want. You and your team have likely done a tremendous job so far, even though it may not feel like it to you because you are in the thick of it. We want to support you in creating the quality of life you desire. That being said, we respectfully petition that you absolutely take your time off over the holidays. While you have an unwavering commitment to creating the practice you know you are capable of, it is very probable that anyone speaking with you can hear in your voice that your energy is somewhat depleted. This is VERY natural as you balance the pressure to clear out cases and obligations while pushing your practice forward into new areas and new levels in preparation for the New Year. The only work that is a MUST prior to ringing in 2011 is taking a few days off, consecutively. At a mininimum, 3 solid days in a row. You will get more done when you return rested and rejuvenated than you will sacrificing your time off with family. We say this with the absolute and utmost respect and understanding of you. Molly and I hold each other accountable to taking time off as we too feel the pressure to “work more and clear the decks” which ironically rarely works. We promise you will come back with more energy and focus and be see more results. Just because you are taking time out of the office doesn’t mean your subconscious isn’t still working on figuring out things and planning. Often we have our best “ah ha’s” while out of the office or upon returning. Kind of funny how that works! Without the time off we GUARANTEE you will walk into the office on January 3rd feeling like Groundhog Day and “I shoulda” all over yourself!
We wish you a joyful, reflective, restful and rejuvenating holiday season full of connection and presence with your community of family and friends!
If you want to go FAR…
Mission statements, business plans, life statements, strategic plans, 5 year, 10 year, lifetime goals…it’s no wonder we are all living in a place of overwhelm and over commitment! Don’t get us wrong we are RAVING fans of goal setting and purposeful plans. HUGE fans of putting pen to paper and revisiting and reconnecting with what you want on a quarterly basis. Our lifetime mentor taught us about goal setting and without it we would not be where we are today or know where we want to be five years from now. It is imperative that we have all those things. But life smacks us all in the face every morning and our overwhelming “to do” lists suck the life out of us!
All the “buzz” these days is “less is more”. We’ve learned along the way unless something is quick and simple on a day to day basis, it will get trumped by everything else you’ve already committed yourself too. In our experience it is daunting to look at our 10 year goals day on a day to day basis and actually disempowers you more than it fills you up.
Don’t stop creating your future and mapping it out. But once you do that put those goals in a place where they are hidden and you can revisit them on a quarterly basis or when you are travelling or have time to sit and reflect. Schedule time in your calendar quarterly to “revisit long-term goals”. That’s it, not much more you have to do. It is amazing the power of writing them down and spending the initial time to plan them out. That process alone will be a very powerful experience.
So, now that we have a time and place set to revisit and adjust our long-term goals, let’s adopt a simple, fun process for moving forward with our short-term goals.
What you need
2. White Index Cards
3. A box or container to put on your desk or nightstand for “Filing” – make it something interesting or fun like a pretty vase or an old cigar box.
How to get started
The format is very simple. “FAR”—the written word (goals) everyday will take you FAR.
F= Focus. Be as specific as you can, be positive and write in the presence tense.
A= Accountability. Just by putting your written word on your desk where you can see it, noon hits and you are 99% more likely to get up and start moving.
R= Relevance. What is important? Your goals aren’t just about business. Make sure include family and personal goals too.
Step 1- Schedule in your calendar at the start of each day 5 minutes before you start “work” or “life” a hard wired appointment for “FAR”. Do this for the next 30 days.
Step 2- Take an index card and using only 1 side write your FAR goal. Leave it on your desk where you will see it all day.
Step 3- At the end of the day, file it in your box or vase. Molly has a beautiful tall vase on her desk where she just files these every afternoon before she leaves the office.
Step 4- Repeat the process the next morning and for the next 29 days. Trust the process.
Here are some examples (note the Focus, the Accountability and the Relevance of each):
9/7—“From 12-12:30 talk Finn (the dog) for a walk and recite out loud 5 things I am grateful for today”
9/8—“Surprise Aidan by picking him up from school today…just because”
9/9—“Take 3 deep cleansing breaths before my Toastmaster speech and speak from the heart with no notes”
9/10—“Register and pay for Parenting with Love and Logic class that I have been “meaning” to do for 2 years”
It is amazing how simple and fun the process really is. It easily sets the tone for your day and plants the seed of intentionality in your day with Focus, has some Accountability (staring you in the face all day) and has some Relevance (important things in your life).
That’s it…don’t overcomplicate it. Don’t beat yourself up if you didn’t get the goal completed by the end of your day. Just say, “Maybe tomorrow”. Or maybe not…maybe after you go through your day you see that it actually wasn’t something you were very committed to in the first place. It was just something you thought you “should” do. Either way, when you write it down every day it makes you ask yourself “how am I doing”, forces accountability and brings your current reality to the light of day.
The challenge is to try this process for 1 month (it takes 30 days to create a habit, right?) and you will be very surprised at the results you see! We would love to hear what came out of this for you, so feel free to share your results.
Champions of your continued success,
Molly and Laney
We are continually worrying about things we don’t have or things that haven’t happened yet for us. Therefore, we hardly ever take time to make a note of the beautiful relationships, things that we do have and amazing things that have already happened. We allow the smallest negative thought to instantly change our mood. Well then, why not allow the positive, Grateful thought to impact us as well?
Busy times are the times during which we often lose sight of what is most important to us and allow minor details to steal our joy. The “get your skates on and juggle” mindset is here for all of us this week as we approach Thanksgiving Day and then rush into Christmas before the turkey has settled. What better time, than a hectic, chaotic time, to stop and acknowledge the things for which we are Grateful. A simple, easy act can reduce your stress and center your focus on WHY you do what you do every day and what it’s all for.
How to Be Grateful in 10 Minutes
Here is what you need, time. Just a little bit of it – 5 to10 minutes – to tap into the five things that you are grateful for, that benefit you and without which your life would be less rich. Then note WHY you are Grateful for them. And that’s it, folks. This simple act can recharge your batteries and increase your confidence.
Here are some things Molly is Grateful for this Thanksgiving:
- My amazing 5 siblings and my 7 nieces and nephews
- Having my parents healthy and alive and well to know my kids
- The extraordinary friends in my life for 20+ years
- My husband and 2 beautiful kids and our new pup Finn
- Our new home and the nature that surrounds it
Here are some things Laney is Grateful for this year:
- My friends and family who refuse to let me be less than all that I am meant to be
- The opportunity to see the innate goodness in people as they give of themselves to support the children at the Hope Children’s Home this holiday season
- My mother, who won her fight against breast cancer, and my mother-in-law who survived a heart transplant for teaching me that courage can sometimes be a quiet strength
- God – for his constant, steady guidance no matter how hard headed I can be
- My amazing niece for keeping life magical and never letting me take myself too seriously
Together, we are forever grateful for our work that we have; work that brings not only money but authentic, personal and professional happiness. We are thankful we are able to provide valuable and purposeful work to clients that we not only enjoy but enhance our lives as well.
We encourage you to dedicate time weekly or even daily to the Act of Gratitude, particularly when you find yourself getting frustrated or turning to the dark side of negativity. The simple act of Gratitude can cause the miraculous to happen in your day.
So, what are you grateful for today? Grab your journal (or make time today to stop by your favorite book store to buy one) and take a few minutes to acknowledge and write down the five things you are grateful for. We get it, you are busy. We all are. But consider the possibility that taking the time to be still and connect with the things you are grateful for will offer you more energy, clarity and intentionality for the “stuff” you need to get done this holiday season and leave you exhilarated vs. exhausted.
A very grateful Thanksgiving holiday for you and your family,
Molly and Laney
“There are only 2 kinds of suffering - long term and short term…the difference in the outcome is the path you choose.”
When our coach and mentor Steve Riley shared this distinction in a coaching class you could have heard a PIN drop in a room of 77 attorneys – and that’s saying something!
This insight alone can powerfully change not only what your future looks like, but the pleasure or pain of your journey.
Reminding yourself of “long term vs. short term suffering” can single handedly get you “off of it” when you find yourself “on it” about a situation. Long term suffering is a choice and your mindset will determine whether your suffering remains a short term or a long term condition.
There are those who suffer real physical or psychological pain, and this blog certainly is not intended to diminish their condition. There is also a distinction between the usual and immediate short-term suffering (grief) following a catastrophic event in our life and unnecessary long-term suffering (self-inflicted useless torture). When a loved one dies, for example, the temporary suffering associated with our grief is a natural process. Additionally, natural short-term anxiety and fear may result from losing a job, your child being hurt by another, financial crisis or going through a divorce. Our instant short-term suffering is normal and actually serves a purpose as it empowers us to take action to eliminate the anxiety and fear.
Long term suffering is that continual suffering that is a pointless state of anxiety, fear and disappointment about some occurrence, condition or circumstance of our life. Those in a state of long term suffering typically take no action to resolve a situation; they just suffer endlessly over it.
Long term suffering is toxic and truly can be deadly for many. Deadly? Yes, deadly. We have seen business owners suffer for eight years over firing an employee that is COSTING them money and chasing off their quality staff! Or spend years suffering over if they should close their business because they have either lost the passion for it years ago or it is hanging on by a thread. We talk to employees that cannot stand their job or their coworkers and just “show up” and collect a paycheck. However, long term suffering does not just “stay” in the place you are suffering about – your job, community, marriage, etc. Wherever you go, there you are. Long term suffering in one area of your life will result in a diminished quality of your life in general and a loss of happiness, energy and productivity. Suffering will overwhelm you and make happiness seem unattainable.
Eliminating unnecessary long-term suffering is critical to achieve happiness, purpose and prosperity.
How to CHOOSE short term and stop the LONG Term Suffering:
1. Post It: Literally, it works like a charm. Type up and post the following statement over your computer, on your fridge, your car, wherever you will FACE it every day; “There are only 2 kinds of suffering, Long Term and Short Term…you choose.” This powerful little statement will lend a hand every time when you find yourself going down the path of senseless Long term torture.
2. Recognize the Red Flags: In that very moment when you find yourself hours, days or weeks later still mulling over the same thought inside your head “Well, Jenny is a great worker she just has a horrible attitude and never follows up with the clients, but you just need to take the good with the bad.” ok.….red flag #1 – you are on the route called LONG TERM suffering. You are beginning to “justify” the issue because you don’t want to “deal” with it. Dealing with it might be painful, but its short term pain, not long term suffering.
3. The Root of Matter: When you find yourself constantly going over the same issue, ask yourself WHY is this getting to me, again? Why does this keep showing up? Put pen to paper and write down what exactly it is about this matter, situation, or issue that keeps getting to you. If it is the suffering over firing an employee, closing of the business or leaving a marriage it all comes down to fear. We need to get to the ROOT of what about it is fearful and causing you to choose long term suffering over and over again.
4. Facts without Emotion: It is important to figure out WHAT emotions are showing up for you when you deal with the issue at hand. For example, if it comes to a closing a business after 15 years of trying to make it work but it has been on life support for the past 5 years what are the emotions tied to this? Is it looking like a failure to others, personal loss, frustration, anger, depression, hopelessness, feeling lost, your ego, etc.? OK! Whatever the emotions are is what they are. Just identify them, list them and be honest with yourself about what’s getting to you. Then move on and get to the facts. Maybe you are missing time with your kids and when you are with them you aren’t really present and in 6 years they will be off to college. Perhaps you haven’t taken a paycheck for a year, you work 60 hours a week plus weekends, or you have no drive, passion or desire to turn it around. Maybe you have no retirement savings but you still have 15 great working years left in you. Getting the emotions out of the way and facing facts allows you to think through possible solutions. “What if I took a job with that outfit down the street I can get my work/life balance again, start saving for retirement and start to feel fulfilled.” Or “What if I hire a coach to help me make sure my business decisions serve the personal life I want.” Or “What if I give myself one year to complete or transition all my personal injury cases and do estate planning full-time…and if I can’t make a profit in one year, I agree to stop the suffering and close this firm down.”
5. Pick a Path: In that moment you say, “Dang it….it is now up to me, what am I going to do about this situation” choose NOT to be a victim of your circumstance. In that very moment you have to choose long term or short term suffering. Decide to do something about it, even if that something is painful, to clear the way for a different future outcome or continue to revisit the issue next week, and the week after, and so on as you slowly lose your happiness and the people closest to you, be it your staff, your clients or your family.
Your playing small does not serve the world – Marianne Williamson
Just as important, it does not serve you.
To your future,
Molly and Laney
Numerous factors can contribute to lawyers being so stressed out, including the adversarial nature of the profession, society’s view of the lawyers, and the increasing complexity of practicing law.
In spring 1997 we attended a tradeshow where we received a copy of a flyer titled “Why are Lawyers So Stressed?” published by The Complete Lawyer a web-based magazine for attorneys. This flyer provides lawyers, and the staff working with them, such insight to the pressures an attorney deals with every day, Molly has had this flyer on her vision board for the past 12 years as a constant reminder as she talks with law firm teams! We thought it was more than timely to share it now.
What are some of the factors, leading to such a high rate of depression among lawyers?
1. Time constraints and deadlines.
2. Taking on high-stakes cases that involve a client’s loss of property, freedom or even life.
3. Clients’ expectation that lawyers possess a certain level of expertise; our desire for unambiguous clarity where none may exist.
4. Work product is always under constant scrutiny and critical judgment by fellow lawyers, judges and juries.
5. Conflict with other parties; opposing counsel’s desire to prove us wrong, now or later.
6. Fear of malpractice claims, Murphy’s Law and CYB (covering your backside).
7. Assumption of our clients’ burdens when they leave the office.
8. Demise of professional cordiality.
9. Professional training versus our own personal style; an aggressive, judgmental, intellectual and emotionally defended or withdrawn style may have practical value; but may be not so popular outside, or even sometimes inside the office.
10. Being trained to anticipate the negative potentials of a given situation; the cost of constant vigilance in a threatening world.
11. Depletion of energy from high demands; the need to stay focused and on task.
12. Frequent use of defense mechanisms such as rigidity, compulsiveness and perfectionism.
13. Adherence to group norms; meeting billable hour expectations.
After working with 300+ law firms we can attest that not only do we agree with the identified risk factors by The Complete Lawyer™ but we can confirm that over 98% of the law firms we work with ARE living the pain and stress today, 13 years after this article was originally published. Not only are attorneys stressed and/or depressed, but they are often misunderstood by their employees and alienated from them by these pressures.
So, HOW and WHAT do we do about it? And how can you help the staff you pay to support you understand these pressures and help put in support mechanisms to overcome them?
Find out November 5th at 4-5pm EST. Register you and your staff now for our complimentary webinar “The Attorney and Team Mindset Necessary to Create an Extraordinary Practice”. Limited space – click here to register now!