Are You a Procrastinator? [video]

Are you a procrastinator? Do you have some items that just sit on your to-do list forever and you just never get around to them?

Yesterday I was doing a presentation on productivity and one of the attendees said to me, “What do I do when I have tasks that I procrastinate on because I have anxiety about them, I’m concerned that I won’t be able to do them well, or they’re just tasks that I hate doing or tasks that I find boring?” 

I have a couple of strategies that might help you if you’re in any of these situations, and I’m sure all three of these are familiar probably to all of us. Scroll down to continue reading or watch the video below.

15-Minute Timer

The first one is what I call the 15-minute timer and it’s a version of the Pomodoro technique which I spoke about in a previous video. Essentially, you set a timer for 15 minutes and force yourself to do that task that you’ve been procrastinating on – and nothing else – only for 15 minutes. A lot of times what you’ll find is that once you get going it’s easy to continue. But you’ve already given yourself permission if you really hate the task to stop after 15 minutes and come back to it later. This can also help if you have anxiety around the task because often what happens once you get going, again, is that you find out it’s really not as bad as you thought it was and it’s not as difficult as you thought. Plus, you can endure even the most boring task for 15 minutes.

Give Yourself a Reward

The second strategy is to give yourself a reward. So a task that you’re procrastinating on that you know you need to complete, find something that will motivate you – that you will only do if you get that task done. Whether that might be taking time for yourself, or some kind of a treat, chocolate, whatever it might be, but you only get that reward if you get the task done. If you have anxiety around the task, oftentimes it helps just to find a colleague to maybe talk that task over with or find some other way to get help.

Do The Worst First

And finally, the last strategy that I would employ is what I call do the worst first. Whatever that task is that you’re procrastinating on, do that the very first thing in the morning when you arrive at work.

I’d love to hear your strategies for beating procrastination. Please put them in the comments below.

See more on productivity:

How Do Habits Affect Your Productivity? [video]

Did you know that about 40% of our daily life is shaped by our habits?

Recently, I’ve been thinking a lot about habits, and that statistic comes from author Gretchen Rubin. Watch the video below (or scroll down to read) to learn how habits affect productivity.

If you have seen many of my previous videos, you will notice from the background in this video that I am not in my usual location. I typically record these videos in my home office in New York, but when I recorded this video, I was working from Florida.

What does that have to do with habits?

I have noticed that the change in location has also affected how I work and changed some of the habits I had established in working from home. One of those habits was recording a weekly video with my Videosocials home club.

Before I arrived in Florida, I was determined to continue attending my weekly Videosocials club meetings and recording videos. But that didn’t happen. I attended my Videosocials meeting the first week, but since my routine had already been disrupted, I didn’t record a video. The second week, I allowed a client to schedule a meeting that conflicted with my usual club time. I knew before we arrived in Florida that I wouldn’t be able to record at my usual time on week 3 because we were having friends visit that week. Here we are in week 4 and I’m finally recording a video. I won’t be able to record at my usual time next week either, because I’ll be speaking at a conference.

I could record a video with Videosocials by visiting another club, or I could record video at any time on my own, but I very rarely do that, in part, because it isn’t a habit. It isn’t on my regular schedule, and it isn’t part of my routine.

Once something becomes a habit, continuing that habit is almost effortless.

Research on habit formation has shown that behavior is likely to become habitual when it is frequently and consistently performed in the same context.

So why wasn’t I able to continue my video habit while working from Florida? Since the context had changed, even though the meeting was still on my calendar, it was harder to stick with it. What habits are you trying to cultivate?


Are You a Control Freak?

Are you a control freak? Are you overwhelmed with work because you think you are the only one who can do everything, and do it right?

As lawyers, we are perfectionists – we’re over-achievers, so if this sounds like you, you’re not alone. But you’re doing yourself, your staff, and your clients a disservice. And probably your friends and family, too. Watch the video below (or scroll down to read more).

When you do everything yourself, you deprive your staff of the opportunity to learn and grow. Studies have shown that people thrive when they have challenging work to do. Your employees want to know that you trust them and that you think they are capable of doing more. When you don’t’ allow your staff to grow, they become bored and unhappy – and that may lead to turnover.

Doing everything yourself also contributes to stress and overwhelm, which leads to burnout and health problems. And you can’t possibly do your best work under those conditions. That means your clients will suffer.

When you’ve got so much on your plate that you can’t possibly get to it all, you’re bound to let something fall through the cracks. You may miss deadlines. You leave no room for innovation, and non-billable tasks fall by the wayside, including marketing and developing relationships. You’ll likely be fielding more calls from disgruntled clients wanting to know what is happening on their matter and when you will get back to them. It may even lead to a malpractice claim.

And if you’re constantly stressed, overwhelmed, and working late, you’re probably spending less time with friends and family, and when you are with them, you’re probably not as present as you could be.

It’s time to let some things go. It may be time to create a “don’t do” list, instead of a to-do list. To learn more about don’t do lists, watch my video on don’t do lists. Or contact me to see how I can help you identify what belongs on your don’t do list.

Do You Have a Don’t Do List? [video]

Do you have a don’t do list?

What the heck is a “don’t do list?”

Find out in this video – or scroll down to read more.

A don’t do list is the opposite of a to-do list. A to-do list contains all of the items or tasks you want to complete – all of the things you have to or want to do. A don’t do list is all of the things you shouldn’t do, don’t need to do, or want to stop doing.

text on chalkboard
Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

Remember – productivity isn’t just about getting the most things done in the shortest amount of time. And it isn’t all about efficiency – it isn’t all about getting things done in the fastest, most economical way possible. It’s also about choosing the right things to focus on and identifying what is most important to move your business forward. And it’s about ensuring that you have time to take care of yourself and enjoy your friends and family. Sometimes it’s easier to do that by thinking first about what isn’t so important and eliminating those things.

What should be on your don’t do list?

The don’t do list includes all of the things that don’t require your specific knowledge, expertise, or personal touch, or don’t contribute to your goals..

Your don’t do list can include everything from things that you shouldn’t do at all anymore, to things you can delegate to others, to technology, or even clients or areas of business that aren’t working for you anymore.

Again, I’m Allison Johs from Legal Ease Consulting. What does the don’t do list look like for you? Tell me in the comments below.

If you want to learn more about the don’t do list, check out the article I wrote on the topic:

Want more on Don’t Do Lists? Check out my article here: https://www.legaleaseconsulting.com/legal_ease_blog/2022/01/time-management-tip-5-create-a-dont-do-list.html.

More productivity posts:

Three Ways to Sabotage Time-Blocking [Video]

clear hour glass on golden frame
Photo by Maria on Pexels.com

Hi, I’m Allison Johs, President of Legal Ease Consulting, where I help lawyers create more productive, more profitable, and more enjoyable law practices. In my last video, I talked about using a technique called time blocking to schedule time on your calendar to get important work done. I have found time blocking to be effective for many of my clients, but there are three things that sometimes derail their efforts. Watch the video below or scroll down to keep reading.

First, they don’t accurately estimate the time it will take to complete a task, and don’t leave enough time to get it done. It takes time to get good at estimating. Most of us don’t realize how long it actually takes to get our work done (and if you are billing by the hour and not logging time as you are working, that means you’re leaving money on the table). I recommend setting a timer when you begin working and stopping it when the work is complete, so you get an accurate picture of how long a task takes. In the beginning, when blocking time, I also recommend that you schedule twice as much time on your calendar as you think the task will take to give yourself some breathing room.

Second, they over-schedule themselves by blocking too many hours in the day – they fail to leave room for what I call “the chaos factor.” Those unanticipated things that crop up and eat into our day – whether it be a client emergency, problems with technology, or just having a day when it is difficult to concentrate. Don’t block every hour of every day – leave room between appointments and make sure to include downtime in your schedule. No one can focus every hour in every day.

And finally, they confuse projects with tasks. A task is a single item, while a project is made up of multiple tasks. Don’t make the mistake of trying to schedule an entire project into a single time block. It is much more difficult to estimate time for a complete project, and often, you don’t know everything that the project will entail until you actually start working.

I’ll talk more about projects and tasks in my next video, but for now, if you want more time management tips like these, please subscribe to my YouTube Channel or my newsletter.

Break Down Projects to Get Things Done [video]

“Yard by yard, life is hard, but inch by inch, life’s a cinch.”

measurement-millimeter-centimeter-meter-162500.jpeg
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I’m sure you’ve heard this saying before. But it’s a good reminder that when we focus on only one thing at a time, it’s much easier to see our progress and to stay motivated to keep going. Watch this short video or scroll down to learn more.

That’s why it’s important to understand the difference between projects and tasks. Tasks are individual items to complete, while projects are made up of several tasks. For example, making a telephone call is a task. But putting out your monthly newsletter is a project that includes several tasks, including writing the content, editing the content, choosing images, uploading everything to your newsletter program, etc.

Sometimes we procrastinate or avoid projects because we can’t imagine how we’re going to make the time to do all of those tasks at once. Instead, think only about the next, smallest action you need to take to move the project forward, and schedule time on your calendar to complete that task.

Maybe that next action is just taking 15 minutes to plot out what you want in your newsletter this month. Or emailing a list of the concepts you want your assistant to find images for to include in the newsletter. Once that task is completed, determine what the next action is and immediately schedule that on your calendar. You may be surprised at how much you accomplish.

See more productivity tips:

Block Time to Get Work Done [video]

Is your to-do list out of control? The tool that comes to my rescue is my calendar.

brown framed eyeglasses on a calendar
Photo by Olya Kobruseva on Pexels.com

In this video, I talk to you about using your calendar effectively to make sure you get the most important things done. (Or to continue reading, just scroll down).

This time of year, your to-do list can get out of control. That’s why, although I keep a to-do list, it isn’t the tool I use every day to decide what I’m going to work on next. Instead, I use my calendar.

Most of us use our calendar for things like appointments, or even deadlines, but I use my calendar for much more than that. Using a technique called time-blocking, I make appointments on my calendar to perform the work I need to get done. This forces me to be more realistic about what I can actually accomplish.

The concept is simple. Instead of leaving all of the tasks I need to accomplish on a to-do list, I convert those tasks into blocks of time on my calendar. For example, I write a column for a legal magazine every other month. In addition to adding the due date for the column to my calendar, I add a reminder several weeks in advance of the due date. When the reminder pops up, I look at my calendar and start blocking out times to write. If I need to schedule another appointment at the time I was planning to write, this forces me to look at my calendar to see when I have another opening to write. And I know from experience that I rarely complete the column in one sitting, so I may need to block out several blocks to accomplish this task. I can do that all at once, or as I go along.

Time blocking is also a great technique to ensure that you accomplish some of the non-billable tasks you need to do. For example, you might block out an hour or two every week to focus on your marketing and business development, or a few hours a month to review your bills so they get out the door on time. And it’s important to block out time to enjoy yourself, too.

For me, if it isn’t on my calendar, it doesn’t get done, no matter what it is.

I’m Allison Johs from Legal Ease Consulting, and I hope this tip was helpful for you. Please leave me a comment with your best productivity tip for this holiday season!

See more about productivity:

Using Color to Manage Your Outlook Calendar and Email

Are you a visual person? If so, today’s productivity tip is for you!

Color coding important appointments and email messages in Outlook to help you manage your calendar and that mountain of email messages we all receive every day. Watch the video, or scroll down to read more.

I don’t know about you, but when I look at my calendar or my email inbox, it can be a little overwhelming. It can be easy to miss important messages when you’re scrolling through your inbox. And looking at a sea of appointments in Outlook can be daunting. Using color makes that easier for me.

One way to use color is to create categories in Outlook. This is the way I color-code items on my calendar so that I can see at a glance what I have coming up that day, that week, or that month. For example, I color code all of my client appointments as green, marketing activities as purple, personal items like doctor’s appointments or family events are pink, administrative activities for my business as blue, speaking engagements as yellow, and so on. I can look at my calendar for the week and see right away how many client appointments I have coming up or whether I’ve set aside any time for marketing.

You can use categories for email messages as well, but I find that the category tags aren’t as obvious when I’m scrolling through my inbox. Instead, I use conditional formatting for email messages to assign a different color to messages I want to stand out or ensure that they get my attention.

If you want some tips on using color in Outlook, download my Using Color in Outlook PDF below. Or contact me to see how I can help you to use Outlook more effectively.

See more productivity tips:

Are You a Good Multi-tasker?

Actually, there’s no such thing as multi-tasking. Author Dave Crenshaw, in his book, The Myth of Multi-tasking, says that (with very few exceptions) you really can’t perform two separate tasks at the same time. What you are really doing when you think you’re “multi-tasking” is switchtasking – you’re rapidly switching back and forth between two tasks.

The problem is that our brains aren’t really set up for switchtasking. And although you may think that your multi-tasking saves you time, in reality, switchtasking costs you time, money and relationships.

Studies have shown that when you switch from one task to another, it increases the time it takes for you to complete the original task by as much as 25%. When that happens repeatedly, it’s a real hit to your productivity.

And have you ever tried to send an email when talking on the phone to a client? What happens? Either you stop paying attention to the conversation and miss what your client is saying, or you make mistakes in the email. You may need to force the client to repeat themselves, re-send the email, or send a second email to correct the mistakes you made in the first one. Or you find out later that you missed something important that the client said on the call. Either way, you’ve made a poor impression on someone – whether the person on the phone or the recipient of the email. If that happens repeatedly, it could cost you business.

The exception to this switchtasking-multi-tasking rule is that you may be able to perform two activities simultaneously if at least one of those activities doesn’t require much brainpower or concentrated thought. So if you want to fold your laundry while watching television or listen to a podcast while you’re running on the treadmill, be my guest.

But if you want to be more productive – and more effective – in your business day, focus on one task at a time. For some strategies to help you do just that, download my “Stop Switchtasking” PDF guide below.

Secret Weapon for Marketing Content

Stamp saying Top Secret

Do you want to know the secret to creating a consistent stream of content for your marketing?

My clients tell me that one of their major obstacles to marketing is time – they just don’t think they have the time to do everything they would like to do to market their practice. Between social media, newsletters, email marketing campaigns, their website, writing articles, blogs, and now video, they just don’t know how they’re going to have the time to come up with all of that content.

The good news is that they don’t have to. They just need to learn how to repurpose. Every piece of content that is created by a law firm has the potential to be repurposed with much less effort than it would take to create a new piece of content from scratch.

Let’s look at an example.

Say you did a CLE program for your bar association. It’s likely that you had to develop some materials, whether that included PowerPoint slides, written materials, or both. You can repurpose that content in a number of ways:

  • You might have someone record you giving your presentation and use video clips in your marketing. (or record yourself if it’s on Zoom or a similar platform)
  • Have someone take photos of you giving your presentation to use as images on social media. (or take screenshots if it’s online)
  • Turn your materials into an article to publish in an industry or bar association publication.
  • Then take that article and post it on your website
  • Turn the article into a series of posts on social media
  • Include the article in your firm’s monthly newsletter
  • Break the article into smaller chunks to post separately on your blog
  • Take the first part of the article and post it as a Publisher post on LinkedIn with a link back to the full article on your website
  • Take your PPT slides and post them as a slide presentation on Slideshare
  • Give the presentation again to another audience, or for your best clients

You can do the same thing with legal work you perform. Watch the video above to learn more, or email me to find out how I can help you repurpose content you already have.

Watch more of my videos:

Overwhelmed? Focus on Just One Thing

Between pandemics, and elections and riots and crazy ice storms, there’s a lot to be stressed about these days, and it can be hard to get in a productive mood and stay focused.

I’ve been doing a series of videos on motivation, and how to pull yourself out of a funk if you’re just not feeling motivated. But sometimes, even the tips and tricks I’ve been sharing with you don’t work. Or something very unexpected comes up that derails all of the plans you’ve made, and it feels like you’ve hit a brick wall.

I had something like that happen to me this week – I have been trying to juggle a bunch of projects with deadlines so I can go out of town at the end of this month, and one of them came crashing down last night. As a result, my entire plan went out the window.

When something like that happens to me, I take it as a signal that it’s time to slow down to speed up.

What do I mean by that? Sometimes the busier we are, the harder it is to see what is really important.

Stress can become a vicious cycle. As the work piles up, we get more stressed and overwhelmed. And the more overwhelmed we get, the more difficult it is to focus, or to get anything done.

That may be exactly the right time to take a break, take a deep breath, and focus on just one thing. Ask yourself, “What is the single most important thing I need to do right now?” It might be calling a client to let them know that the work will be late. Or it might be organizing all of the projects on your desk so that you can see what needs to be done. Or maybe it’s identifying someone who can help you get through your list and delegating some tasks to them. It might be deciding what to say “no” to.

Identifying just the one thing that is most important in the moment, it can free you from thinking about all of the other projects or tasks on your list.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed, try taking a step back and focusing just on the one most important thing you can do today to move toward your goals.

Want more productivity hacks? Check out these videos:

Get Motivated in 15 Minutes or Less

What do you do when you need to get something done, but you’re just not feeling it?

Hi, I’m Allison Shields Johs, President of Legal Ease Consulting, where I help lawyers create more productive, more profitable, and more enjoyable law practices.

In my last video, I suggested that you shouldn’t wait until you’re feeling motivated before tackling a task or project you need to get done. The first step is just showing up – you might be surprised at what happens. Take action first and motivation will follow. (Watch that video here)

Today I want to talk about three more ways to get things done when you’re just not feeling it.

Take a walk.

Sitting at a computer or at your desk most of the day may seem like the best way to get things done, but it’s probably not. And most of us are spending even more time sitting now that courts are shut down and in-person meetings aren’t taking place – there’s even fewer reasons to leave your office than ever.

But sitting too long not only isn’t good for your body – it isn’t good for your brain either. If you’re not feeling motivated to tackle a task or project, try getting some exercise.

Take a 15-minute walk or do some yoga or stretches. Some of my best ideas come when I’m taking a walk or right after a workout.

Phone a friend.

Two heads are often better than one. Seek out a friend, family member, or colleague to talk about the project you want to accomplish. Sometimes just talking about it with another person is enough to get you motivated, or to spark an idea.

Maybe you’ll realize that the task or project isn’t so daunting after all, or you’ll just grow tired of hearing yourself talk about it and just get on with it. Or maybe your friend will have a suggestion that leads to a breakthrough.

Set a 15-minute timer.

The Pomodoro Technique, which I talked about in detail in a previous video, is a great technique to use if you’re feeling stuck or un-motivated.

Set a timer for 15 minutes and work only on the task you’ve been avoiding until the timer goes off. Then you’re free to quit and work on something else – at least you’ll have gotten started on that task.

But you may be surprised to learn that once you’ve gotten started, you’re motivated to continue.

How do you motivate yourself when you’re just not feeling it? Let me know in the comments!

Again, I’m Allison Shields Johs from Legal Ease Consulting, and if you want more tips like this, subscribe to my free newsletter, or see more productivity videos and articles:

Not Motivated? Just Show Up

Sometimes it’s just not easy to get motivated to tackle a project or task on your to-do list. But maybe waiting for motivation before taking action is the wrong approach.

I’m not always motivated to do what I need to do either – one example is not always being motivated to prepare and show up for my weekly Videosocials call to record my videos. But I remembered a saying I’ve heard recently that resonated with me:

Get up. Dress up. Show up.

Sometimes, all you have to do is to show up and motivation will follow.

For more tips on how to get going when you’re just not feeling motivated, check out this article: How to Get Motivated.

More productivity videos:

Can a Tomato Make You More Productive?

Can a tomato make you more productive?

Hi, I’m Allison Shields Johs, President of Legal Ease Consulting, where I help lawyers create more productive, more profitable, and more enjoyable law practices.

I don’t know about you, but lately I seem to be having a very difficult time focusing and accomplishing what I want to accomplish. I’ve worked from home for many years, but lately I seem to get distracted more easily. Perhaps it’s the pandemic and all of the anxieties that have gone along with it. Or perhaps it’s just Zoom fatigue. Who knows? But whatever the reason, I’m finding I have to fall back on some tips and tricks to help me get things done, and today I’d like to share one of those with you.

That’s where the tomato comes in.

The tip I’d like to talk about today is called the “Pomodoro” technique – pomodoro is the Italian word for tomato. The pomodoro technique was developed by an Italian, and it was named after a timer that looks like a tomato.

Here’s how it works:

First, you decide on the task you want to get done. Then you set a timer for a specific interval of time – traditionally 25 minutes – and you work on the task without any interruption at all for that interval. Once the timer goes off, you can stop and take a 5-minute break. Each interval represents one pomodoro.

In the traditional pomodoro method, you would do four consecutive pomodoros, and then take a longer 15-30 minute break.

If you complete the task while the timer is still ticking, you can use the additional time in the pomodoro to review your work or plan tasks for your next pomodoro. Of course, there are all sorts of variations of this technique, and you might choose to make your pomodoros 60, or even 90 minutes long.

But whatever variation you choose, using this system helps you to focus on the task at hand for a long enough period of time to accomplish something significant, but it is a short enough time that you won’t allow yourself to become distracted. Since you have a break every 25 minutes, you can address anything urgent that might come up in the interim.

For lawyers billing by the hour, using the pomodoro technique is also helpful for ensuring that you are billing your time contemporaneously with the work being performed. But even if you aren’t billing by the hour, using the pomodoro technique is useful for improving your ability to estimate how long it takes you to complete certain tasks, which can help your overall time management.

For me, just the idea of blocking out a discrete segment of time with no distractions has proved useful for moving me forward toward my goals, so I hope it will be useful for you, too.

Again, I’m Allison Shields Johs, from Legal Ease Consulting, wishing you a productive day – and now, since it’s lunchtime, I think I’m going to make myself a BLT!

Want more productivity tips? Sign up for my newsletter or watch more videos on productivity:

Managing Staff Interruptions

Hi, I’m Allison Shields, President of Legal Ease Consulting, where I help lawyers attract the right clients, increase their productivity, and improve their bottom line.

As a practicing lawyer, one of the problems I observed with the lawyers around me, and still observe today with my clients and my lawyer friends is that when they finally got some time in the office to actually catch up on paperwork, or respond to phone calls or emails, they got even less done than they did when they were out of the office, whether that was in court, at a closing, a deposition o a client meeting.

And why does that happen? Well, it happens because when they were in the office, they were constantly being interrupted. There are lots of interruptions, but the one we’re going to talk about today is staff interruptions.

You know what I’m talking about – you’re in your office, finally trying to get some work done, and there’s a line of people outside your door waiting to speak to you, or your assistant is constantly bombarding you with questions all day long. This happens because your staff feels insecure – they have no idea when they’re going to see you again or when you’ll be available to speak with them, and so when they see you, they just grab you.

One way to avoid this is by setting regular meetings with the staff and people in your office that you work most closely with. But the key to this is to be consistent, because the point is to reduce their insecurity. You’ll want to give them a definite time when they know that they’ll be able to get their questions answered, or to speak with you.

I recommend that you set a regular schedule of meetings with those people. So for example, maybe that’s meeting with your assistant every day at 4 pm, and the associate that you work most closely with once a week on Tuesday morning, and maybe your billing person once a month to talk about billing and collections issues on the first Monday of the month. This way, they know when they can get to you, and they’ll collect all of their questions to ask you at once.

My clients who have implemented this have found not only that it has drastically reduced interruptions during the day, but it has also increased the productivity of their entire team, and it has allowed them to anticipate problems before they arise.

What are your challenges with staff or other interruptions? Leave me a comment below.

See more productivity tips: