It’s hard to believe that 2016 is almost here. Whether you’re someone who comes up with New Year’s resolutions at the beginning of a new year or not, it’s still helpful to look back at the year that’s ending and reflect on what went right and what you’d like to be different in the coming year.
I admit it’s been a while since I sat down and actually drafted resolutions for a new year. I learned years ago that my resolutions for the new year invariably looked a lot like the resolutions from the year before. I suspect at least some of your resolutions fall into the same category. But this year, I challenge you to take a new look at resolutions. The main reason resolutions fail is because the goals (and they are goals after all) aren’t specific, measurable or attainable. That may sound scientific, but take a step back: A goal such as “spend more time with family and friends” is bound to fail if you don’t structure it so that it’s specific, measurable and attainable.
Instead of “spend more time with family,” think about something more specific, like “spend one hour each week with family.” Or break it down even more to “spend at least one hour every Wednesday night with a family member.” Put it on your calendar, and when you do your weekly planning, decide specifically what you’re going to do the next week to move closer to attaining your goal. Maybe it’s going out to dinner, watching a movie or taking a walk. You might decide to go to dinner next Wednesday with Ryan and catch a movie the week after with Aaron. If it’s on your calendar, you’re more likely to actually do it.
Below are some resolutions that might make your professional and personal life richer and more fulfilling in 2016. It would be a mistake to try to take on too many resolutions. Instead, come up with your top one, two or three and “Just Do It!”
Get organized. If your office or personal space at home isn’t conducive for getting work done or relaxing after a day at the office, take some time to get organized. You don’t have to get it done all at once, but come up with a plan and then schedule something on your calendar every day (or every week) that will help move you forward. Take a look at Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity by David Allen for some ideas. If you’re a CBA member, you can check it out for free from our Lending Library (cobar.org/library). Allen’s system shows you how to capture everything you need to pay attention to and put a “stake in the ground” so that it doesn’t fall through the cracks.
Get in control of your email. Put emails in folders. Move emails from your inbox or folders onto your hard drive. Turn off email alerts so that you aren’t distracted by each new email that hits your inbox. Limit yourself to checking email only at certain times during the day. Check out the August 2014 LPM Newsletter introduction for my tips at cobar.org/page.cfm/ID/23006/.
Set aside time every week for things that you want to do. This could be as simple as coming up with major categories for things you’d like to pay attention to, such as: finances; health (getting in shape!); relationships; work; home improvement; etc. Then, slot an activity or two onto your calendar every week. Putting it on your calendar is a positive step toward making it happen in actuality. Under each category, list activities or projects on which you’d like to focus. Under “finance,” you might have things like refinance your home, develop a budget and tracking system to see where your money goes and/or put money aside every month for retirement.
Leverage technology. Invest in technology to help keep track of commitments, documents, calendars, tasks, etc. Or learn to use the programs that you already have! Check out the list of software on the LPM website (cobar.org/index.cfm/ID/422). There is also great information in our monthly Tech Tuesday webinars (cobar.org/techtuesdays/). The June 2015 webinar (vimeo.com/131817270) featured Credenza, a free program that turns Outlook into practice management software. Clio and Rocket Matter are additional practice management software options, and both offer discounts to CBA members. TheFormTool lets you automate document assembly. The basic version is free, and I guarantee that it will save you time and effort. These software options are not specific to any practice area. If you need help managing your practice (and who doesn’t!), these options will help. If your resolution is to learn to use the software you already have, check out lynda.com for software training. Lynda offers a free trial, and at only $24.99 per month for unlimited usage ($19.99 if you pay for one year in advance), you can search by name of software, name of trainer (if you find one you particularly like) or topic. Try it for a couple of months, and I know that you’ll be amazed how much more you can accomplish.
Don’t try to do everything. If you do, you’ll end up getting nothing done. There are days when trying to accomplish just three things is too ambitious. Instead, sit down every morning (on weekends, too!) and ask yourself: “What one thing, if I accomplished it today, would make me feel as if my day had been productive?” Focus on that task first. This question comes from the book How to Do More In Less Time: The Complete Guide to Increasing Your Productivity and Improving Your Bottom Line by my friends Allison Shields and Daniel Siegel. This book is also available through our free Lending Library. D
With a little reflection and planning, 2016 could be your best year ever!