My brain hurts. There is so much swirling around in there that I’m starting to wonder if I’m suffering from a communication concussion.

I hosted a program yesterday in our firm with Lee Broekman and Judith Gordon from Organic Communication. They were here to discuss communication blockers–I’ll blog about that later on because it’s good stuff–and one of them threw out this gem during our discussion on multitasking:

When we are multi-tasking MRIs show that our brains shrink; we actually lose 15 IQ points, reducing our cognitive levels to that of an 8-year old child.

No wonder my brain hurts.

Not only am I multitasking in the office, my brain is multitasking at all times.

Here I am writing this blog post and wondering about the industry event we’re hosting in the other room; how that new partner is on-boarding, and trying to remind myself to not forget to post that article to her bio; did I send the kid the note about her tags being expired on the car?; don’t forget to text the sports dude that I forgot to pick up lemons and limes at Trader Joe’s last night; and don’t forget to send Catherine and Ben the interview questions about the Coalition of Professional Service Providers.

Okay. I’ve identified the problem. Through experimentation I have concluded that sleep, caffeine, Advil, and eating well are not the solutions to my brain hurt.

Forbes is recommending a Power Hour that looks interesting <<<<<seriously, I expect to see lots of clicks on the link<<<<< and I’m going to take on the challenge to see how this works for me.

But the bigger problem is that I am not writing enough.

Writing, especially for this blog, is what clears my head and allows me to process ideas and concepts. So, good news for the readers of The Legal Watercooler, more blog posts from me.

All I have to do is find the time. So I am headed back to the program that has always boded well for me: David Allen’s Getting Things Done.

I started this year off wiping down my white board and getting ready to plan my year. IMG_9184 So much white. So much potential. So many ideas. I am not a huge fan of large and intense marketing plans; they usually just end up buried in some drawer somewhere, only to be pulled out at the end of the year to be revised for the next year. I prefer A Daily Resolution:

By setting daily resolutions and having daily goals, I am setting myself up for success. By doing this, day after day, I will achieve something wonderful over a span of time (could be one week or one year). The end results might not be exactly what others expect, or what I expected myself, however, the flexibility will allow me to alter my plans as to best accomplish what needs to get done today. Flexibility will allow me to adjust my sails to the changes in the economy, in technology, in my personal and professional relationships. By focusing on what can and must be accomplished today, I can set aside worrying about things that I have no power or control over (yet). I’m not saying, implying or inferring in any way, shape or form that you should not have, nor should you abandon, long-term plans and goals. I am just saying, break those action steps into daily activities, actions and resolutions. Focus on what can and must be done today.

In other words, you do need a plan, but you don’t need a complicated one. What I do, and suggest to the masses, is to focus on three to five larger ideas (buckets) that you can rattle off the tip of your tongue. Under each bucket fall the specific tasks. Those become your daily resolutions. So here’s my white board now. IMG_9185Eventually all the white will disappear filled in with ideas, tasks, notes, and more. I continue to manage my tasks through Get it Done, and am spending time this week cleaning out all my emails (work, personal, Girl Scouts) to make sure I am good to go. So Happy New Year to everyone. I look forward to a productive year, and look forward to the new experiences and good things to come.

busy-ladyI know I am not alone in always trying to manage my time and projects. Truth be told, I do this better on some days then on others. When things get out of hand, and my in-box starts to overwhelm me, I know it is time to get back to basics. I need to declutter, toss and delete, file, create action lists, and hopefully find a couple new tools or tips along the way to aid my efforts. So here are two tips I will be living today as I clean out my in-boxes. Yes, plural: Work. Personal. Girl Scouts. Not to mention all the piles of paper on my desk.

  1. If it takes two minutes or less, do it now.
  2. Begin your project/action items with a verb. (this one is new)

Both tips are courtesy of David Allen, the go-to guru for productivity. I also liked this article today from HBR, How to Spend the First 10 Minutes of Your Day. And for those wondering, I’m still loving the Get it Done app to manage my projects and lists. I just have to do it more.    

busy-ladyI am not a huge promoter of products and services. So when I do, I mean it. I am a big fan of David Allen and his book Getting Things Done. Around 10 years ago, before he hit the stratosphere, I had David lead a program for my then-firm’s attorneys. He was so incredible that they asked if we could have him back. I used his systems. Still love my label maker. But I have been having trouble lately trying to get a system that worked across all my digital platforms, incorporating work, my personal life, Girl Scouts, my LMA commitments. Outlook just wasn’t cutting it. And this weekend I let something slip through the cracks. I forgot to sign my daughter signed up for a spring break trip and now it’s full. Ugh. While bitching and moaning about it to the Sports Dude, he commented that with so much going on in my life it’s amazing more things don’t fall through the cracks. Which sounds like a great thing to say when your wife is kicking herself for forgetting to do something so simple, but I have a life where I cannot let things slip through the cracks. Ever. I work with lawyers. So I decided to dust off my Getting Things Done and clean up my systems. OMG. Yes, There is an APP for this!! Finally!! It’s Get It Done. While not an official product of David Allen Company, it does rock the GTD philosophy. I love that I can use it on my desktop. I have it downloaded on my iPhone and my iPad. Everything is synced together. I need to figure out what to do when offline … but I’ll get there. InBox All I have to do is BCC my Get it Done inbox on an email and poof, there’s my project. While sitting on the train on the way home, I can file all my projects. First up, I assign it a an Area (Girl Scouts, Legal Marketing, Personal, Work), and then create a project. I can set reminder notes and tags. Ooooohh, and I get an email each morning reminding me what’s on tap for today: email My Outlook inbox is at ZERO at the moment. My Get it Done inbox will be at ZERO in a few minutes as I continue to file the items I just emailed myself. I might have FINALLY found the right solution. For $39/year, sounds like a good investment to me. As for my daughter, she is #3 on the waiting list that has about 17 kids on it. If she can round up another 13 they will open up another group and she’s good to go. But if you’d like to buy some See’s Candy, let me know … she’s fundraising for her spot.

Clearing out my reader right now (which anyone who follows me on Twitter can tell from all the @reading posts I’m shooting out) when I came across this gem from the folks at Getting Things Done, David Allen’s company:

How’s your perspective, after a 3-day weekend? (Or did you have a 3-day weekend?)
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Every now and then go away, have a little relaxation, for when you come back to your work your judgment will be surer; since to remain constantly at work will cause you to lose your power of judgment. Go some distance away because the work appears smaller and more of it can be taken in at a glance, and a lack of harmony or proportion is more readily seen.
—Leonardo Da Vinci

You know what? My perspective is great this morning. I came in, ready to work on our conference for next year. I’ve been checking in with my bloggers getting our end of the legislative session posts together. I booked my gym appointments. I’m even looking forward to our Girl Scout meeting tonight.

I have to credit my attitude in the fact that I barely engaged with work this weekend.

Oh, I checked my emails a few times, but didn’t read any. I didn’t even delete the spams. Just made sure there were no emergencies, which are rare at my firm.

And, I was able to take a 3-day weekend from my hectic life as well.

My kids were off with their dad for the weekend, enjoying the beach. The sports dude had some stuff to do. And me? I had a blank calendar. I had a couple things for Girl Scouts I needed to get done, and I did the minimal amount of work necessary for that.

What did I do?

Nothing.

I watched some HGTV and Food Network shows. A couple movies. I went to the market.

I enjoyed all my Sunday talk shows, and finally finished my blog post: A Word to the Wise: Social Media and Politics.

Sports dude and I went to a movie. We saw The Campaign, which I thought was hysterical.

But, really, I did nothing.

And, in doing nothing, I did something. I recharged.

So, here I am. It’s Tuesday, and I am ready!

How’s your perspective?

Thank you to guest blogger  Gail Lamarche for recapping today’s Lexblog webinar, Making — Not Finding — Time for Client Development, featuring Kevin O’Keefe and Cordell Parvin.

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With 36 years of law practice behind him, Cordell Parvin now coaches attorneys in all aspects of legal marketing, client development and blogs at lawconsultingblog.com. When he just started his career as a young construction lawyer, his peers mocked him when he wanted to have a national practice from Roanoke, VA.  That is until the Secretary of Transportation for the State of Washington called him when the bridge collapsed. How did that call happen?  It was from writing articles and being known for a construction litigation law niche practice.  Cordell shared his best practices and tips during the webinar which was recorded and can be found here (UPDATED LINK).

  • 500 hours.  That is how many non-billable hours a lawyer should spend on client development per year or 20-30 per month.
  • Have a plan in place for not only non-billable time but personal time as well.  Review the plan every 90 days.  Plans should include:
    • Time for client development
    • Organizations to join
    • Networking events
    • Articles
    • Blog posts
    • Pro bono activities
  • Feeling overwhelmed with billable work, personal responsibilities and marketing?  Set priorities.  Start a journal.  Document your non-billable time and you will be able to figure out what worked and what didn’t.
  • Split your development time in two categories:  one for reputation building (writing and speaking); and one for relationship building (getting out and meeting people).
  • Tips for young lawyers:
    • spend time your first few years developing your skills to become a great lawyer
    • learn about your clients
    • learn people and communication skills
    • read books
    • attend seminars
  • Write articles:
    • Not sure what to write about?  What questions are your clients asking?  Take the memorandum of law and turn it into an article or blog post.  Every matter you work on can take a wider angle.
    • Create how-to guides for contracts, design builds.  Post the e-books on your website so clients can download.  Take what you learn and re-use it.  Provide valuable information to your audience and raise visibility and credibility.
    • Review the Encyclopedia of Associations for your state.  Every association has newsletters or publications.
  • Develop a niche practice, be focused.  How?  What are you passionate about?  Used great examples of lawyers who stepped outside the box, developed a niche practice and moved full steam ahead.  Staci Riordan incorporates blogging, Facebook and Twitter for the fashion law blog.  Alison Rowe with her Equine Law Blog and Kevin O’Neill started a weekly podcast Capital Thinking.

Cordell and Kevin also shared some great blogging tips:

Piper's new backpack, lunch box and thermos for back-to-school
Today’s the “first day” back to school for my kids. Summer’s over. No more “summer” schedule of staying up late and sleeping in. Yeah, it’s going to be “summer-hot” outside today, but the fall clothes are coming out; we’ll just crank up the air conditioning inside. Back to school means a new backpack, lunch box and thermos. It signals “back-to-school” shopping sprees. It means cleaning out your drawers and getting rid of all the clothes that don’t fit, or you never wear. It means cleaning up your study space and the junk drawer with all the school supplies. It means going to bed at a decent hour and getting up early. We’re on a schedule! Same thing can be said for work. Vacations for you, your clients, the courts are OVER. It’s time to get back to work, seriously. We have about three months of “work” left in the year (minus Thanksgiving week, and the week between Christmas and New Years). So, what are you going to do?? Here are a few ideas:

  • Clean up your office. Go through all those piles that have built up all year and dump what needs to get dumped. File what needs to be filed. And make a list of all your “OMG, THAT ALMOST FEEL THREW THE CRACKS” projects.
  • Clean out your e-mail in box. Same rules apply.
  • Pull out that “goals” list for the year — sometimes referred to as a “marketing plan” — and see where you’ve had success, and where you still have some goals to meet.
  • Read a good book. Something akin to David Allen’s “Getting Things Done,” or Malcolm Gladwell’s “Outliers.” Personally, I’m looking forward to reading The Wisdom of Wooden: My Century On and Off the Courts (unfortunately, I cannot download it to my Nook and have to run into the store to pick it up).
  • Make a list of your top 10 clients/contacts/referral sources. The absolute TOP of your list for giving and connecting you to new business. Now, block off time on your calendar, two hours per week, to meet with that client IN PERSON. Even for those out of town clients, there’s a business trip you’re planning in close proximity to where they are. Extend your trip and swing by. Invite them to join you at an industry conference. This isn’t about asking for new business, but deepening your relationship. Spend the time (80 percent) LISTENING to what they have to say about their business. Your service. Their concerns. No excuses. This is about the work to come in 2011.
  • Print out your holiday card list and start to work on it now. You’ll thank me for this in November. Really.
  • Review your year. What did you do? Attended a conference. Wrote an article. Spoke at an industry-related event. Hosted a client CLE. Bought another table of ten that no one sat at. Purchased a tribute ad. What worked?? What didn’t?? What can you do differently in 2011.
  • Make a list of your competitors (friendly and not-so-friendly). Go to their websites and subscribe to their newsletters, blogs and press releases via email or, preferably, an RSS feed … and READ them. Do the same thing for your clients.
  • Buy a smart phone (if you don’t have one already) and start to figure out how you can make that phone work for you to keep you connected to your clients.

Come on … get moving!

I just walked back into my office after spending four days at the Legal Marketing Association‘s annual conference where I spoke on panel, organized the LMA Tweeters, and have volunteered for the 2011 conference advisory committee. I returned to my office this morning to find hundreds of emails that need to be processed, 1000+ new posts in my reader, and a blinking light on my phone. All of which begs the question: where to begin? Here’s how I’m going to tackle my day:

  1. If it takes 2 minutes or less, I’ll do it now (thanks David Allen & Getting Things Done).
  2. Take care of any urgent or time-constrained matters.
  3. Return all partner/attorney calls and e-mails.
  4. Review the 50+ new Followers I have on Twitter, and FOLLOW all the  legal-related tweeps.
  5. Review the LMA registration list and CONNECT on LinkedIn with as many people as I can find.
  6. FRIEND on Facbook all those I am ready to introduce into my personal world.
  7. Get my expense report done.