Are You Sabotaging Your Own Law Goals?

Wondering why your practice is stuck in neutral? This will help.

Don’t look now, but the only thing that’s preventing you from reaching your law practice goals could be the person staring back at you in the mirror.

Lawyers are experts at self-sabotage. We pick the wrong clients. We procrastinate. We worry too much and exercise too little.

“There are countless ways we sabotage ourselves,” says Dr. Ellen Hendriksen in this Psychology Today article. “Procrastination, self-medicating with drugs or alcohol, overeating from stress, and interpersonal conflict are among the most widely used and recognizable. These actions can be especially dangerous because they’re so subtle—you may not notice the extra cookie you’re taking or the additional drink you want to order before last call—and, at the time, they may even appear to calm you down. But as these actions increase, self-sabotage builds a deep well of self-defeat that’s hard to climb out of.”

One all-too-common tactic: we say yes when we should say no. We usually do this with good intentions. We want to help people. But we wind up overbooked, overstressed, and over a barrel.

“Why do we do it?,” asks Hendriksen, a/k/a the Savvy Psychologist. “Turns out, there are many reasons why, instead of shooting for the moon, we end up aiming right for our foot.”

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How to Stop Getting in Your Own Way

Wondering why your practice is stuck in neutral? Try doing these things:

  1. Set SMART goals. Often the problem is not a lack of goals. It’s that our goals aren’t SMART: Specific (simple, sensible, significant); Measurable (meaningful, motivating); Achievable (agreed, attainable); Relevant (reasonable, realistic and resourced, results-based); Time bound (time-based, time limited, time/cost limited, timely, time-sensitive). Example: “Getting more clients” is not a SMART goal. “Contacting one referral source daily” or “attending one networking event each week” is.
  2. Set even SMARTER goals. This adds a pair of steps – Evaluation and Readjustment – to the goal-setting process: “The added sense of measurement and readjustment is critical,” writes RL Adams on his website Wanderlust Worker
  3. Eliminate distractions. Close your Internet browser when you’re scrambling to meet a deadline. Turn off your phone when you’re polishing a demand letter. Focus on what’s already on your plate. “It’s so easy to jump from one thing to the next, especially in our society filled with shiny objects,” writes Timothy Sykes for Entrepreneur. “There’s always some opportunity or thing that looks or sounds better than the current thing that we’re doing. Don’t fall for it. Successful people make quick decisions and are slow to change them. Unsuccessful people constantly jump ship, taking a long time to make a decision and changing it quickly.”
  4. Have a routine. And stick to it. Whether it’s waking at the same time each morning or preparing daily to-do lists, successful attorneys enter each day with a plan.
  5. Get a mentor. This is a proven way to fast-forward your career. “If you don’t believe in the power of a mentor, consider this: Mark Zuckerberg, Oprah, and Bill Gates all credit their mentors with helping them find the success that they went on to attain,” Sykes writes. “From a mentor, you can gain guidance, direction, advice, and so much more.” Bonus: a mentor can supply built-in accountability.
  6. Don’t keep repeating the same mistakes. Remember when you swore you’d never take another bankruptcy case again? Keep that in mind the next time a Chapter 7 prospect strolls into your office.
  7. Surround yourself with supportive, positive people. The law office can be a cut-throat environment. Your colleague across the hall may be actively (or subtly) trying to hold you back or block your progress. “Move away from them,” writes attorney Marelisa Fabrega. “Find a group of people who will pull you up, instead of allowing those around you to drag you down.”

Got any suggestions for setting and accomplishing law goals? We’d love to hear from you.

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