The grey line between work and home

If you’re working remotely as the pandemic continues, you know the line between work and home has become more blurred and, in some cases, no longer exists. When you’re home is your office, you’re always at work, and more so than just checking email on your phone before going to bed (you know you do this!).

So what can you do to try and have some separation? The answer depends on you, but there are options. Every option requires discipline, similar to knowing you need to step away from the chips and salsa about twenty chips before you do.

You need to find strategies to help you draw a line. For me, I am calendaring time for exercise and trying to stop looking at my phone by 9:00 p.m. Both of these are works in progress. Earlier this week I went hiking in the late afternoon, but spoke with a client the entire time. With the phone, I am trying to stop using it to fill in lulls in time, especially at night. Baby steps. I still am hopeful I will improve on these goals as time goes by.

In addition to those goals, I do have dinner with my family every night and spend time with them each evening too. It certainly helps me wind down from busy days and sleep better.

All of these things are to try and take back a few hours otherwise lost to work. I enjoy what I do for a living, but am aware no one on their deathbed wishes they had spent more time working. Try to achieve some separation and see how it feels.

No Comments

Ideas

One spark can become a blazing fire. Think about that. It means every idea starts the same way: it comes into your head and you choose to act on it or not. This is why many people keep a pen and paper near their bedside in case an important spark of an idea comes to them in the middle of the night. Others may allow sparks to turn into an ember that will go out before the light of day.

One thought can start a revolution. What the revolution is depends on the thought. Someone had to first think people needed to leave England to exercise their freedom of religion, which others agreed with, and which lead to for formation of the United States. Of course the bumpy road included sailing across the Atlantic Ocean to a new land and then the revolutionary war against England, but it started with a thought.

Another revolution was the idea of the Internet. Or the personal computer. Or even the in ground swimming pool. Someone had to come up with the idea for it to become a reality. If you think of any successful product or business, it started in the same way.

When inspiration strikes you hopefully you will be able to capture the idea and not let it disappear like dust in the wind. To avoid this, take the time to record the idea in some manner. I was hiking and listening to a podcast when the person being interviewed said one spark can become a blazing fire, which struck me. Upon hearing it, I stopped and typed it into a note on my cell phone knowing I most likely would forget it by the time I made it home.

Be open to ideas whenever they come to you. To not do so is to your own detriment because many great thoughts come to you when you least expect it.

No Comments

Make your New Year’s resolution into a SMART goal

We are just a few days away from a new year. Many of you have or will make New Year’s resolutions. It could be one of the standards such as losing a certain amount of weight, starting an exercise program, drinking less soda, eating less candy, etc. Maybe it is something different and more personal to you. Or maybe it is work related such as meeting new professional contacts, listening better to others, or having more balance in your life.

The problem is resolutions are hard to keep. How many times have you had a resolution and it lasted for a week? Or maybe it lasted a month? Odds are you were not keeping the resolution by the end of that year (assuming it was something that would take a year to accomplish or was a permanent change you were trying to make to a behavior or habit).

If you are making New Year’s resolutions, I propose you try something new. Have an action plan on how to stay on task to meet your resolution. To do so, make your resolution a SMART goal. I know many of you have heard this acronym before, and maybe even have set SMART goals in the past.

For those that haven’t, it stands for:

Specific

Measurable

Achievable

Realistic

Timely

Resolutions generally fail because trying to do something or stop doing something by sheer force of will is a recipe to fail. If your resolution doesn’t fit within the SMART goal parameters, revise it so that it does – you will have a much better chance of success.

Another idea is to find someone to be an accountability partner. If you are reporting regularly to another person on the status of your work towards a goal there is a much better chance to achieve it. Make sure whoever you pick will hold you accountable and regularly check in on how you are doing on your path to reaching your goal.

Know that your SMART goal/resolution may be achievable in less than year – remember one element is the time you think it will take to reach your goal. If you meet your resolution, come up with a new SMART goal. It doesn’t matter if it is January 1 or May 22. You should constantly look to improve yourself, your business, your life – well, you get the idea. Try it and see what happens.

No Comments

Be the change you wish to see in the world

The title is a quote attributed to Ghandi, but he didn’t actually say it. I have no doubt he would have if he had thought of it. Even so, it’s a quote that has and continues to inspire people around the world. I read it to say don’t just talk, take action.

The quote comes from a longer statement from Ghandi including “If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world also change.” He also implores the listener to change now and not wait to see what others do. Again, it’s a call to action.

Whatever you try may succeed, or maybe it will fail. Either way you need to take the first step to create change. This could be in your work, to better yourself, or to try and improve your community. Once you start, others may join in, thereby providing a better opportunity for the change being implemented to succeed. Even if you fail, you will learn, which will improve your chances for success in the future.

The point is to think of the change you want to see in the world and take the action necessary to bring it about. What the change is depends on you. Don’t let the challenge to change hold you back from starting because there’s no time like the present to take the first step.

No Comments

The 2020 version of why it’s time for an annual checkup for you and, if you have one, your company

Beginning in 2014, many of you probably read my blog regarding having a checkup for you and, if you have one, your business. This does not involve the doctor, but it does involve all the other professionals in your personal and business life. Since that time, I decided to make this topic an annual tradition. This is based in part on the range of feedback I receive every year.

Some of you said “What a great idea. I am definitely going to do that.” Others said “Sounds like a good idea, maybe I will look into that.” Another response was “I wish I had thought about this before the end of the year or when certain contracts automatically renewed.

That feedback was based on me usually making this post the week between Christmas and New Year’s, when many people have time and are thinking about actions they want to take going into the next year. This year I decided to share this a few weeks prior to the end of the year to give you time to take action and look into possible changes before the end of the year.

I’ll bet in most years the majority of you were busy with or recovering from the holidays and all that they entail, and probably did nothing in response to my push for you to do this type of “annual checkup.” To be honest, this response is okay and ignoring my advice may not have had detrimental effects to you or your business.

The point of the advice is that you only know what you know. If you do not check in with your professionals and, for example, make sure contracts or your estate plan remain enforceable and up-to-date, that is where risk comes in. For example, I always check in with my accountant at the end of the year to ensure that all is right with taxes and withholding.

A few years ago I had a reminder related to a different item you should check on annually, auto insurance. We had two teenagers on our policy and a number of vehicles, and the premiums always seemed so high to me. But my insurance person knows me and shops the policy every year looking for the best rates rates for policies with similar coverage from quality insurers. He did that for me and we ended up with a new insurer, with pretty significant savings.

With the time constraints of life, it’s sometimes hard for me to move beyond the higher-level checkup, but when I do I usually end up with some benefit. Unfortunately, in our time-crunched world, the question of who to check in with at year end is expansive, from your estate planning attorney, to your investment person, to your insurance person, to vendors you may use such as a yard or pool maintenance company, or your cell phone carrier or your Internet provider. You may be surprised what a company will do in lowering monthly costs to satisfy or keep a current or longtime customer. Try it and see what happens. A good one to start with is your cable or satellite television provider (assuming you haven’t cut the cable).

I know, I know, who has the time? None of us do, which is why the choices are yours. Are your contracts up to date? Did you pay enough estimated taxes or withholding? Are you paying too much for the cleaning service at your office or your lawn service for your home ? The choice of what professionals to consult, what costs to check or compare, and what services to put out to bid is yours. Choose wisely.

And for those of you seeking a reminder or who did not see it in years past, here is my original blog post on getting an annual checkup:

The end of the year is always a good time to take stock of where you are personally and professionally. This can be checking in with your personal accountant to make sure you have withheld/paid enough taxes during the year or planning for deductions to planning for large corporate expenditures on things such as upcoming projects, planned corporate initiatives or planned equipment purchases. But the one thing that is a constant is that we all should be doing this.

In the past I have mentioned why it is good to sit down with various professionals you or your company work with just to check-in, be they attorneys, accountants, insurance professionals, financial planners, investment professionals, etc. The list depends on you and your business.

This does not have to be a formal appointment unless you think that is appropriate depending on the nature of the planned conversation. Instead, it can be you offering to buy them lunch or a drink. The point is the better the professionals you work with know you, the more they are able to make recommendations aimed to benefit you or your company.

So don’t wait, start making plans today to meet with these people this year, or at least first thing next year. We all are busy this time of year, but if you take these actions it will help you now and in the future.

No Comments

Community

Community is important. It unites people and allows them to be part of something greater than themselves. It’s possible to be part of more than one community. Examples of communities you may be a part of include your family, people you work with, people you work out with, people you worship with, and people who share other similar interests with you.

Note that not all communities contain similar people. Just because you are related to someone, work with someone, etc. doesn’t mean there isn’t diversity in some or all of your communities. This is a positive because diversity allows you to experience difference and still come together.

Other communities may include similar people. This isn’t necessarily a positive or a negative. In a work community, it may mean someone who has your same role, but has more experience and can be a mentor to you. If a community only serves as an echo chamber where everyone agrees, you should look to add diversity and different perspectives.

I recently read that those amazing Redwoods in northern California have created thick forests because they are a community relying on and supporting each other. Redwoods often have shallow roots a few feet deep, but those roots spread out up to 100 feet. By spreading out, the roots fuse with those from other Redwoods, which provides strength for many trees against the sometimes harsh forces of nature. This results in the thick groves of Redwoods that stand so tall and strong despite the shallow roots.

A strong community is like those Redwoods. Within such a group, people support one another. In a community of people support is provided by the transfer of knowledge, providing beneficial connections or inspiration, providing resources, or just being there for others. Through these actions, the group is stronger than a single individual and the journey is much more enjoyable.

No Comments

Show gratitude always

In a few days it will Thanksgiving in one of the oddest years most of us will have ever experienced. In thinking about writing about being thankful or gratitude, I thought back to posts from the last few Novembers. I can’t say it better, so here is my annual blog for the week of Thanksgiving.

This is a good time of year to think of gratitude generally and what you’re thankful for specifically. At the same time, it’s a great time of year to spread good feelings, which you can do by letting others know when you appreciate something they have done for you. In the time of the pandemic it may mean a phone call, email or text, but it’s import to take the time to reach out, thereby investing in your relationships.

Those of you who have younger children (or older ones…) know you end up reminding them to say “thank you” all of the time. That is because thanking someone or showing gratitude is a learned behavior. If it came naturally or from observing others we wouldn’t have to teach children to do so.

Hopefully you remember to thank people as appropriate in your daily life. In a usual year, this may be thanking someone holding the door for me when I get to my office, for holding the elevator for me, or for making a pot of hot water so I can have tea and get that needed caffeine injection upon arriving for work. In this year, it includes thanking people on my team for coordinating between those working in the office and at home to complete tasks needed to serve my clients’ interests. Many of these situations are universal to all of us, but I am sure we all remember holding a door for someone and they walk through without saying anything.

Of course, if you go through your day looking for when people should be thanking you, you likely will be disappointed. Instead, I think about how I want to come across to others, as well as ways I don’t want to come across to others.

We all have bad days, but most days we should recognize when thanking someone is proper and appropriate. This time of year is a reminder to says things you may usually only think to yourself. Positive feedback is energizing, and hopefully the person you provide it to pays it forward. Plus, it has the added bonus of making you or the other person feel good, making it a great way to go through life.

No Comments

Hard work matters

Success doesn’t just happen. Show me an “overnight success” and I’ll show you someone who worked hard for a long time to enjoy what seems like overnight success. True success usually only is possible where someone has put in the proverbial 10,000 hours to master their craft or business.

Hard work and investing in yourself pays off, in the long run. If you aren’t willing to put in the time, your chances of success are minimal to none. You also have to know that working hard doesn’t guaranty success, but it provides a better chance. It breeds luck and opportunity.

Ask any successful sales person how many doors they knocked on or calls they made before becoming successful. The answer will be “a lot!” Then you will hear stories about how doing so turned into success. The common theme will be about the knock or call that became a big sale, or a connection to a number of other sales. Sometimes it was the knock or call they almost didn’t make when they felt like calling it a day. When you are willing to put in the time, there’s a better chance “luck” will be on your side.

This type of investment in and commitment to whatever you are doing gives you the best chance to succeed. I have heard story after story from people in different industries or businesses who tell similar tales where people think their success was immediate when it wasn’t. What those asking don’t realize is the time and energy these people invested in themselves leading to that success, and the failures they experienced along the way.

That’s right, most successful people have endured failure during some point in their career. You know the saying, “you learn more from failure than success.” This is true. Sometimes you work hard and fail. When this happens you need to pick yourself up, take time for self reflection to learn from the experience, and move forward.

That is the usual route most of us take, working through small successes and small to large failures on the road towards success. Again, hard work doesn’t guaranty reaching your idea of success, but it provides the foundation to give you a better chance.

Ask most successful people you know and you will hear a good story about what it took to reach where they are. What may surprise you is these same successful people continue to try to improve. They know that gaining success is only part of the journey. You also have to continue to work hard to maintain success.

No Comments

Follow your inspiration

Where does inspiration come from? There isn’t a single answer. Something that inspires you may not inspire me and vice versa. What inspires me today may be different than what will inspire me tomorrow. The source of inspiration is ever changing, which is why it is different day to day and can hit you at times that seem unlikely, such as the middle of the night or when you are in the shower.

Inspiration may be conscious or may sneak up on you . This reminds me of a lyric from the Pearl Jam song Release: “I’ll ride the wave where it takes me.” You have to be open to inspiration and embrace it when it comes. If you don’t, it will be gone in an instant, like a wave. The challenge is your best thoughts or ideas can come to you at any time.

I encourage you to embrace inspiration whenever it is there. This may mean having paper and a pen on your night stand or walking out of a shower dripping wet to write down an idea. You need to be open to and accept inspiration whenever it appears. That is the only way you will have the chance to follow the muse and see where it can take you.

No Comments

Be passionate about the client experience

Delivering a great experience to every client every time you interact with them is important. You want to treat them so they feel like they’re your priority even though they know you have many other clients and matters you’re working on. To do this you need to be conscious of the experience you’re providing no matter the type of communication.

It’s easier to do this in person than on the phone or through email or text because of the immediate feedback you receive from observing what your client is saying and their body language. When communication is in writing, it’s flat and more difficult to understand any emotion or tone.

Clients want to know we care. Luckily, there are many ways to show you care. You can demonstrate empathy for the client’s situation, listen fully to what they are communicating to you, and by honoring the commitments you make on getting back to them or completing a project or task. Sometimes you’ll miss, but hopefully it doesn’t happen often. If it does, you need to reset your client’s expectations in a manner that lets them know they and their matter remain a priority to you.

Delivering a great client experience also means paying attention to the simple mechanics of customer service. For example, it is better to over communicate with your client than the alternative. If you are communicating too much for their liking, they will let you know, hopefully in a constructive manner.

It also is of the utmost importance to return calls and emails promptly. Nothing says “you and your issues are not my priority” than responding to people in an untimely manner. If you have problems with this, you need to come up with a way to ensure you timely respond, whether through a to do list or setting tasks or appointments in your calendar.

All of us are in the customer service business. If I don’t provide great service to my clients, there are a lot of other attorneys and firms who will. The same is true in your line of work, which makes it important to try to set a goal to exceed your clients’ expectations in relation to the customer experience you provide.

No Comments

Share This