Travel extensively and meet people

Make travel your norm. We all need to take breaks from work and recharge. If you wait for when you have more time or retire, that time may never come. Or maybe you will retire one day, but be physically unable to go to the places you always hoped and planned to. This is part of work/life balance.

When you travel, immerse yourself in local culture and places. Attempt to meet (hopefully interesting) locals to make your travels more fruitful and expand your world. If you do meet good people, try to keep in touch—it makes your daily life richer and fuller.

I was at a family event back East recently. Part of the draw, in addition to seeing family and friends, was that two former foreign exchange students who lived with relatives of mine years ago were also there with their significant others and kids. Each family had travelled from England and Denmark, respectively. I’ve been in touch with the family from Denmark over the years, but hadn’t seen them in approximately two and half years. I hadn’t seen the couple from England in 13 or 14 years and had never met their children. It was great to reconnect with both families in person.

Not only will I now stay in better touch with the family from England, but one of my nieces made a great connection in her chosen area of study. You never know who you’ll meet or how they may help you or you might help them in life if you’re not open to meeting new people or reconnecting.

And when I talk about travel, I don’t mean every trip needs to be the “trip of a lifetime” to Europe, a safari, or an expensive flight to a remote island. It can be a short weekend in town, a staycation, or a trip to a town an hour or two away. But try different places and activities—sometimes you don’t know you like something until you try it

The point is to give your brain and body a break, as well as spending quality time with your family and friends, hopefully meeting interesting locals or other travelers along the way. Your life will be that much more interesting for you and to others.

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Try to be different not better

I know you may be thinking I want to be seen as different by my peers. But showing people you’re different will go a long way to proving you are better. For instance, I’ve written about my firm’s intentional culture known as the JW Way because it makes us different than most other law firms.

What I’ve found is that most potential clients and referral sources are attracted to the JW Way and what it says about my firm. We understand that the JW Way may not be for every client, but that just means they should be working with another firm or a different attorney.

So think about differentiates you from your competitors; it’s also likely to be what makes you better. Letting people know why you’re different is more intriguing than telling someone you are better. The former is interesting and the latter is cocky. How do you want to come across? And it goes without saying that speaking about your company’s values will come off better than slagging your competitors.

 

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Read all the time

Sometimes it is what you know, despite the universally repeated cliché “everything is who you know, not what you know.” Who you know is important, but what are you going to speak about with the people you know or meet? What you know, of course. The more you know, the more topics you can speak intelligently on with those you know and meet. This is important in the real world.

And what should you read? The answer is what you like. It helps if that includes being up on the news, at least generally. Read the headlines, whether from the New York Times, msn.com, the Wall Street Journal, USA Today, etc. If you read articles that interest you and skim the other headlines and articles generally, it will allow you to participate in more conversations with others.

You may not be a sports person, but skimming most news sources last week would have told you the Houston Astros won the World Series.  Even knowing this bit of information can help you make your way into a conversation with someone you want to meet at an event. Of course, it will be up to you to turn the conversation to where you would like it to go, or at least to a subject on which you know more than the headline and are more comfortable.

Reading other things also is helpful. It can be fiction or non-fiction, which hopefully provides you with books you can recommend to others. Maybe you will find one that impacts you deeply enough you should be sending copies to certain people you know, including clients or business partners. Unexpected gratuitous gifts are a good way to be remembered by others who you hope keep you in mind.

Reading is the equivalent of investing in yourself. Aren’t you worth the time and investment?

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Invest time in yourself to lower your stress level

There is the old proverb “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” Hundreds of years ago when this proverb came into use it meant that if you only work you would be bored or boring. My point to you is different: All work and no play makes Jack a stressed boy or Jane a stressed girl. This is something you know, but are you willing to try new steps to lower your stress level?

Many activities can help you lower manage stress. Your choice may depend on the time you have available each day to invest in yourself. And I know this is a function of the business you are in, what is going on with your children or family, the demands of your spouse, etc. so the hour and a half hike or bike ride might be out, but you probably have time for 20 minutes of yoga. Again, the idea is to find something to fit into your busy day and the time to do it.

For instance, I have figured out that if I fit things in first thing in the morning it is much more likely they will happen. I have two main things that I try to fit into my daily and weekly routines that lend themselves to the time I have. The first is hiking and the second is meditation.

This morning, before doing anything else, I meditated and then went on a hike. I know some you are thinking meditation is not for everyone, and maybe specifically not for you. I used to think that way too. After learning about it more through a program at work a few years ago, I tried unsuccessfully to incorporate it into my routine a few different times. This summer that changed.

I have meditated almost every day since June. Two things helped me do this. The first was the resolve to make time and see if I found benefits from the activity. Second was the app Headspace, which has guided meditations, including on different topics that you may find interesting such as productivity, stress, etc.

I won’t lie and say that it’s been easy to fit in 10 minutes every day. It’s not. And I know it sounds as funny reading that as it is for me to write it. How can it be hard to find 10 minutes in your day? Trust me, it is. But the benefits I think I get from meditation have focused me on continuing to make it a part of my routine and it is now something I look forward to doing each morning.

Interestingly, I think the hiking I do is an extension of and  related to the meditation in that it puts me in a happy place. For instance, this morning I came up with ideas for blogs, including this one. Before doing that, I finished a podcast involving an interview that I was interested in. Sometimes I listen to the news. Sometimes I listen to music. Sometimes I do think about work, but if I have something such as a trial or deposition that day, odds are I am at home or work preparing and I have changed my routine because of the nature of that day.

These activities together help keep me better centered and less stressed than I would be if I did not do them. And I am not suggesting that each of you should take up meditation and hiking, though I do think you should try meditation. Instead, I think you need to figure out what will help to focus on yourself for even a short time each day to see how it improves your life. Once you do, try to make it a routine and I think you’ll be happy with the results.

And if you want to try meditation, I suggest you go here: https://www.headspace.com

 

 

 

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Routine Makes You More Productive

You know this intuitively. If each day you have to do the same task(s), figuring out the best time of day, time frame and way to do those tasks will help you be more productive. The more you get done, likely the less stress you will have, which is good for you and everyone you deal with.

For instance, when I first get into my office each morning I address my email inbox to determine who I need to respond to, what projects I need to work on and go about adding these items to my to do list. I do this before starting any project and before getting on the phone because if I wait until later in the day, my email tends to get out of hand and matters I should be dealing with may roll into the next day. When that happens, I am not as responsive as I want to be and reflects badly on me and my firm. That clearly is not something I want happening.

Of course you have to be able to bend your routine at times. Sometimes I have something on my calendar or an emergency situation for a client and I have to alter my routine. In doing so, I always know that I am going to have to deal with it later, which can mean, in my case, continuing to work through email that evening or early the next morning while still at home. I highly value work-life balance, but I also value my sanity upon arriving at the office in the morning…

You may not deal with a high level of email in your business, but there are other tasks that certainly can be put into the category or routine or repetitive. Think about how you deal with these. Is it the same each day? If not, be honest with yourself about whether the way you deal with it wastes time and makes you less productive.

I suggest picking one task to turn into a routine. Try for four weeks and see how it goes. This will take discipline and focus. If you can create a routine for and stick with it for even one repetitive task, it will help you and your business.

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Show Appreciation

We previously established that your success rests on the shoulders of all who have lifted you up through your journey. This includes all who assisted you, taught you, mentored you, the person who told you how to navigate the corporate bureaucracy, told who you needed to know, who introduced you to who you needed to know. You get the idea. People like this exist throughout your career. The names and faces change, but without them you do not go as far or experience as much success.

Remember to thank these people. Maybe you did. Maybe you didn’t. Maybe you did sometimes. It never is too late. Never. Most people are not helping you seeking your thanks and appreciation. But showing appreciation is abut you and who you are. Make sure those who were there for you know how you feel, that you appreciate what they have done for you. I know one woman who still thanks a mentor from years and years ago in writing once a year and every time they speak. That is how its done!

It is up to you to choose how to show appreciation. Know your audience. Some people will appreciate a handwritten note or letter. Others will appreciate a text or email, though these really are too informal for the types of people and assistance I am talking about. I think you should err on the side of caution and make your thanks take a form more formal than you think it needs to be. You can never go wrong when you do so.

Sometimes you will want to include a gift. If you think you might need to, you need to. Make it something thoughtful. A book you like (and think the person will too). A bottle of wine. Flowers. If you are not sure, ask someone who knows the person’s interests. If you don’t know someone who does, again err on the side of caution and use what you know about them to make the best choice you can. But try not to over do it. It is not about the cost, but the thought.

The one thing you don’t want to do is forgot to thank those you should. When you do, they will remember. They will mention it to others, which in turn will enhance your reputation as one who cares and appreciates others, thereby continuing to lift you higher on their shoulders. And while you are being lifted on their shoulders, they are being lifted by those who have helped them, completing the circle that results in a pyramid of people lifting each other up continuously through time. This kind of appreciation and courtesy is what helps make your world the type of environment in which you want to live.

 

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Helping others succeed is in your own best interest

Successful people want others to succeed while unsuccessful people secretly hope others fail. I read something like this a while back and it stuck with me. The point is we are all in it together. Rarely does someone succeed alone and even when it appears they did, they probably had someone (or a number of people) helping them along the way.

Athletes have coaches. And so do many business people and professionals. Musicians rarely are self-taught. The same is true for business people and professionals. Most of us were students who had teachers, whether in school, an apprenticeship, etc. You get the idea; it is rough going on your own and makes it much more likely you will make serious mistakes teachers and mentors can help you avoid.

I have been lucky enough to have formal and informal mentors along my road. Without them it would have taken me much longer to achieve many things I have personally and professionally. Or maybe I would have missed opportunities because I didn’t even know they were there, or not made it as far as I have.

So leave your ego at the door and help people in your life succeed. Not only will it probably end up benefiting you at some point (but you can’t count on that and it’s not the reason to do it), but it will make you feel good helping others. Plus, success really is contagious. Try it and see.

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Answer the Question

Listen to what people ask you and answer their questions directly. Too many people either do not listen fully to the person they are speaking with or ignore what is being asked. In almost all situations, conversations will go better, and definitely take less time, if the person answering answers the questions instead of going off based on their own agenda.

I know many of you are thinking “this does not apply to all circumstances.” True. But it applies to most. When people sidestep a question and start rambling on it usually looks like the person is being defensive, has something to hide or both. And I admit that some questions are confusing, but if you do not understand the question, you should say so and ask the person to ask again until you do.

In my world, this comes up in court. Judges ask questions and attorneys usually respond in whatever way they believe will help their client and case. Sometimes they remember to come back at the end and address the actual question, but many times they do not. Speak with any judge and you will learn one of their biggest pet peeves is attorneys not just answering what the judge has asked. As with other situations, it makes judges question that attorney’s position because they can’t or won’t answer the question directly, instead addressing their own agenda, i.e. it is looked at as being defensive and coming from a point of weakness.

So how do you want to be perceived by those you deal with professionally and personally? I am sure you want to be believed and not thought of as defensive or hiding the ball. If so, remember that part of listening fully is to directly answer questions you are asked.

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Organization is important

  • Organizing is what you do before you do something, so that when you do it, it is not all mixed up. ~ A.A. Milne

 

Yes, I just quoted the author of Winnie-the-Pooh. And he is right, which is both obvious and apparent, especially to those of us trying to stay organized. Let’s be honest, it is a constant struggle. You have your business life and your personal life. Some people keep separate calendars for each. Others are like me and keep one calendar for everything lest they miss anything.

And what works for me to stay organized and focused may not work for you, and vice versa. At home, I am having this challenge with my perpetually disorganized twelve year old daughter. At this point in time she fits the old saying “she would lose her head if it wasn’t attached.” In trying to advise her on organization, I have been speaking with her about what I do, and what others have told me they do, because I do not know what will work for her.

So, if you are not naturally organized, do you have a system? For instance, I use calendar reminders that are synced across my work and personal computers and devices, as well as using hand-written “to do” lists or lists I email to myself. What about you? Do you use a different method or combination of methods? Maybe certain software or an app?

As with most things, you should take time every so often to assess your state of organization….or lack thereof. Maybe you are reading this and realizing that your system or methods are failing you and you really are not as organized as you thought. If that is the case, you need to take action because disorganization leads to wasted time and lost money or opportunity. It could be forgetting to connect with the great lead you met last night at an event. Or it could be it causes you to have less time to spend with your family. Whatever it is in your life, disorganization is equivalent to loss.

Don’t let this happen to you. Take time to assess your level of organization. It might be working fine, or maybe it needs a tweak. Or maybe it needs an overhaul. If so, do it sooner than later because it will save you time and lead to time better spent personally and professionally.

And if you think you have a great system or method, please share it with me.

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Change Happens

What is hot tomorrow won’t be forever. Today’s styles and trends likely will have changed by this time next year, if not sooner. You can look no further than general music trends from the ’80’s through now.

Back then rock ruled. Think Queen, Led Zeppelin, etc. Then glam rock became big – think of Guns-n-Roses, Motley Crue and Poison – only to be kicked to the curb by Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden and grunge rock. After that there was the era of the boys bands, and now pop and rap rule the charts and airwaves. And what artists or bands are popular changes all the time. And always did.

The same happens in the fields we all are in. Change is constant. It may be because of technology, which generally impacts all of us. It may be like in law, where new cases are published by Courts all of the time changing or narrowing the law. Or maybe you are an accountant and deal with the ever-changing tax code. If you think about it and are honest with yourself, you probably can name what has changed in your business in the first half of 2017.

Change actually is what keeps things interesting. In our evolving world, either continually adapt or get out of the way of those of us who do.

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