Everywhere you look you are told hard work pays off. This is
true, as is the fact that hard work is required to become successful. But as
you gain experience and have success, the formula should change and you should
By working smarter I mean a few things. The first is that
you should be able to streamline much of what you do. This may be through
utilizing technology that saves you time or keeps you more organized. It also
could be that your experience allows you to complete certain tasks or types of
Second, you should be delegating work. This allows you to
push work down to younger or less experienced co-workers. In my world that
means having associate attorneys do certain projects such as research and
writing, which saves me time and the client money. It also allows you to focus
on higher-level tasks. By delegating work you can choose the work you enjoy
more or create the time to develop more work.
Third, choose to work when you have the most energy. When you are first working you it feels like you have to be in the office when your superiors show up in the morning and when they leave at night. As you gain experience and the people you work with and for know you get your work done, you hopefully can schedule how you work.
If you aren’t a morning person, having to be in the office and working by 8 am won’t help you get more done. I know someone like this who starts work after 10 am each day, but then works into the evening. If you are a morning person or the opposite, try working to your body’s rhythms and see if it helps you get more done. It also may help you feel more rested and maybe even experience a touch less stress.
These are just a few ideas for working smarter. We all should be open to trying new ideas and strategies that may help us do so. If you do, hopefully you will find a few ideas that will work for you.
Picture this: you are working on an important project with a fast approaching deadline when suddenly an email comes into your inbox and your computer makes a sound alerting you to this new email. What do you do? You know the answer for most people is that they open the email, thereby interrupting their work and train of thought on the time-sensitive project. We all have been there and the new email is hard to resist.
I have been speaking to more and more people, who, though clearly in the minority, ignore the new email and plow forward on the project in front of them. You probably are thinking “what do these people do with their email?” They tell me they actually set specific times of the day to review and respond to email. One person told me he reviews email at 8 am and 2 pm each day. Another told me he does so at 11 am and 4 pm each day. These two and others I have spoken with swear it works. They all believe it allows them to truly focus on the things they want and need to work on .
I like the idea, but worry about what time-sensitive email I will miss if I turn off the email notifications and only check it a few times each day. Of course the answer is to retrain people to call you if they have a true emergency or time-sensitive issue at hand. I still am trying to wrap my head around whether this idea may work for me, but I could get there in the future.
In a day and age when everyone expects instantaneous response times for emails and other electronic communications, it’s hard to bite the bullet and be less in touch. But it also could be a differentiator. In my case, maybe my clients would appreciate the notion that when I am working on their matter I am focused on it and nothing else.
If any of you work this way or decide to try to do so, I would appreciate feedback on your experience and what feedback you receive about doing so from your colleagues, business partners and clients.
It is important to provide people with feedback in the
workplace. Feedback should be positive or in the form of constructive
criticism. Purely negative feedback accomplishes nothing and is the sign of a
poor corporate culture.
If you are providing positive feedback, make it meaningful. You should praise someone’s work or actions when it’s really deserved and you mean what you say. Being overly complimentary all of the time won’t help morale or people improve in the long run.
In our participation trophy world, praise can be handed out too much and in situations where it’s not warranted. Don’t give positive feedback when it isn’t deserved. If you do it only will cause problems down the road.
In a similar vein, people withhold praise when it would provide validation for an employee who did a good job and deserves it. I know it can be hard to always know how complimentary to be or when to provide some constructive criticism. The better you know the person the easier it should be to know how and when to provide feedback.
If you start thinking about providing feedback more often
you likely can find the balance in trying to provide the right amount of
feedback to your co-workers. Try it and see the positive effect it can have on
you and your workplace.
Consistency and organization matter. The idea is to have a plan and put it into place. What that plan is and how you put it into place will be different depending on you, your business and how you like to work.
For instance, I use a hand written to do list, but also rely on calendaring and tasks in Outlook. This can result in redundancy, but with some of the types of deadlines I am dealing with, I like that.
Others I know block out certain times in their day for specific activities. This can include blocking out a block of time to review email, and not constantly monitor it. At times, I do something similar in part by blocking out time for specific projects that may take longer and on which I need to really focus.
Also, for me, this is an evolving process. I am always looking at how I can better plan and be better organized. It is very important in my day because many times I am working on a significant number of legal matters during the same day, which can negatively affect my focus if I’m not careful.
Think about how you plan your day to work on or be in touch with the projects and people you want and need to. Then think about how we can plan to be better organized to do so. Last, share the insights that work for you with others and pass it on.
The only person who can limit your imagination is you. What I mean is that if you think there are limits regarding what you can do or accomplish you will encounter self-created self-fulfilling prophesies. If you think about this you will know it’s true.
Negative thinking stops positive momentum. It doesn’t matter whether it’s me thinking I can’t do better than my opposing counsel at trial or a running back thinking he can’t get past the other team’s defensive line. If you approach a situation thinking you can’t, you won’t. Of course the opposite isn’t the same because if you think you can, you might, but you certainly will have a better chance of being successful.
It is better to be like The Little Engine That Could (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5TPUwrURo6M) than thinking the challenge ahead of you is impossible. The Little Engine said “I think I can, I think I can” and, what do you know – spoiler alert – it pulled that long train over that steep mountain.
Next time you have a similar type of challenge, tell yourself you can do it, and give yourself a better chance for success.
We are a week out from Thanksgiving. This is a good time of year to think of gratitude generally and what you are 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.
Those of you who have younger children (or older ones…) know that 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 my day, this can 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. Many of these situations are universal to all of us, but I notice when I hold 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. Plus, it has the added bonus of making you or the other person feel good, making it a great way to go through life.
Many people wait for inspiration to strike them before doing something, whether it be work related or writing a novel. Those same people stop working once their inspiration wanes. It’s as if they are waiting for everything to be perfect, from how they are feeling, to the time of day, to whether the moon is full. You get the idea. The more hurdles they create for the timing to be right to get down to work, the less likely it is they will get much, if anything, done.
If you just take the physical act of sitting down and starting to work you have a significantly better chance to get your work done. It also helps if you cut out distractions. For instance, do not check your email, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc. when you sit down, as it only delays getting to work. If you have a big or special project, sitting down at whatever time of day is the time of day you work best, without distractions, will get you on the road to completing your project.
Like most things, if you make this your routine, you will find you knock out important work when you are fresh and ready to work. It also will help you meet the expectations of those you work with and for. Plus, you don’t need to worry, your email and social media will be there waiting for you when you finish that project.
Have you ever thought about this? Even if you have, how would you know? I once read a quote that said “the difference between the ways a person treats the powerless and the powerful is as good a measure of human character as I know.” The quote is from Robert I. Sutton, who is a professor at Stanford.
The quote reminds me of my first employer after law school and someone whose lessons still resonate with me today. This individual was nice and respectful to everyone, whether they were powerful (think federal judges) or powerless (think the janitors or security people at the courthouse). Watching these interactions as a young professional had a profound effect on me. Now, in hindsight, I think it helped build my character and in turn, be a better person.
A corollary to the idea of how you treat different people can be seen in business organizations. In some businesses, people are allowed to get away with abusing people, especially if they are “stars,” and may even be rewarded for trampling people on their way up. Other businesses won’t tolerate this type of behavior no matter how successful and profitable the bad actor is.
Think about what is acceptable or not at your place of employment. Is the culture one that is built on people having character and treating people well? Or is the culture one where everyone is out for themselves and character doesn’t matter? We are all different, so you may not be concerned with whether someone like me would think you and those around you have character.
On the other hand, I would like to believe that most of us think having character is important. The positives that comes from having character are endless. The next time you have an opportunity to speak with the janitor at your office, do so. It’s the sort of thing that people of character do, and it will reflect well on you even if you are the only one who knows the conversation happened.
How are you an expert? We all have things we are really good at doing, and the possibilities are endless. You could be an expert in what you do for a living such as computer programming, medicine, plumbing or auto repair, or maybe you are an expert at something like Sudoku, stamp collecting, video games or Star Wars trivia. Maybe you are an expert in more than one area.
What you are expert in may be things that come naturally to you, or it could be something you learn. The easy example is if you are an expert in drawing versus Star Wars trivia.
For me, I feel am in expert at what I do for a living. I feel this way based my experience, the time I have spent learning about issues and law, the time I still spend learning about new law that may assist me in advising my clients and what I have learned from formal and informal mentor.
You should think about how you are an expert. You also should think about how you want to be an expert, i.e. is there something you can put in your 10,000 hours at learning or doing to become an expert? Focusing your interests, whether personal or professional, to become an expert may help you to have a better life experience. Plus, if you learn enough Star Wars or other trivia, you may be able to beat your friends and family at trivia games!
Ignorance rules, allowing misinformation to be a scourge on our society. Sometimes it comes by way of special interests. Many times misinformation is spread by people speaking about things as if they now what they are talking about, but they don’t. This only leads to disagreements in the future because no one can agree on a truth.
You can help this happen less. The first way is by letting people know when you are speaking about something you believe as opposed to something you know. The second is by questioning people about what they are telling you to determine whether they are speaking about something know or something they believe. You can do this in a respectful manner. It is similar to checking the facts.
I recently listened to a podcast of an interview with the guy who came up with Wikipedia. He explained why, at one point in time early on, they decided people needed to start including footnotes to sources when they were posting or editing entries.
It seems obvious why that is a good idea, and it’s no different than fact-checking during a conversation. If you do this, it hopefully will help stop the spread of misinformation, which is important because the facts matter.