Did you know that January has been a time of introspection as far back as ancient Rome? The Roman god Janus – this month’s namesake – was the Roman mythological symbol of change, beginnings, transitions, doors, and endings. A two-faced god, he looked to the future and also to the past.
As we begin 2015, many of us are spending time in similar contemplation. We look back and we look forward, and we try to translate what we see about ourselves and our lives into future conduct, action and resolve.
But this year I’ve wondered – given the number of my resolutions that have fallen by the wayside in the past – what are some techniques for making these resolutions stick? I decided to survey some friends and colleagues who (like many of us) lead high-stress lives to explore what has worked for them in past years, and what hasn’t.
Out of these discussions emerged several New Year’s resolutions that seem particularly apt for lawyers, as well as some “Best Practices” for achieving them.
Resolutions Fitting for Lawyers
1) Talk more; email less. Connect with others – whether it’s family, clients, opposing counsel, or friends. Really connect. Putting away our electronics and picking up the phone or meeting face-to-face allows us to better listen to others, find out what they need, and meet those needs.
2) Fear less and act more. Set realistic goals, but push the boundary of how you define “realistic.” Take pride in what you accomplish rather than grieving over (or fearing) the non-successes. We’re more likely to regret non-action than action. And don’t forget, taking action includes asking others to act – like asking a potential client for work, asking to be assigned to a particular case or firm committee … or even asking for vacation time.
3) Delegate more and delegate well. Explore new ways to work with others that will free up your time to focus on what you do best. In other words, maximize your thinking and doing time; not your organizing and planning time. Hand off the mechanical or repeat tasks to your assistant. (One attorney I know carves out focus hours each day during which her assistant reviews all incoming email for top priority items, and she isn’t distracted by the inbox unless necessary.) Spend the up-front time now to train an associate in areas that don’t require your individual attention, and reap the benefits all year.
Best Practices for Keeping Your Resolutions
1) Focus on the process rather than the goal. Two questions that I resolve to ask myself at the end of every day are: (1) What did I learn today? and (2) Did I help someone I didn’t have to help? My larger goal, of course, is to make sure that I learn and help every day. Resolving to ask myself these questions, however, creates accountability and a process for evaluating how I’m doing with my goal.
2) Set quarterly start-dates for your resolutions. You’re probably not going to learn to play the piano, find more time for your kids, and lose 10 pounds in January. Think about what you can realistically accomplish, and set “start dates” at different points throughout the year. Doing this maximizes excitement and wards off feelings of discouragement.
3) Share your resolutions with others. By bringing your friends, coworkers, and families in on your goals, you create accountability to yourself and support from others.
Happy New Year!
Danielle Lackey is President and CEO of CadenceCounsel, Inc., a professional services organization that connects top-tier attorneys exclusively with law firms. Ranging from solo, to boutique, to full service, firms call on Cadence to supplement their high-end practices on an as-needed basis, profitably responding to the inevitable peaks, valleys, and flexible demands of a busy law firm.