Monthly Archives: March 2015

Rural Lawyer: Not Quite Mad Yet

March brings the first of spring’s gentle caresses to the little law office on the prairie and with them comes that mild madness that draws us out of our winter dens and onto the thawing landscape far earlier than prudence would dictate. Now, the heart becomes a bit lighter, lifted out of winter’s gloom; buoyed by the hope that we will be able to get an early jump on all that must be done once summer comes. For it must be a madness that possess us to venture out; March is nothing if not uncertainty – for what was a snowbank yesterday may be mud today and ice tomorrow and a balmy morning breeze can be either a harbinger of an evening’s icy blast or the handmaiden to a sun-drenched afternoon. While this madness may tempt us to greet Ostara sky clad, the prairie March teaches us to approach this turning point in the year systematically and to keep both winter’s outerwear and spring’s gum boots at hand.

Transitions seem beckon protocol and celebration – new years, birthdays, weddings, the seasons are noted and marked in a variety of ways. And yet, too often, the more mundane transitions that are a common place to a law practice go without a trace of pomp (to say nothing of the lack of circumstance) or protocol. Now, it would be madness to suggest that we provide cake and cookies each time we set up a new client file, receive a retainer, complete our monthly accounting, or close out a matter (though I will admit that completing one’s income tax does seem to call for chocolate and single malt) but these events, and the myriad of other transitions that abound in our practices, do call out for some type of protocol; some system to guide us as we mark their occurrence.

Perhaps it is the influence of my pilot training, but here at the little law office at the prairie checklists are the de facto protocol for common transitions. I like checklists for a number of reasons – they are simple (all you need is pen and paper to create a template) they are flexible (changes can be easily made), they are visual (I can see where I am and where I’m going at a glance), they can help prevent that nagging feeling you forgot something, and they are supported by my practice management software (supported, heck, they are built in and can be automated).

The only downside to checklists is that there will be a point when you start to think you might have a few too many and that it is somewhat ridiculous to keep filling them out now that you’ve been in practice for umpteen years now. First, let me go on record as saying there is no such thing as too many checklists (I have 13 pages of checklists for the single engine Cessna I fly and 24 pages for the twin engine Beechcraft and that’s just for the non-emergency stuff) but if it makes you feel better, simply stuff your checklists into a 3 ring binder, call it your risk management manual and send a copy to your malpractice insurance provider; they’ll love you for it and who knows, you might even get a discount on your premium. As for the assumption that experience trumps the checklist – let me point out that the pilots who safely landed their plane in the Hudson credit their success not to their 1000’s of hours of experience, but to their training and to their checklists. They flew their plane by “the book” not by experience.

ChecklistBC

Andy Peterson

Insanity logic?

I have heard the saying that “Insanity is doing something over and over again and expecting a different result.”

Many on the internet debate who originated that quote or whether one could legally argue the psychological insanity of an individual based on this quote.  I would rather reflect on this as a metaphor and the all too common belief that things will just get better if we ignore them. While similar, but not related, Newton’s First Law of motion states that an object at rest or in motion will continue unless acted upon by an outside force.  A natural motion whether it is physical of fiscal will continue unless a separate act occurs.

Kahuna happens to exists in the middle of one of the greatest statewide madness debacles known to modern history.  Currently ranked 4th worst in the US for the largest state debt at just over $321 billion, Illinois is the epitome of a fiscal challenge which continues down a path of increasing debt.  Almost daily, every newspaper and TV news anchor in the state is reporting on the growing list of critics to the situation and those that don’t want to change.

Too often we are influenced only by the emotion of an issue, but fail to take a rational look at the situation outside of the emotional elements.  No one honestly wants someone to be out on the streets, to question proper fire or police protection, drive on roads that are dangerous, or our children to receive subpar education.  Unfortunately these forms of misrepresentation are the focus of the media and pundits to bolster their ratings or perception to the public.

Everyone is portrayed as needing assistance, but not wanting to give to help the overall cause.   This isn’t about the worthiness of any one department, group or need, but rather a focus on the merit in the long term choice to try to make a change and expect a change to occur.

I believe in a level of integrity that recognizes responsibility for any outcome, which can and will make a difference to everyone.  We don’t need to blame anyone for our challenges, and this realization should be carried into our public sector.  Making the conscious decision to accept this challenge and begin changing for a new tomorrow is the only chance to expect a different outcome.

A true test of character is not whether an individual takes advantage of a situation, but rather if they were given the opportunity to take advantage of a situation and chose not to do so.  Choosing to not taking advantage of the situation and an honest perspective of where we are, will produce a far better outcome in the future.

 

David A. Moore

17 Ways to Beat Procrastination

150309 Procratination_quote_IMG_0392In politics, there is the strategy of “deny, deny, deny” when you get in trouble. Many times, the more overwhelmed I get, I start to “delay, delay, delay”.

I am a world-class procrastinator. I can put things off and delay up until the very last minute. But…when it’s crunch time, I can always deliver.

I think that’s part of my problem. I don’t realize some of the negative effects of procrastination, because I do meet deadlines and deliver quality under pressure. I consider myself a “productive procrastinator”.

So it’s early Monday morning as I write this article. But I’m writing it now, only because I received an email this past weekend as a reminder. (So naturally I’d write about procrastination.)

You can train yourself to beat procrastination. Everybody is a little different. Here are a few ideas that have worked me:

1. Morning ritual

When I’m functioning my best, I am usually very consistent with my morning routine. I’m getting up at the same time everyday, listening to a good book, working out, and eating well. Find a consistent routine and stick with it.

2. Clear your work area

When I get overwhelmed, I procrastinate. And messy or cluttered surroundings tend to give me a sense of overwhelm. I can always tell, the messier my desk, the more I procrastinate and the less productive I get.

3. Have a clear plan

Without a plan, you don’t have direction. You can waste tons of time just fiddling with your schedule or trying to figure out where to start. Have a clear plan on the three big tasks for the day (everyday).

4. Eliminate distractions

Shut off email notifications and silence your phone so you don’t hear new texts coming in or the phone ringing. Close your door and get busy. 

5. Beat the clock

Set a timer. A Pomodoro is 25 minutes but set the clock for just 10 minutes and try to complete a task. Gamify your project. Once you get started the 10 minutes will turn into more.

6. Get some fresh air

Get outside, walk, take some deep breaths. Breaking up the routine may give you a kick start.

7. Get some help

Team up with someone. Not only may they be able to help with the workload or creativity, but they will hold you accountable. 

8. Prepare in advance

Have the necessary materials and information gathered in advance. Before it’s time to actually do the task, do all the preparation work. That way, when the time comes, you are ready to go and don’t find yourself distracted.

 9. Break it down

If it’s a bigger project, bite off tiny pieces of it. Do these bite size tasks every day.

 10. No TV

I like to work with noise in the background, usually a TV in my office. It may have a DVR show, the news, or CNBC on the screen. But when I’m having trouble, I must shut off the TV.

11. Power nap

The benefits of napping are clearly documented. Seems very counter-productive but a quick power nap in the afternoon and help you finish strong.

 12. Feel the beat

Crank up the music for a few minutes. Your favorite music can change your mood and energy level. And play it loud! (co-workers would appreciate the use of headphones)

 13. Take a drink

Coffee is the standard go-to. But try some tea too. And, for me, I love a good Red Bull every now and then.

14. Eat something

It doesn’t have to be much. Something as simple as chewing gum or a piece of hard candy can do the trick. I like an apple, banana or crackers.

15. Just do it

Easier said than done. But sometimes you just have to suck it up and JUST DO IT!

16. What’s the downside

If you fail to deliver, what are the consequences? Some are motivated by the fear of failure. Will procrastination have negative financial impact? Or will your personal reputation or credibility suffer? Usually the answer is “Yes”.

17. Reward yourself

Lastly, give yourself a big fat prize for overcoming the procrastination. I won’t give myself a new set of golf clubs for delivering this article, but I will turn on the TV and watch a DVR’d show.

There you have 17 ways to beat the procrastination habit. Are they foolproof? Not hardly, but they certainly help me. Procrastination is part of me and something I find even the most productive people struggle with. But look, I just delivered my article on time and feel great about the rest of my day. Good luck.