Mastering the To-Do List

This post originally appeared in Susan Kostal's Legal Marketing Bits & Bites Newsletter. Sign up for more content here.

I was asked recently to supply a single piece of advice for lawyers for Be It Resolved, a compilation of New Year’s resolutions published jointly by Attorney at Work, where I have a monthly column, and Greenfield Belser, one of the legal field’s premier brand design firms. So in honor of January, I’m expanding on the concept I shared, which entails a mindful observation of the balance of work, business development, and personal life. I make my to-do lists on an old-fashioned legal pad. I can’t remember when I started this retro habit, but it’s stuck despite my optimistic albeit short-lived experiments with numerous electronic and cloud-based lists. It lives next to my computer and prompts me to some sort of productivity every time I sit down. I date the page, and then divide it into four quadrants: Top Left: Immediate Work, e.g., write client posts, draft article queries, send out invoices. Lower Left: Short-Term Business Development, e.g., make phone calls, column ideas, set up meetings. Top Right: Long-Term Marketing Ideas, e.g., targeted speaking venues, wish-list conference invitations. Lower Right: Personal To-Dos, e.g., insurance quote, schedule call with financial planner.

Aghast, Linus finds himself in the Lower Right.

The point of having these all on one page is that they are ALL important. Each quadrant is of equal value. Focusing solely on client work—which is easy to do--prevents you from short- and long-term BD and marketing. Getting your personal stuff done means you will have room in your brain for high-level strategic thinking about your practice and your business. I limit this to a single page and keep the sheet active during the week, crossing off completed items and adding more as needed. I start a new sheet when the week ends, or when the paper bleeds blue. It’s a handy visual reminder to show me what I’m focusing on, and if there’s an imbalance, where I should spend more time. A friend posited that 2017 will be the year of self-care, in order to weather profound political changes and upsets. A to-do list that recognizes all aspects of your life and business is one method of self-regulation that can add calm to the chaos. You can download Be It Resolved here.

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