Byte of Prevention Blog

by Jay Reeves |

7 Strategies For Getting Back on the Horse

horseMaking a pledge to improve your practice – by accepting only a certain type of case, for instance, or by being more diligent at calendaring important dates – is easy to do.

Breaking that pledge is also easy.

What’s harder is getting up and starting again. After repeated stumbles, it’s tempting to quit trying altogether.

Step one to perseverance is understanding that developing a new habit takes time, patience and persistence.

“[S]mall hiccups don’t make you a failure, they make you human,” writes James Clear. “The most successful people in the world slip up too. What separates them isn’t their willpower or motivation, it’s their ability to get back on track quickly. You don’t need superhuman willpower, you just need strategies that can pull you back on track.”

Seven Strategies for Successful Resets

  1. Change your thinking. Failure is not always the opposite of success. Often the two are intertwined. Let’s say you want to improve your client billing. You set a target of sending out a certain number of bills by the end of the week. But things come up, your schedule explodes, and no bills get sent. Now you are faced with a choice. You can throw up your hands and admit defeat. Or you can choose to consider the lessons learned. Perhaps weekly billing is impractical and a monthly goal is more realistic. Maybe it’s time to invest in billing software.
  2. Give yourself a break. Guilt, shame and self-recrimination are non-starters. Give yourself credit for trying. Climb out of the wreckage and begin again.
  3. Start slowly. Sometimes the flaw is trying to do too much, too quickly. If you want to incorporate exercise into your daily routine, adding a 10-minute walk at lunch is more doable than vowing to run three miles daily.
  4. Learn to outsource and collaborate. One reason our best laid plans go awry is we try to do too much ourselves. In the billing example above, maybe the solution is to outsource your receivables and collections.
  5. Stick to a schedule, even if only in a small way. “Don’t have enough time to do a full workout? Just squat,” says Clear. “Don’t have enough time to write an article? Write a paragraph. Don’t have enough time to go on vacation? Give yourself a mini–break and drive to the neighboring town. Individually, these behaviors seem pretty insignificant. But it’s not the individual impact that makes a difference. It’s the cumulative impact of always sticking to your schedule that will carry you to long–term success.”
  6. Aim for progress, not perfection. If you’re trying to eliminate sweets in your diet but belong to a book club that serves desserts, don’t feel you have to either quit the club or sit in the corner eating celery. Enjoy yourself. Better to be disciplined six days a week than none at all.
  7. Stick to the fundamentals. “Ninety percent of your results will hinge on simply sticking to the basics,” says Clear. “[D]o the most important thing first each day. Master the fundamentals now. You can optimize the details later.”

Good habits in the law office are built over time. Brick by brick, step by step. Occasional stumbles and skinned knees are part of the process. 

What tips do you have for climbing back into the saddle after the horse throws you?



About the Author

Jay Reeves

Jay Reeves practiced law in North Carolina and South Carolina. He was Legal Editor at Lawyers Weekly and Risk Manager at Lawyers Mutual. He is the author of The Most Powerful Attorney in the World, a collection of short stories from a law life well-lived, which as the seasons pass becomes less about law and liability and more about loss, love, longing, laughter and life's lasting luminescence.

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