New Year's resolutions and to-don't lists - Giles Watson
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New Year’s resolutions and to-don’t lists

How’s everyone going on their new year’s resolutions?

Still committed, or is it already too much hard work?

Having clear goals is always important but for many busy professionals adding a few more ‘to-do’s’ to an already long and growing list is pointless and counterproductive.

You need a ‘to-don’t’ list!

First up there’s the obvious stuff that you’re already on top of because you’re a successful professional. You don’t procrastinate, make excuses or distract yourself with either unimportant comfort-zone activity, social media or web-surfing because you don’t want to dive into that slightly scary task that will actually achieve something. You don’t need me to talk you through Stephen Covey’s time management quadrant and all the dubious self-justifications that go on there. Good, that’s sorted!


You do, however, need to think of everything you do and identify some potential activity/behaviour candidates for the chop. Focus on the Pareto principle that suggests that 80% of your results come from 20% of your efforts.

(I know, I know, you time cost, so all time is equal and this doesn’t apply. Maybe you should put ‘don’t time cost’ at the top of your ‘to don’t list’, but that’s another conversation)

OK, away from time recording, could it be that you are spending 80% of your time on achieving very little. Are you spending 80% of your marketing time on clients that represent 20% or less of revenue. Are you spending 80% of your supervision time on your least productive staff? Have a good long look at that 80% of your time spent on less-productive activities: what’s the worst that could happen if you just stopped doing some of that stuff? why are you really doing that stuff? what’s the return on investment?

Kill off your energy vampires

The new trend in time management is to focus on energy management. To be productive, you need to feel energised – and this means eliminating whatever drains your energy – whether this be people or different activities. Can you delegate, ditch or outsource some of your energy-draining activities? If you’re not into it, you’re probably not very good at it anyway, so just get rid of it. Replace the time with something that energises you.

Clients can be energy-vampires. Wouldn’t you like to just kill a couple off! Go on then, do it. Chances are that if they’re that draining, they’re not profitable anyway so go ahead, stick a stake through their heart and refer them down the road to your competitors. Breathe! Smile!

So there’s a couple of ideas to get you started, but developing a to-don’t list is a great negative way to start the year, and something lawyer’s should be naturally good at. Here are some of my favourites:

To don’t list for busy lawyers:


  • Discount, write-off time or otherwise de-value yourself or your time
  • Micro-manage by default
  • Endulge your perfectionism
  • Let scepticism dominate your approach to everything
  • Wait for the perfect time to take action
  • Resist change
  • Make everything seem like a chore
  • Try and control everyone and everything (let go)




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