6 Cures for Procrastination
Don’t Be a Thumb-Twiddler. Take “DAD BRO” for relief.
Last December, many lawyers resolved to focus on business development and revenue growth in the new year. Late February is when the first test of that resolve usually occurs. If we fail the February test, we generally don’t get back on track in the present year. Instead, the rigors of work and life overcome us. We get busy billing hours; we experience a family or health emergency; or the weather improves, and we begin to think about where we’re going to take the children for spring break and summer vacation.
The next thing we know, it’s Labor Day. Then, before we even realize it, another year has gone by, and we’re exactly where we were last year, having fallen short of our business development objectives. We’re very much in danger of becoming stuck in a rut—soon to be looking backward at our careers with a bunch of woulda, coulda, shouldas. Unless…
… we do something different this year. Let’s stop procrastinating and, dare I say, accomplish what we said we wanted to accomplish in 2023. Let’s stop twiddling our thumbs. I realize that getting in gear is easier said than done. I sometimes find myself overcome with or uninspired by work. Then, I distract myself with a good book or by binge-watching someone else’s work while I eat chocolate and expand my waistline.
How do I snap myself out of it? Well, over the years of coaching others and managing myself, I’ve found that there are 6 cures for procrastination. Not all cures work for me, nor should you expect all of them to do the trick for you. However, I’ll bet you a DVD box set and an assortment of chocolates that one of them will.
The 6 cures for procrastination are: desperation, anger, desire, a ball-buster, results, and a one-time-only mindset. The cures can be remembered by their acronym: DAD BRO.
Intense need is a well-known motivator. If your job or your ability to make payroll are dependent upon your business development prowess, you’re likely to do whatever it takes to get those clients and revenues in the door. However, most lawyers lack urgency or desperation around business development. If anyone is breathing down our necks, it is usually to get us to bill more hours not to generate more new matters. So, if there is no gun to your head, there must have been another reason that you set business development goals. There must have been something that you wanted. Perhaps it wasn’t a desperate desire. Maybe it was more casual. Remind yourself of what it was and recognize that this may be your last chance to achieve it. Life is constantly changing. Maybe you wanted to be something other than a lawyer when you were younger, but you delayed pursuing it and the opportunity never re-emerged. Now, you no longer have the talent or potential for that field or profession. With that prior experience in mind, if you can’t be desperate about business development, be desperate about not making the same mistake twice.
Getting ticked off can be ammunition as well. Think of great athletes such as Michael Jordan who was cut from his junior varsity team in high school and somehow used this juvenile slight to fuel his way to a 6 and 0 record in NBA Finals appearances or Tom Brady who was the 199th pick in the NFL draft and became a 7-time Superbowl champion. Has anyone doubted you or your ability to bring in new business or grow your existing clientele? If so, prove them wrong.
Sometimes the motivation comes from within. Are you the person you need to prove something to? Have you been avoiding business development because you’re afraid to put yourself out there and do it? If so, you’ll likely never forgive yourself if you don’t at least try. Warren Buffet says he once did door-to-door sales to cure himself of a fear of talking to people. I have done door-to-door sales twice. The first time was during summer break from college heading into my senior year. I worked for the Pennsylvania Public Interest Research Group fund-raising or canvassing upperclass neighborhoods in the Philadelphia suburbs. The second time was selling compliance services in 2016. I excelled both times and even though I still don’t like to hear “no,” those experiences taught me how to be patient and creative to find a way to eventually convert noes into yeses. What do you hope to gain from becoming adept at business development: an equity partnership, a large bonus for a major purchase, more self-confidence, less fear, a career change? Maybe you want to run with the big dogs. Let that desire cure your tendency to drag your feet.
With many people having now worked remotely for such a long time, the tendency to procrastinate may be the result of not having anyone to prod you along. Very few of us want to admit that there are benefits to working together in an office setting. We get ideas and inspiration from in-person interaction with our peers. If you fought hard to get this hybrid-work benefit, you may need to create a ball-buster for yourself so you can keep your work arrangement and meet your business development objectives. Using technology and going public with your objectives are ways to force yourself to stay on task. Post your intentions in the firm’s CRM or in your business plan that you submit to your practice leader. Even publish them on social media. Going public makes you accountable to others. Not wanting to fail publicly can be as scary as a ball-busting boss breathing down your neck. Use this self-created boogey man as the impetus to subvert procrastination.
Have you ever noticed how whatever streak you’re on, whether winning or losing, you tend to stay on for a while? So, get on a roll. Start by getting your first win. If you’re having trouble landing a big fish, set your sights lower. Get a small win under your belt. The feeling of winning breeds confidence, and confidence is attractive. Your energy becomes magnetic. Then, you can redirect this positive energy towards the big fish at which you originally were aiming. This is my favorite business development strategy. I identify a prospect who is predisposed to doing business with me. I pursue them, get the win, and then use them in my ongoing marketing and sales efforts.
6. One-Time Only
If you’re having difficulty getting in the mindset for business development tasks, it may be helpful to know that if you do it once you’ll never have to do it again. What do I mean by that? If you attract a group of clients and serve them well, they will renew their contracts with you, refer you clients like them, and act as your references when you pursue new logos. In other words, your existing clients will become your source of what we at Sales for Lawyers call the 3 Rs: Renewals, Referrals and References. The 3 Rs are the endgame of business development activity. Once you have the 3 Rs, you’ll no longer have to engage in outbound business development activities. It’s kind of like an athlete who wins their first championship. A certain respect and aura surround a winner. You’ll still need to show up during the playoffs or major tournaments as there will be others trying to knock you off your perch. However, you’ll no longer need to hustle to get to the top. So, do it once, this year, in 2023 and get it over with. Then, you can ride that reputation to the destination of your choosing.
One of these motivators should be sufficient to kick you into gear and stop you from twiddling your thumbs. Therefore, my fix or prescription for delaying or avoiding your business development tasks is one heaping spoonful of DAD BRO.