March 29, 2013
Perhaps it is human nature. When not feeling up to a task whether it be completing a challenging assignment, calling a difficult client, or attending a boilerplate networking function, we frequently make the mistake of busying ourselves with a more appealing obligation. While doing so, we wait with baited breath for inspiration to come and take us by the hand.
But the fact is that inspiration, motivation, ambition, gumption and wherewithal are a bunch of divas. They aren’t in the habit of popping over uninvited or making unannounced house calls. They like to be wined and dined. They enjoy being finessed, pampered, cajoled and at the very least asked. Hugh MacLeod has expressed the idea that the muse doesn’t just show up – she doesn’t just appear. Rather, if one desires her presence he must work, prepare, look, and strive for her.
While MacLeod wasn’t addressing lawyers per se, his insight is relevant nevertheless. Lawyers too must actively seek inspiration since sitting back and waiting proves fruitless every time. So, how do those uninspired attorneys get motivated?
The Long Courtship. One approach is to set aside a certain block of time every day to confront your most unpalatable work. Have you been dreading entering your time? One solution is to establish a specific time each day when you will do so. Dragging your feet on drafting your business plan? Working on it from two o’clock to 3 o’clock on Monday through Friday is a surefire way to get it done. Experiencing writer’s block on that book chapter about the new Trusts and Estates legislation? How about you make it your lunchtime steady until it gets done?
Initially you may find yourself staring at the wall during these time slots. But eventually these chunks of time will propel you to do the work. Setting aside dedicated solitary time for contemplation is the herald to inspiration’s grand entrance. Rubbing two sticks together for long enough eventually will generate a flame that ultimately fans into a fire.
Coming on Strong. It has been said that at least one time per year Bill Gates steps away from the day-to-day operations at Microsoft for a several week period to focus on strategic planning instead. If you, like Bill Gates, are more like an all or nothing type of professional the “big block of time” approach may be a better fit for you. While it is far easier to remain entrenched in the email-phone call-meeting cycle of typical business life, it virtually is impossible for the truly important (the profession changing) work to ever get done this way. It is for this reason that Fortune 1,000 Companies have offsite retreats, writers have cottages, and baseball teams have Spring Training. They all know that to accomplish anything that matters it is necessary to turn your back on the daily grind first.
We need to create solitude and to eliminate distraction to get a glimpse of the really big ideas like a Clarence Darrow closing argument or a Dale Carnegie business pitch. The muse responds to grand gestures.
Perhaps an arranged marriage or online dating is more your speed. Your method is immaterial for your results are what count. The operative questions are, “Did you get the work done?” and “Did you deliver?” The important thing is that you stopped waiting for inspiration to strike like a bolt of lighting and that you tracked it down like a well-hidden Easter egg. If all else fails you can always slip into something more comfortable and crack open a bottle of wine. It works wonders when confronted with the unattractive proposition from a Frye-Daubert memo.
Don’t be shy! Here’s your chance to weigh in. How often do you find yourself avoiding items on your to-do list? What gets you in the mood for the work that is weighing you down? What techniques have helped you stick to a consistent work schedule? Is it realistic to step off the hamster wheel every once in a while to create time and space to focus? Tell us what you really think in the comments below.