Tricks of the Reporter’s Trade for Lawyers

December 12, 2012

New Years ResolutionsIt is hard to believe, but somehow we find ourselves at the tail end of another year.  Many of us wait until 11:45 pm on December 31 to reflect on the year past and consider the year ahead.  This exercise, which often takes the form of a New Year’s resolution, commonly is undertaken only after several glasses of bubbly and is allocated less thought than the New Year’s menu and festivities.

It is curious that our resolutions, which arguably are the most important part of the New Year’s panoply, frequently do not merit more than a passing tipsy thought.  Likely this is because thinking about change can be unpleasant and actually making the change can feel close to impossible.  Most of us don’t like looking at our deficiencies or where we fall short.  Even if you aren’t bothered by staring at your reflection in the mirror, it is still challenging to know how to successfully make what you recognize as the necessary changes.

Four Ws and One H

Looking to four of the Five Ws and One H of reporting provides us with a framework for successfully reaching our resolution goals.  Happily, it is a user-friendly system that easily can be modified to suit your personal objectives.

What   To begin, ask yourself, “What did I procrastinate about doing this year?  What am I unwilling to tolerate any longer?” Did you network more (attend an industry conference, an annual bar meeting, or get more involved in firm activities) like you said you were going to?  How did that CLE on critical management skills go (no more delegating without giving feedback, slow and unspecific e-mails, and not dealing with difficult issues with fellow partners)?  When are you going to put an end to working all weekend?  How many trips did you cancel due to unforeseen work obligations?

Why Next is a time for reflection.  Review the past year and try to determine why your “whats” happened.   Why didn’t you do that presentation for your local bar (something “more important” came up, poor planning, or maybe you don’t really want a bigger book of business after all)?  In your gut, you know that you are not the world’s best manager and aren’t getting the business results you want because of it.  If that’s true, why didn’t you go to the training for which you signed up?  Is it because you believe that your direct reports and peers are the real problem, you don’t think people are able to learn new behaviors, or perhaps because you have grown accustomed to figuring things out for yourself and doing them the hard way?

How The third stage is to move onto active planning.  How are you going to structure your life so that the upcoming year is not a carbon copy of the last?  Will you enter the things that are important to you into your calendar like you do for client commitments?  Will you commit to hard deadlines with the group’s president?  Join a mastermind group where your fellow members will hold you accountable for not showing up or keeping your word?

Who Now look around you and see who else needs to be involved.  Often when it comes to significant changes it is unrealistic to expect yourself to do it on your own (otherwise we wouldn’t have book groups or running clubs).  Do you need to get your spouse or children involved?  Do you need to have a conversation with your team about pitching in more?  How about finding a colleague at another firm with whom to partner?

When This is go time.  The final stage is action.  You have figured out all of the details and now you must implement.  Look at your calendar and pick a date to start.  Try to choose one that has a higher likelihood of success – no holidays, birthdays or planned vacations.  Treat it like New Year’s – you can’t change the date of New Year’s, right?

You Are the Eight Percent

Admittedly, only eight percent of Americans who make resolutions keep them.  However, it is far from impossible.  It bears mentioning that the statistics are skewed by the fact that most resolutions are made at the literal eleventh hour.  Given their importance, it is hard to dispute that now, when we still have a couple of weeks to go, is a more appropriate time to consider where we got it right and where we got it wrong.  By tackling our resolutions with foresight and planning, we have a significantly better chance of not making the same mistake twice and even eclipsing our prior triumphs.