Category Archives: The Ethical Lawyer – Legal Ethics + Lawyer Wellbeing Blog

Progress, Not Perfection, is the Way

When you set a goal, do you focus on what you have yet to achieve, or on the progress you’ve made?

How do you keep the momentum going when you’re not at your peak?

Do you measure success against an ideal, or against what you gained?

Small wins make you more productive, creative, committed, collegial, and focused. When you track the progress you’ve made, no matter how small, you gain confidence that builds on the momentum. With an incremental approach, you take daily actions that move you in the right direction, instead of take big leaps that are more likely to steer you off course.

In episode 39 of The Incrementalist, you will learn:

1) Progress comes from positive inner work life, which includes your perceptions, emotions and motivation levels.

2)  Favorable perceptions about your work and colleagues, positive emotions like joy and excitement, and higher intrinsic motivation lead to better performance. 

3) The most critical factor in shaping your inner work life is your sense of making progress in meaningful things. This is known as the progress principle. 

4) Defining specific targets and clear goals is a catalyst for progress.

5) As you set high and expansive goals, you need to also have milestones and mini-goals along the way to track your progress and to course-correct.

6) Focusing on your gains and progress is more effective than measuring how you fall short in comparison to external reference points.

7) Making mistakes and encountering obstacles are part of the learning process. By breaking big projects into smaller chunks, you give yourself more opportunities to make errors with lower stakes and fewer consequences.

Resources cited:

Music by:

To listen to episode 39, Progress, Not Perfection, is the Way, click here. If you prefer to read the transcript, go here. Subscribe to The Incrementalist at Apple Podcasts or other apps.

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Dyan Williams is a solo lawyer who practices U.S. immigration law and legal ethics at Dyan Williams Law PLLC. She is also a productivity coach who helps working parents, lawyers, small business owners and other busy people turn their ideas into action, reduce overwhelm, and focus on what truly matters. She is the author of The Incrementalist: A Simple Productivity System to Create Big Results in Small Steps.

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Love and Connection in a Time of Loss

Are you willing to receive kindness from others in difficult times?

Do you have friends you can laugh with in the midst of despair?

Is it okay to feel joy during the grieving process?

We’ve all experienced loss in some shape or form. It could be the loss of a dream job, a friend moving away, a health crisis, or a change in lifestyle that you didn’t plan for.

The death of a loved one is a very painful experience. It’s hard to even say the word “death” in this context. The end of a life is so final, so permanent, and so irreversible. We call it a loss to soften the blow, to help ourselves or the other person feel better.

The pain of such a loss – when experienced fully instead of being buried with busyness and distractions – is life-changing. It causes you to reflect on your life, the relationships you have, and the contributions you make.

In episode 38 of The Incrementalist, you will learn:

1) To find meaning in loss, you have to feel the emotions and allow them to just wash over you.

2) It’s okay to be not as productive, not as focused, and to drop some obligations and commitments – at least for the time being.

3) Some of the things I’m doing (or not doing) during my own grieving process.

4) Scaling back to prioritize the essentials doesn’t mean you stop brainstorming ideas, making progress, producing things or sharing your creative output.

5) Sharing is a way to connect with others and to build human connections.

6) In the midst of deep despair, you can also have true joy. You oscillate between the two. A memory can trigger mixed emotions – it can bring a smile to your face, or cause tears to fall.

“Tears fall for a reason and they are your strength not weakness.“

7) Your friends are there for you even when you’re not at your best or living the best version of yourself.

8) Through mindful accommodation, you can use the pain of loss to live more fully.

Resource cited:

  • Charlie Mackesy, The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse

Music by:

To listen to episode 38, Love and Connection in a Time of Loss, click here. If you prefer to read the transcript, go here. Subscribe to The Incrementalist at Apple Podcasts or other apps.

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Dyan Williams is a solo lawyer who practices U.S. immigration law and legal ethics at Dyan Williams Law PLLC. She is also a productivity coach who helps working parents, lawyers, small business owners and other busy people turn their ideas into action, reduce overwhelm, and focus on what truly matters. She is the author of The Incrementalist: A Simple Productivity System to Create Big Results in Small Steps.

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How to Learn and Master Any Skill (part 2)

Do you resist learning outside of your element?

Are you presuming answers without really understanding the problem?   

Do you love to learn many things fast, but often skip over the fundamentals?  

When you’re acquiring and developing a new skill, you need to learn how to learn. Learning is a meta-skill for life and for sustaining peak performance. This continuation of a two-parts episode builds on the foundation principles covered in Episode 36.

In episode 37 of The Incrementalist, you will learn: 

7 more  takeaways to learn and master any skill

  • Keep a beginner’s mind – be like the child learning to crawl who is not concerned about how she looks or about whether she’s succeeding or failing.  
  • Invest in loss – give yourself to the learning process and be willing to lose and fail so you can win and succeed. 
  • Make smaller circles – emphasize depth over breadth; focus on the micro to understand the macro. 
  • Use adversity – take advantage of setbacks to hone new skills and move out of creative ruts. 
  • Slow down time – connect the unconscious and the conscious mind through chunking (create neural pathways, chunks, and navigation systems between the chunks).
  • Be fully present – pay attention to the learning process to increase clarity in high-stakes moments. 
  • Get in the zone – use the stress-recovery effect to achieve focus and flow states. 

Resources cited:

Music by:

To listen to episode 37, How to Learn and Master Any Skill (part 2), click here. If you prefer to read the transcript, go here. Subscribe to The Incrementalist at Apple Podcasts or other apps.

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Dyan Williams is a solo lawyer who practices U.S. immigration law and legal ethics at Dyan Williams Law PLLC. She is also a productivity coach who helps working parents, lawyers, small business owners and other busy people turn their ideas into action, reduce overwhelm, and focus on what truly matters. She is the author of The Incrementalist: A Simple Productivity System to Create Big Results in Small Steps.

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How to Learn and Master Any Skill (part 1)

Is lack of skill holding you back from getting a desired result?

Do you believe your abilities are fixed or predetermined? 

Are you making the same mistakes over and over? 

When you’re learning and developing any skill, it’s better to have a growth mindset, than a fixed mindset. Talent and natural ability do matter. But your attitude towards failure and setbacks are more critical. 

There are two modes of learning theories: entity versus incremental theories of intelligence.  

Entity theorists think, “I am smart at this.” Success or failure is based on an ingrained ability. Intelligence or skill is a fixed entity.  Incremental theorists think, “I got it because I worked hard.” Success or failure depends on effort. Intelligence or skill can be developed.

In episode 36 of The Incrementalist, you will learn: 

1) The two modes of learning theories

  • Entity theorists have a fixed mindset
  • Incremental theorists have a growth mindset

2) 4 key takeaways to learn and master any skill

  • Decide whether you want to be decent, good, great or among the best – it’s okay to aim for decent, but if you want to be among the best, the stakes and standards will be higher. 
  • Stay true to yourself and to your style – in the pursuit of high performance, you keep in tune with your unique disposition. 
  • Maintain soft zones to increase concentration and overcome distraction – be at peace with an imperfect environment, and use it to your advantage.
  • Avoid the downward spiral – don’t repeat the same mistakes, whether technical or psychological. 

Resources cited:

Music by:

Dyan Williams

To listen to episode 36, How to Learn and Master Any Skill, click here. If you prefer to read the transcript, go here. Subscribe to The Incrementalist at Apple Podcasts or other apps.

# # #

Dyan Williams is a solo lawyer who practices U.S. immigration law and legal ethics at Dyan Williams Law PLLC. She is also a productivity coach who helps working parents, lawyers, small business owners and other busy people turn their ideas into action, reduce overwhelm, and focus on what truly matters. She is the author of The Incrementalist: A Simple Productivity System to Create Big Results in Small Steps.

SUBSCRIBE           CONTACT

Create Space to Think (part 2)

Making space between activities can be done solo, without allies. But industry norms and workplace culture might pull you back into chronic busyness.

Norms are standards or principles of action that apply to a group. A culture is made up of norms. Effective leadership from the top reduces the burden on individuals who seek to have more margin in their day.

In episode 35 of The Incrementalist, you will learn:

1) Creating space solo, without allies, is doable. But it’s easier to sustain when you have support. Interactions with others and not just your own actions lead to positive change. 

2) To shift mindset, you start with yourself. Cut down on unnecessary meetings, stop interrupting others, and keep your emails clear and brief. Avoid being redundant without being harsh and cold. 

3) How to check and process emails

a) Four points to consider when it comes to emails:

  • Is it mandatory or optional?
  • Could you reduce the time spent on this message? 
  • Could you opt out or leave others out of the thread?
  • Is it better to stay out of the email inbox and focus on the real task?

b) Why you need to watch out for the email shadow (the dark cloud of distraction that takes you out of the present moment) 

c) When you may declare email bankruptcy (hit delete and start from a clean slate)

d) The yellow list allows you to capture ideas and information for another person and reduces interruptions brought by sporadic messages

4) How to avoid overuse of digital devices, which lead to absent presence

  • Delete the apps from your phone
  • Reduce the just checks
  • Do phone narration to let the other person know what you’re doing when you pick up your digital device

5) The skill of saying no by sandwiching it between two yeses or using the hourglass method

6) When assigning tasks or delegating projects, spotlight what’s most important. (The to-do list can be confusing and overwhelming.) 

7) The 50/50 Rule: “Anything that bothers you at work is 50% your responsibility until you’ve asked for what you want.” 

8) A four-step approach to express your truth with less stress: vent, empathize, prepare, share

9) The importance of selecting the right medium for the message you want to share

a) The two types of communication

  • 2D communication involves simple issues, yes/no answers. 
  • 3D communication is more nuanced and complex. They benefit from verbal cues, tone of voice and eye contact. 

b) The two types of mediums

  • A 2D medium is static, like email, Slack, and instant messages.
  • A 3D medium is live, like telephone, video and face to face meetings.

c)  A 2D message is efficient in a 2D medium and wastes time in a 3D medium. A 3D message is effective in a 3D medium, and compromises richness in a 2D medium. 

10)  In meetings, the three key questions to ask yourself before you say something are: Is it kind? Is it honest? Is it necessary? 

  • Just because something is kind and honest doesn’t mean it needs to be said.
  • Just because something needs to be said doesn’t mean it needs to be said by you.
  • Just because something needs to be said by you doesn’t mean it needs to be said now. 

11) How to find out if you’re in an SBH (Shouldn’t Be Here) situation and negotiate your way out of it

12) Fix the road, not the car. Isolated Interventions are quick, short-sighted fixes to complicated issues. 

13) As a change catalyst and leader, you speak the language of the person you seek to engage. 

  • Making judgments and using force and commands don’t sit well and is bound to spark underground sabotage and outright resistance.
  • Knowing how to talk with Finance Folks, People People, and Idea Lovers is key

14) Making space is not just for the workplace, but also sparks high joy and deep joy at home. 

  • High joy is an experience that makes you gasp; it comes from surprise, risk and exertion. 
  • Deep joy is an experience that reaches down into your body and warms you; it comes from friendship, gratitude, giving, and peace.

Resources cited:

Music by:

To listen to episode 35,  Create Space to Think (part 2), click here. If you prefer to read the transcript, go here. Subscribe to The Incrementalist at Apple Podcasts or other apps.

# # #

Dyan Williams is a solo lawyer who practices U.S. immigration law and legal ethics at Dyan Williams Law PLLC. She is also a productivity coach who helps working parents, lawyers, small business owners and other busy people turn their ideas into action, reduce overwhelm, and focus on what truly matters. She is the author of The Incrementalist: A Simple Productivity System to Create Big Results in Small Steps.

SUBSCRIBE           CONTACT