Category Archives: The Ethical Lawyer – Legal Ethics Blog

Listen to The Incrementalist: Episode 2, Building Good Habits

Whenever we want to make a change, we tend to think in terms of goals and outcomes, hopes and dreams. It’s good to know the results we want. But how do we get there? It starts with building good habits that add up over time to create success as you define it.

A habit starts with a conscious decision and becomes automatic through a 3-step loop (cue, behavior, reward). Building good habits allows you to make changes without relying on willpower and motivation. 

In this episode of The Incrementalist podcast, I discuss how motivation, ability and prompts drive behavior, using Professor BJ Fogg’s B=MAP formula. I also cover the ABC (Anchor, Behavior, Celebration) method to create new habits and sustain momentum.  Make the new behavior tiny with the starter step and by scaling back.

Excellence comes from the actions you do habitually, consistently, repeatedly – not from once-in-a-while acts.  Being the best version of yourself and having self-mastery stem from your habits. 

Resources Cited:

  • Charles Duhigg – The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business
  • BJ Fogg – Tiny Habits: The Small Changes that Change Everything
  • David T. Neal, Wendy Wood, and Jeffrey M. Quinn, Duke University, Habits – A Repeat Performance, Current Directions in Psychological Science, Volume 15, Issue 4, August 1, 2006
  • Magic Weighted Blanket

Music by:

  • Sebastian Brian Mehr


Happy habit-building,

Dyan Williams

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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

Goals are Great. But Systems are Even Better.

January is a popular time to aim for radical changes and major shifts in life. Is your lifestyle, health, relationships, work, business or side project in a sad state? Or have you been on an upward trajectory?

The start of the year is when many of us get a burst of energy to set big, bold and risky goals. Perhaps you have plans to achieve yours by next month, within 90 days, or by the end of this year.

Life though does not always turn out according to plan. The year 2020 was a fierce reminder of this fact. There’s nothing wrong with goals. Specific goals are great when they help you move in the right direction.

But even better is a system to pivot, reset, upgrade, and make consistent progress on the things that really matter. When key goals are scrapped or missed, you can always revisit them when you have a system to get you back on track.

At the start of 2020, I had tentative plans to launch a podcast. As a solo immigration lawyer and a productivity coach, I was conflicted on whether to start one podcast or two. Over time, this project moved to the backburner while COVID-19, civil unrest, school closures, the November Elections, and other changes were at front and center.

During my annual review in December 2020, I reflected on the wins, the successes, the doubts, and the setbacks. Were there goals I had dropped and wanted to pick up again?

One major project I decided to return to was the podcast launch. I had more than enough topics to talk about, on either immigration or productivity. Years of running more than one blog led to a system for idea generation and content creation.

I already had the tools to start a podcast. They included the microphone, headphones, computer, and audio editing software we used to make the last video for my law firm’s YouTube channel.

Still, podcasting was a big leap for me. I thought, “I’m a writer, not a podcaster.” Never mind that you can develop skills through deliberate practice and deep study.  Never mind that I had spoken at various events and conferences on productivity, mindfulness, U.S. immigration and legal ethics issues.

There were podcast hosting choices and other technical mumbo jumbo to work through to start a podcast. By the end of December, the audio recording and sound editing of the first episodes — for two different podcasts — were done. Small, daily actions in short bursts made this possible.

Although I met the goals of launching The Incrementalist (a productivity podcast) and The Legal Immigrant (a U.S. immigration podcast) , it took systems to start them. And it will take systems to keep each show going. There’s a content strategy to release new episodes over the coming weeks. Stay tuned!

In the meantime, I invite you to listen to episode 1 (introduction) in The Incrementalist podcast. Click HERE for the show’s website. Or find it on podcast apps like Apple Podcasts, Spotify and Listen Notes and via RSS feed.

If you like the content, please share it with others, leave a 5-star review, and subscribe so you don’t miss new episodes.

And if you’d like to check out my other podcast, The Legal Immigrant, click HERE for the show’s website.

Your downloads, shares and subscriptions mean a lot! To keep you listening, I will aim to add value through these shows. Podcasts give you a convenient way to get insights and information when you’re on the go or want to learn with audio.

Thank you for your support and audience.

All the best in 2021,

Dyan Williams

Author of The Incrementalist: A Simple Productivity System to Create Big Results in Small Steps

The Legal Immigrant PODCAST is Now Up!

The month of January signals new beginnings and fresh starts. In December 2020 – with the new year approaching – I finally took steps to launch The Legal Immigrant podcast.

Through success stories and Q&As, the show will cover U.S. immigration problems that we help our clients solve.

Episodes 1 and 2 are now up. The podcast is available HERE  on the show’s website. Or find it on podcast apps like Apple Podcasts, SpotifyPlayer FM, and Listen Notes or via RSS feed.

At the start of 2020, I had tentative plans to launch a podcast. As a solo immigration lawyer and a productivity coach, I was conflicted on whether to start one or two podcasts. Over time, this project moved to the backburner while COVID-19, civil unrest, school closures, the November Elections, and other changes were at front and center.

Although the U.S. and other parts of the world are still not back to pre-COVID-19 “normal,” we can still attend to the essentials. We have a unique opportunity to build resilience, show grace to others, and learn new ways to maintain human connection.

Besides launching The Legal Immigrant podcast, I started another podcast, The Incrementalist. This productivity show will discuss how to make big changes or finish a big project in small steps, with the Incrementalist approach.

There’s a content strategy to release new episodes over the coming weeks. It will take systems – not goals – to keep the shows going. Stay tuned!

In the meantime, check out the first two episodes of The Legal Immigrant. If you find the podcast helpful, please share it with others. And subscribe so you don’t miss new episodes. 

And if you’d like to check out my other podcast, The Incrementalist, click HERE for the show’s website.

Your downloads, shares and subscriptions will help to grow the shows. In return, I will aim to provide valuable content and build connection with listeners through podcasting.

Thank you for your support and audience.

All the best in 2021,

Dyan Williams

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Saying Thanks on Thanksgiving Day

It’s Thanksgiving Day in the United States. The tradition is to gather with loved ones, share a meal (that includes turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie), and express gratitude.

This year, there are COVID-19 guidelines and restrictions that affect holiday plans. Some will stay at home with their immediate family members, and keep relatives and friends outside their household at a physical distance — either by personal choice or due to state mandates.

We’ve had difficult decisions to make. We’ve experienced ripple effects in the United States and around the world. There are a wide range of opinions and thoughts on how to respond to this crisis.

It’s okay to find advantages in the “new normal” – like remote work, flexible schedules, and more family time.

It’s okay to feel grief, discomfort and perhaps anger over lockdowns and restrictions – like bans on social gatherings, physical distancing measures, closures of small businesses, and the erosion of personal relationships and mentorship opportunities.

It’s okay to be upset with those who flout the rules (especially if you have older parents or other vulnerable family members).

It’s okay to question the rules (especially if you live in a free democracy and your livelihood is at stake).

No doubt, 2020 has been a wild, roller coaster ride for most people around the globe. You’re not alone if this year did not turn out the way you wished or expected.

But we can always find someone or something to be grateful for. Nothing is too small to celebrate. Being thankful will soften your heart, lift your spirit, bring hope and shift your mindset.

We have the innate superpowers of acceptance, patience and resilience to tackle any adversity or setback. Learn more HERE in my blog post, 3 superpowers to be thankful for in a rough year.

And if you want to gain traction for the new year, check out my e-book, The Incrementalist: A Simple Productivity System to Create Big Results in Small Steps. For a limited- time offer through December 4 (11:59 pm Central Time), the minimum price will drop to $4.99 (from $9.99) on leanpub.com. Get the book while it’s on sale!

Whether you’re a client, a subscriber, or visitor on my website, I appreciate your audience. Wherever you are and whatever you’re doing, stay well, stay strong, and stay connected.

Saying thanks on Thanksgiving Day,

Dyan Williams

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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, an e-book at http://leanpub.com/incrementalist.

3 superpowers to be thankful for in a rough year

Being thankful in a rough year – like 2020 – is tough. The COVID-19 situation, economic fallout, and socio-political unrest have led to changes we did not expect. The end of the year (including Thanksgiving season in the United States) is an ideal time to reflect on what has been and what might be.

While adversity brings pain and discomfort, we have 3 superpowers to get us through it and out. They are acceptance, patience and resilience. We need each and all of them to keep ourselves together when life falls apart.

Acceptance.

When you accept what-is, you see things for what they truly are, rather than wish them to be different. You process unpleasant thoughts and emotions instead of suppress them. You keep climbing the steep cliff to get to the top, not jump off midway at your own peril.

Acceptance is not the same as giving up, condoning, or being complacent. You still have desires, goals and preferences. You still seek to make changes or defend the status quo. But you distinguish between what you control and what you don’t control. You recognize that while you might not have a say in big decisions, it’s your small daily actions that really matter.

You accept that you don’t always get what you want and you don’t have to get everything you want. You accept the present moment and the past, and you attend to the next moment and the future. You decide what you need to hold on to and what you have to let go of.

You’re not hooked on being right. You stop labeling yourself and others. You understand that choices and actions are based on nuanced and complex reasons, not one-dimensional motives. You’re able to engage with others who have different opinions and perspectives. You don’t just resort to labeling, blaming, stereotyping, censoring, and shutting down disagreements.

Although it’s comforting to be with kindred sprits, we grow and stretch more from seeking to understand those who are not. By staying open to conflict and tension, we gain a more holistic view of the world. This helps us sort facts from interpretations, distinguish narratives from truth, and separate groupthink from our own thoughts.

With the superpower of acceptance, we’re able to transform unbearable difficulties into welcome opportunities. We move from emotional rigidity to emotional agility. Only then can we make choices and take action in alignment with who we want to be in a given situation.

Patience.

Patience is an essential virtue for navigating uncertainty. It keeps your nervous system calm and your immune system strong. But we don’t get to exercise it much when our credit cards, smart phones, microwaves, and Amazon Prime make it so easy to get what we want right now.

Patience is allowing outcomes to unfold and goals to be reached organically and in due course — when more striving or more complaining is counterproductive. We practice waiting to get unfulfilled needs met while we look for substitutes and alternatives.

It often takes years to master our craft, optimize our skills, discover our gifts, and apply our strengths to create massive impact. There is no magic pill. There’s no overnight success.

Along the path, you might need to slow down, drop the stones you’ve been carrying, and lighten the load. Trust your natural rhythm and make space for rest, rather than obsess over your ability to produce.

With the superpower of patience, we know when to keep going, when to pause, and when to quit. We use routines, rituals, and repetition to get a little better every day. We make small tweaks in tiny moments to make a big difference. We course correct instead of rely on auto-pilot.

Resilience.

Having the grit to move through tough times, trusting yourself, and acting courageously are necessary to deal with life’s realities. To bounce back from major setbacks and everyday disappointment, we need to embrace vulnerabilities, have strong connections, honor our needs, process resentment, and find humor in grief.

Resilience helps us to move forward, flourish and thrive regardless of what life brings our way. We feel the anger, sadness and fear that come from losses, but we don’t let these feelings and emotions break our spirit. We can bend and flex in appropriate situations and hold our boundaries and set limits when necessary.

To get over rocky terrain, you have get back up and brush yourself off when you stumble or fall. You keep moving even when your confidence is shaken.

To cultivate resilience, you practice a wide range of responses and explore different possibilities for recovery. Sometimes you need to take the wait-and-see approach, not take instant action. Sometimes you need to move through rough patches, not end the relationship. Sometimes you need to laugh more, not meditate more. Sometimes you need to talk to a trusted confidante, not journal about your inner conflicts.

When you find meaning in crisis and purpose in hardships, you create resolve and strength to overcome. You drop the victim mentality. You don’t wait for others to take you in, take care of you or stand up for you. You put yourself in charge. You stand on your own and yet ask for help and receive it well when it’s given.

With the superpower of resilience, you have the ability to respond to setbacks and not just get strung along by external circumstances and conditions. You replace self-pity, anxiety and worry with a positive mindset. You see the big picture. You consider the temporary nature and existential uncertainty of all things.

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Acceptance, patience and resilience are 3 superpowers to be thankful for in a rough year. They help us see the silver linings, no matter how faint they might be. They are natural and innate, but they can be crushed out with profound loss, defeat, disappointment, trauma and fear-based messaging. We must keep cultivating, rediscovering and developing these superpowers to withstand crisis, create bonds, defend boundaries, and grow from hardships.

Regardless of the depth and breadth of adversity you face, there’s a high probability you’ll get through it and out. Your being alive is proof you’ve done it before.

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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, an e-book at http://leanpub.com/incrementalist.