Category Archives: competence

How to Plan an Ideal Week: The Incrementalist, Ep. 8

If you feel overwhelmed and off course, weekly planning helps you to take control and get back on track. The lack of a plan or the plan itself could be your problem. Cultivate purposeful work and intentional living with a review of your past week and a preview of your upcoming week.

Consolidate by planning your ideal week, designate by prioritizing your tasks with the weekly review, and activate by beating interruptions and distractions. Streamline your to-do list by connecting to your heart, mind, and body and the cosmos.

What do you want to have done in the week? What are the big things you can do to call the week a success and make it great? 

Unexpected things will come up. Tasks will take longer than you expected. Distractions and interruptions will pull you away. But you’re more likely to accomplish what you must when you plan for it and begin with the end in mind. 

In episode 8 of The Incrementalist podcast, I discuss achieving more by doing less in a week. You will learn: 

1. How to consolidate by planning your Ideal Week 

  • The concepts of batching and theming
  • The categories of front stage, back stage, and off stage activities
  • The use of color codes in your weekly plan or calendar to reflect focus areas

2. How to designate by prioritizing your tasks with the Weekly Review and Preview

  • The best times to do a weekly review and preview
  • The six steps in a weekly planning session: list your biggest wins; review the prior week; review your lists and notes; check goals, projects, events, meetings and deadlines; designate your Weekly Big 3 things to accomplish; and plan for self-care

3. How to streamline your to-do list

  • The four areas to help you design your week and your weekly to-dos: body; mind; heart; and the cosmos. 
  • The importance of margin or buffer time

Resources Cited: 

  • Michael Hyatt, Free to Focus: A Total Productivity System to Achieve More by Doing Less
  • Kate Northrup, Do LessA Revolutionary Approach to Time and Energy Management for Ambitious Women

To listen to episode 8, How to Plan an Ideal Week, click here.

Cheers,
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

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The Busyness Trap, Minnesota CLE, 2021 Family Law Institute, March 15 to 16

Minnesota CLE’s 2021 Family Law Institute is completely online this year. It’s the best way to ensure you are up to date on all the latest cases, legislation and other new developments in Minnesota family law. It also provides practical instruction on dozens of important topics, as well as extensive written materials. 

If you register for this online event, I invite you to attend Breakout Session E at 2:15 – 3:15 p.m., in which I will present on The Busyness Trap: How to Reduce Overload and Create Space for Things that Matter.

Attendees have the opportunity to view the video recording with live written Q&A to claim CLE credit, which they will not receive if they watch the recording at another time. 

Here’s a description of what The Busyness Trap will cover:

The path to being a diligent and effective lawyer involves reducing overload and creating space for things that matter. Yet the emphasis on billable hours and “presenteeism” continue to prevail in the legal industry.

Lawyers who work more and stay longer at the office – often at the expense of their personal health and well being – are typically viewed as more successful, productive and committed. But when you’re in the busyness trap, you are less able to do high-quality work, think creatively, and solve problems with the greatest impact and least resistance.

In this presentation, you will learn effective ways to:
1. Cultivate productive habits by focusing on your top priorities, limiting your to-dos, keeping a startup and shutdown routine, and matching your tasks to your energy cycles;

2. Tackle the problem of facetime cultures and 24/7 accessibility by setting realistic expectations and healthy boundaries;

3. Collaborate and communicate in moderation without having emails, phone calls, meetings and interruptions take over your day; and

4. Take restful breaks and regain lost momentum on important projects.

Click HERE to get more information on this 12-credit online CLE event and to register for it. 

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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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Deadlines and Daily Habits, Minnesota CLE, Ethics Fundamentals – Safekeeping Property, Collecting Fees, Acting with Diligence, March 24

On March 24, Minnesota CLE will host Ethics Fundamentals – Safekeeping Property, Collecting Fees, Acting with Diligence via live webcast. This is a 3.0 ethics credits event that runs from 9 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. 

There are three separate 1-hour sessions in this special credit CLE, including my presentation on The Ethics of Deadlines and Daily Habits – Discovering the Essence of Diligence

Below is the description: 

An attorney’s ethical duties of diligence, competence and communication are paramount in client relations. Yet we often struggle to fulfill these obligations. Deadlines are often associated with heightened stress, time crunches, and external pressures beyond your control. But by using external deadlines to your benefit and setting self-imposed ones effectively, you help fuel productive action. Deadlines – in combination with daily habits that enable you to pick, prioritize, and perform your big tasks – are the essence of diligence.

Click HERE to learn more and to register for this event. 

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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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Time Blocking and Time Boxing to Get the Rights Things Done

How do you make time for important projects or tasks that need attention now?

How do you stop working on a project once it meets the required standard, rather than waste time perfecting it?

Time Blocking and Time Boxing are two planning techniques that you can use separately, but complement each other. Time Blocking is making time for a project. It hones your focus to meet the highest quality standards. Time Boxing is limiting the amount of time you spend on a project. It pushes you to complete a project that meets acceptable standards.

Time Blocking helps you to get unstuck, stop procrastinating, and move forward on a project. It makes time and space for tasks that need attention. It’s a way to chunk projects into smaller parts so it’s easier to start and make steady progress. 

You set time blocks with a start time and end time to work on a specific activity. You could single focus on one difficult, high-leverage project like a strategic marketing plan, or batch process similar, low-level tasks like responding to emails and returning telephone calls. You can move around time blocks if true emergencies and unexpected delays come up. You can schedule new time blocks if you need more to finish the task.

Scheduling a time block goes beyond making a to-do list. It tells you when exactly you will do a task, in what context and under what circumstances, and for how long. It encourages you to take deliberate action steps and to block out distractions and interruptions.

Time Boxing helps you to stay within scope, avoid perfectionism, and finish and deliver a project on time. It puts time constraints on projects that tend to take too long to complete. It takes advantage of Parkinson’s law, which states that work expands to fill the time allotted for its completion. Having a cut-off time to stop working on a task makes you more mindful of the value you bring, rather than the hours you put in.

A timebox can be as short as 15 minutes to several months, depending on the activity or project. One project might take one or two steps, while another requires hundreds of steps. A timebox has project milestones, deadlines and deliverables. 

In episode 7 of The Incrementalist podcast, I cover:

  • The Pomodoro Technique, a popular method for time blocking
  • How time blocks help you do deep work, improve your ability to focus, and make progress on the right things at the right pace for the relevant deadlines
  • The core problem with the billable hour model
  • How time boxes help you to be more efficient, intentional and results-oriented

Resources Cited: 

  • Francesco Cirillo, The Pomodoro Technique: The Acclaimed Time-Management System That Has Transformed How We Work
  • Cal Newport, Deep Work (Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World)

To listen to Episode 7, Time Blocking and Time Boxing to Get the Rights Things Done, click HERE.

Cheers,
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

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Stop Procrastinating and Just Start: The Incrementalist, Episode 6

When you think of the word “procrastination,” what comes to mind? Is it putting things off? Waiting until tomorrow?

Choosing priorities, exercising patience, and planning involve delay. These are smart skills to have.

What’s so bad about procrastinating? Well, it’s not just any delay. It’s really an irrational behavior. It’s when you postpone an important task even though you know you’ll be worse off for doing so.

So how do you stop procrastinating and just start?

It’s a common belief that perfectionism is one of the main causes of procrastination. Does having high standards make it harder to start?  Many of my colleagues in the legal profession, for example, have perfectionist tendencies. Procrastination can get lawyers into trouble. It creates high stress and anxiety, and often leads to subpar work and serious errors.

Rule 1.3 of the ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct states, “A lawyer shall act with reasonable diligence and promptness in representing a client.” Comment 3 adds, “Perhaps no professional shortcoming is more widely resented than procrastination.”

But as it turns out, there’s no strong link between perfectionism and procrastination, says Dr. Piers Steel. He’s a professor and leading researcher on the science of motivation and procrastination. He’s the author of the book, The Procrastination Equation.

Dr. Steel has a mathematical formula that accounts for motivation and procrastination. It is [Expectancy (E) x Value (V)] divided by [Impulsiveness (I) x Delay (D)] = Motivation

The formula is based on 30 years of research and hundreds of studies. To have more motivation, and less procrastination, you want the numerators (E and V) to be high and the denominators (I & D) to be low. 

In episode 6 of The Incrementalist podcast, I describe 4 ways to stop procrastinating and just start: (1) create success spirals; (2) practice mental contrasting; (3) get super-focused; and (4) set clear goals. Success spirals increase expectancy, mental contrasting raises value, super-focus reduces impulsiveness, and clear goals minimize delay. 

I review Dr. Gabriele Oettingen’s WOOP method for incorporating If-Then statements into your plan for overcoming obstacles. WOOP stands for Wish, Outcome, Obstacle, Plan. 

I also explain Dr. Tim Pychyl’s theory that procrastination is an emotion management problem, not a time management issue. We procrastinate because we’re thinking about all the things that might happen rather than just starting what we have to do. Procrastination is a coping strategy to deal with negative emotions like frustration and anxiety. It is based on assumptions that the task won’t feel good. 

When we procrastinate, we have less time to complete the project.  We sometimes tell ourselves we work better under pressure. But we just make more errors when we wait until the deadline is tomorrow. 

Whatever you have to do, just start now. 

Resources Cited: 

  • Pierce Steel, The Procrastination Equation: How to Stop Putting Things Off and Start Getting Stuff Done
  • Gabriele Oettingen, Rethinking Positive Thinking: Inside the New Science of Motivation 
  • Timothy A Pychyl, Solving the Procrastination Puzzle: A Concise Guide to Strategies for Change

Cheers,

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

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