Category Archives: The Ethical Lawyer – Legal Ethics Blog

Make Willpower Irrelevant

When you’re building a new habit, do you rely on willpower?

Is willpower the main driver to sustain change?

What can you do when it fails you?

If you want to get to the next level, you need willpower to make creative breakthroughs and steady progress. Don’t you? After all, willpower helps you to beat distractions and delay gratification to make wise choices. But willpower is limited. It gets depleted the more you use it and as the day goes on.

While you could do certain things to boost and improve willpower, you could also shape your environment so you don’t need it. Your situation and circumstances either encourage or discourage positive change.

In episode 31 of The Incrementalist show, you will learn:

1. The stages of change

  • precontemplation (you deny you have a problem)
  • contemplation (you acknowledge there’s a problem and weigh the pros and cons of change)
  • preparation (you commit to the change)
  • action (you behave and act in new ways to effect change, which is shaped by internal factors like willpower and external factors like rewards and consequences)
  • maintenance (you keep the good habits and drop the bad habits)
  • relapse (you slip back into old behavior)

2. Why willpower is not enough to overcome obstacles

3. The problem with decision fatigue and how to reduce it 

  • Make a full, 100% commitment to make the change
  • Get clear and specific on what you really want
  • Define positive goals to approach instead of negative goals to avoid
  • Have implementations intentions and an if-then strategy
  • Choose the big three things you will do to support your priorities
  • Perform a weekly review and planning session 

4. The benefits of imagining the future and future you when making decisions

  • Your future self is how you want to be and show up 90 days, 1 year, and 3 years from now
  • Practice strategic ignorance by blocking things that are not serving your highest goals or desired life
  • Practice strategic remembering by adding reminders of your future self in your current environment
  • Keep visual cues of your wins and progress

5. The importance of making your commitments public and having support networks and accountability partners

6. The Pygmalion Effect, which means you rise or fall to the demands of expectations and situations

  • Your personal history and past affect you, but does not define you, your present, or your future
  • Your emotions are a key source of information in designing your environment

7.  How Forcing Functions put you on the hook for things that matter and help you create desired outcomes

  • Parkinson’s law, i.e. work expands to fill the time allotted for it
  • The 80% approach, i.e. going for 80% gets results while striving for 100% is still thinking about it

8. Peak experiences allow you to stretch and grow beyond your limits

  • The integration of pure work and pure play is necessary for creative insights
  • Mental breakthroughs occur when you engage in deliberate rest, daydreaming and mind wandering, and quiet reflection

9. You usually need willpower to change your environment. But it’s really the environment that allows you to sustain the change.

Resources cited:

Music by:

To listen to episode 31,  Make Willpower Irrelevant, 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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Dealing with Motivation Ruts and Burnout

How are you handling uncertainty in life?

Are you excited and optimistic, or drained and depleted?

Do you know why you do what you do?

What drives you to stick with hard things to get desired results?  

2020 was an especially challenging year. And this year continues to require some extra effort to start and finish things that matter.  Even if you’ve built a business for yourself (like I did), you can still have creative exhaustion and feel trapped by your work.

Maintaining discipline is more critical than having motivation. Preserve your energy and leave some fuel in the tank. Steady, daily progress through discipline allows you to cultivate long-term motivation. When you have autonomy, discretion, rewards that you value, social support, fair policies, and meaningful work, you feel more engaged and less burnt out.

In episode 30 of The Incrementalist podcast, you will learn:

1. Small, key things to do when you’re in a motivation rut and feeling depleted

2. Why maintaining discipline is more important than having motivation

3. The three key dimensions of the burnout-engagement continuum, as defined by Dr. Christina Maslach and Dr. Michael Lieter: 

  • exhaustion-energy
  •  cynicism-involvement 
  • inefficacy-efficacy

4. The six workplace factors that trigger burnout:

  • workplace overload
  • lack of control over your work
  • insufficient reward
  • lack of community
  • absence of fairness
  • conflicting values

5.  External factors and rewards don’t always match with internal drivers and intrinsic motivation

6. How a unique framework – the Motivation Code (MCODE) – helps you to understand what motivates you and why

7. The Motivation Code includes 27 motivational themes that are grouped into six motivational families: 

Visionary

  • Achieve Potential
  • Make an Impact
  • Experience the Ideal

Achiever

  • Meet the Challenge
  • Overcome
  • Bring to Completion
  • Advance

Team Player

  • Collaborate
  • Make the Grade
  • Serve
  • Influence Behavior

Learner

  • Comprehend and Express
  • Master
  • Demonstrate New Learning
  • Explore

Optimizer

  • Organize
  • Make it Right
  • Improve
  • Make it Work
  • Develop
  • Establish

Key Contributor

  • Evoke Recognition
  • Bring Control
  • Be Unique
  • Be Central
  • Gain Ownership
  • Excel

8. What motivates you does not always include work that you love, but involves work that allows you to accomplish what really matters to you. 

9. Use clean fuel to motivate your work and create possibilities, meaning and significance to feel alive and engaged, instead of depleted and drained. 

Resources cited:

  • Christina Maslach & Michael P. Leiter, The Truth About Burnout: How Organizations Cause Personal Stress and What to Do About It
  • Todd Henry with Rodd Penner, Todd W. Hall and Joshua Miller, The Motivation Code: Discover the Hidden Forces that Drive Your Best Work
  • Dyan Williams, Attorney Burnout: The High Cost of Overwork

Music by:

To listen to episode 30,  Dealing with Motivation Ruts and Burnout, click 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.

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Finding Your Ikigai (sense of purpose)

When you start your day, do you feel alive and engaged?

Do you have a great reason for getting out of bed?

Are you living a life that brings deep meaning?

True productivity is not just about getting more stuff done effectively and efficiently. It also involves creating a meaningful and satisfying life. This doesn’t mean you always get what you want or that everything comes easy to you. Hardships can build appreciation for life itself.

Words like purpose and calling are nebulous. They are associated with living authentically, with integrity and in alignment with your core values and commitments.

Ikigai is a Japanese philosophy for discovering your purpose and building self-awareness. Your ikigai is something that gives you a sense of purpose. It sustains you and matches with your heartfelt desires and personal definition of success. It’s not always about goals or accomplishments.

There is no perfect English translation for ikigai. Roughly speaking, Iki is “life” and Gai is “value or worth.” It is your reason for being, your reason for living. You can find your ikigai through natural evolution or active contemplation. It is can include divergent interests and doesn’t have to be one thing.

In episode 29 of The Incrementalist podcast, you will learn:

1) What ikigai means from a traditional perspective compared to the Westernized version

2) The limits and benefits of the Ikigai Venn Diagram, which includes four elements:

  • What you love, e.g. your activities or interests that trigger flow
  • What you’re good, e.g. your skills, talents, expertise, knowledge
  • What the world needs, e.g. what you can contribute to your community, your group, and your market in terms of skills, talent, expertise, knowledge
  • What you can be paid for, e.g. earning real money to meet your needs and be financially sustainable

3) The Venn Diagram shows your ikigai as being at the center, where the four elements intersect:

  • Passion is what you love and are good at
  • Mission is what you love and what the world needs
  • Profession is what you’re good at and what you can get paid for
  • Vocation is what the world needs and what you can get paid for

4) Your ikigai may come from small, daily joys in life as well as from a role or activity that combines all four elements. A quick example:

  • My long-time friend and piano teacher, Sebastian Brian Mehr, released his debut album, Olemus.
  • His ikigai is in composing and making original music. It’s what he loves, what he’s good at, and what his audience needs.
  • If he can make a sustainable income through this path, all four elements will intersect.
  • It’s ideal to have them all, but you can usually find purpose with one or all of the first three.

5) Your ikigai may come from different sources, such as pure enjoyment of an activity, regardless of whether you’re good at it, you get paid for it, or the world needs it.

6) Your ikigai doesn’t have to be what you love. It’s a reason to live, which can come from hard things, like being a parent to a child or a caregiver of a disabled, aging parent. These roles and responsibilities bring meaning, but are not always fun.

7) The source of your ikigai may come from difficulties, obstacles, struggles and tragedies. It might even arise from daily chores or mindful rituals.

8) 10 ways to keep finding and experiencing your ikigai:

  • Start small
  • Let go and release what you don’t want
  • Aim for harmony and sustainability
  • Be present with what is
  • Take time to interact with nature
  • Keep a healthy diet
  • Stay active
  • Give thanks for the small victories and gifts you have
  • Sleep well for rest, recovery and rejuvenation
  • Cultivate a sense of wonder and curiosity

9) Your ikigai can evolve and change over time, depending on the context, circumstances, and season of life.

Resources cited:

Music by:

To listen to episode 29, Finding Your Ikigai, click here. If you prefer to read, the transcript is 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.

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How to Stay Accountable and Stop Self-Sabotage

Do your actions align with what you seek to accomplish?

Are you doing things or not doing things that undermine your stated goals?

What are your big assumptions that affect how you behave?

Are there hidden intentions that compete with your new habits and initiatives?

To gain traction and execute better on your goals, start with a 12-week action plan instead of a longer term, annual plan. Rather than wait an entire year to track progress and measure results, you do a formal review every 12 weeks.  And in the 13th week, you make a plan for the next 12 weeks.

As part of your routine, you score the week, plan the week, and participate in weekly accountability meetings (WAM). Stay accountable by owning your thinking, choices and actions. Keep your commitments by uncovering hidden intentions, internal contradictions and big assumptions that undermine your desired behavior. 

In episode 28 of The Incrementalist podcast, you will learn:

1. The benefits of making a 12-week action plan for the 12-week year

2. The weekly routine involves scoring the week, planning the week and having accountability meetings

  • The difference between measuring lead versus lag indicators
  • Why you will benefit from a daily review and weekly review to track your actions and progress
  • How a support group can help you when you’re struggling with accountability

3. Accountability is not about negative, external consequences or punishment for bad performance or rewards for good performance. It’s about ownership. 

4. Commitment means you keep your promises to yourself and to others. It is part of being accountable. 

5. Commitment involves:

  • Having a clear, compelling vision of what you want to create in life, which gives rise to intentional imbalance
  • Defining specific key actions to reach big goals
  • Counting the costs, including what you will need to give up and the obstacles you will face

6. The Immunity to Change model and how it affects your capacity to change

  • Competing commitments are for self-protection and self-preservation, but they often get in the way of your accomplishing improvement goals and making necessary change
  • The importance of hitting resistance straight on
  • Why you need to uncover hidden intentions, internal contradictions and big assumptions to execute key actions

7.  Lack of execution – not lack of knowledge, insight, ideas or network – is what most prevents you from aligning with your vision and implementing your desired actions

Resources cited: 

To listen to episode 28, How to Stay Accountable and Stop Self-Sabotage, click 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

How to Accomplish More in 12 Weeks Than in 12 Months

Do you often fail to follow thorough and take action on your goals?   

Have you been tracking your progress on big projects?

Are you in annual mode where you measure success at the end of the year? 

Do you wait until December to set new goals?

If you’re resisting what you need to accomplish, you might have given yourself too much time to execute your plans. New Year’s Resolutions and annual goals rarely get you to where you need to be and create the life you want.   

Move out of annual thinking and adopt the 12 Week Year. With this planning technique, a year is no longer 12 months; it’s 12 weeks. 1 year = 12 weeks, 1 month = 1 week, and 1 week = 1 day. You are no longer focusing on distant annual goals broken into 4 periods or quarters.

In episode 27 of The Incrementalist podcast, you will learn:

1) The advantages of a 12-week planning system to set and implement big goals

2) How your thinking affects the results

3) The key ingredients of a weekly plan and ways to make it work for you

4) The steps to creating and recreating a 12-week action plan

5) How shorter time frames prompt you to take action and avoid procrastination 

6) The importance of having a clear vision and defining specific tactics to get you where you want to be

7) Time blocking helps you control your day and carve out time to execute your plan

Resources cited: 

To listen to episode 27, How to Accomplish More in 12 Weeks Than in 12 Months, click 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