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Running, running, running — a marathon at a sprinter’s pace. All year, you’ve been focused on growing your practice, providing superior service for clients, and increasing profits. Whirlwind days turned into weeks, which turned into months.

I encourage you to take stock of your past year by examining the big takeaways from your victories — and from your losses.

But let’s not rest on our laurels, okay? Because before the holidays get underway, you should set aside at least a little time for planning on how to make next year your best year ever.

In fact, the first thing you can do is sign up for my upcoming webinar (Dec. 4) called 3 Things You Should Do NOW to Give Your Law Firm a Head Start in the New Year“.

Next, start thinking about the biggest three victories or accomplishments your firm had this year. It could be anything that brought value to your practice. Maybe it was a big court victory that brought in a ton of revenue. Maybe it was a new associate who invigorated the staff. Maybe it was a new referral source who consistently sent “A” clients to your firm. Whatever it is, take a moment to write them down.

Next, I’d recommend you think about what you were most grateful for this year. Generally, we’re talking about work-related issues, but it easily could be something in your personal life.

Finally, write down the top three strategies or actions you (or your firm) took that worked this year. Even if it was a bumpy year, take stock of things that worked so you can use them in the future.

Now that we’ve taken stock of the good things, let’s talk about the frustrations and breakdowns — the tolerations — you experienced this year. Tolerations are things in your firm, your office or your personal life that are inconsistent with your mission, your vision, your goals. These are things that suck energy from your life.

Some examples include finances, staff, office, health, social, or relationship tolerations — anything that holds you back from where you want to be. They’re like a rubber band attached around your waist, snapping you back from where you want to be.

Write down 10 tolerations that are still around at this time of the year, things you’ve dealt with all or part of the year. In our Atticus coaching programs, we have clients write out a list of 100 tolerations, which on the surface seems difficult or impossible. But the truth is, every one of us has hundreds of things we tolerate every day that take energy from our lives.

Simple things, like scratched glasses, are a toleration. A car that’s hard to start is a toleration. A staff member who consistently arrives late to the office is a toleration. Write down ten and circle your top five. Just writing them down and naming them helps you tell the truth about them. Even if you don’t fix them right away, you’re being truthful with yourself that these are things you need to fix. Take the top five and try to get rid of them by the end of the first quarter of next year.

One quote I like is by George Bernard Shaw: “The reasonable man adapts himself to the world. The unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man.”

To have the best year you can next year, you must become unreasonable. The norm, the comfortable, the mediocre lies in the reasonable. Apple grew into the industry juggernaut it is today because Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak were unreasonable about what the personal computer could do. Break away from where you’re comfortable, push your boundaries beyond what you thought was possible. Put some urgency into removing some of your tolerations, and every time you remove one, you’ll get a burst of energy, you’ll be invigorated.

Before the end of the year, meet with your team and walk them through the process of eliminating tolerations. Be authentic and thank them for their hard work and service to the practice. Then make a toleration list with them. We recommend you identify twenty and walk them through the goals you want to accomplish.

To do this, start with the first things first. And to make next year your best year ever, it starts with your personal life, the wellspring of everything else you do in the rest of your life. Make a list of your personal goals for next year. Maybe it’s fun and vacations. Maybe it’s your health and finances. Maybe it’s relationships or spiritual development. Whatever it is, write it down. And if it’s measurable, such as losing weight, all the better to keep you on track.

One recommendation is to right now block off on your calendar your free time and anticipated vacations.

Once you’re clear about your personal goals, get your firm focused on what’s important. Write down your practice’s goals for the next year, such as revenue and profit, marketing, staffing and strategic delegation, and technology.

Next, identify ten things you could get started on in the first quarter — that’s where the difference is made — to make sure you have things moving in the right direction for your best year ever. You don’t want to wait until the third quarter to get going on your goals; that’s a recipe for falling short.

Finally, set up some time with your team in the first quarter to get your team aligned on the firm’s objectives. It could be a half-day at your office or a weekend at an off-site location. Whatever it is, this is a great way to get everyone pulling in the same direction to make next year your best year ever.

STEVE RILEY

Certified Practice Advisor / Attorney

Steve Riley has coached attorneys for more than 20 years. His one-on-one coaching focuses on a limited number of top producing attorneys committed to taking their practices to new levels of excellence, profit, and personal success. He also presents at group coaching workshops around the country for individual law firms, state bar associations, and other legal organizations.

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