Balance Contribution Leadership Managing Self Monday Morning Practice

Get more done with the run a dash habit

Written by Allison Wolf

Always chasing deadlines?

Feel like you are perpetually starting projects too late?

Want to get more productive?

If you answered yes to any of these questions you are in good company with the majority of your colleagues in the legal profession.

I have some good news for you.

One simple practice habit can have a big impact on productivity.  I call it the run a dash habit.

Here’s how it works.

To run a dash, set a timer and work on one or two blocks of 10 to 15 minutes to move a lot of small things forward on your To Do list. Or you can get a larger project started by actioning one small next step.

This works for everything from filing, to phone calls, or even the next step on a complex project. It is also great for business development – connecting with contacts over email, scheduling lunches, or sending a client a useful article.

To run a dash you break your projects down into the smallest actionable next steps and capture these on your To Do list.

Have lunch with the in-house counsel becomes send an email to schedule lunch with the in-house counsel.

Report back to the client on the result of the meeting and next steps becomes list key points to communicate to the client.

Waiting for the perfect moment to start is counterproductive. Instead, get started on big tasks early.

Our brains need time to process information and cognate. When we begin work on a difficult project and then set it aside, our powerful brain will continue to ponder it, silently, in the background.

Also, as our brain ponders in the background it is being exposed to a variety of other stimuli from our environment and this can help inspire new thoughts and promote creativity.

The result is that when we return to the task after a break of some minutes, hours, or days, we are likely to return with fresh ideas and insights.

The pace of legal practice is such that we are all likely to always be handling full plates of work. Leaving our big projects for the perfect moment is an exercise in futility and just means we will find ourselves in fire-fighting mode – again – when the deadline approaches.

I frequently employ the run-a-dash strategy with positive results. I always have a number of large projects sitting in my work cue. I now try and take an initial start on each of them well in advance of the deadline. What I find is that by getting started early, when it comes time for the big push I am already well on my way.

What can you take a run at today?

About the author

Allison Wolf

I am the founder of AWAL and one of the most senior coaches for lawyers in North America. I have helped countless clients over the past fifteen years, develop thriving legal practices and before that served as director of marketing for award-winning law firms. My specialty is uncovering the thinking traps and gaps holding clients back and helping them acquire the mindsets, skills, and habits for growing successful and rewarding legal careers. After a career in legal marketing and business development with law firms in Beijing, New York, and Vancouver, I was trained as a coach in 2004 at Royal Roads University and now coach clients from across North America. You can reach me at or learn more about my coaching practice from the coaching section of the Attorney With A Life Website.

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