Managing Self Monday Morning Practice Practice Management Time

Monday Morning Practice – Is it all in your head?

Written by Allison Wolf

Is it all in your head?

The Monday Morning Practice this week is for those of you who keep big portions of your to do list in your head.

I made the transition from a mental to a paper to-do list many years ago, but when I get busy I start to slip up and revert to old habits until dropped balls and creeping anxiety remind me to get back on the list habit.

Here’s what’s important to know. Your brain is a wonderfully powerful organ and it is a rotten list keeper. As David Allen writes in his productivity classic:

Do you have a flashlight somewhere with dead batteries in it? When does your mind tend to remind you that you need new batteries? When you notice the dead ones! That’s not very smart. If your mind had any innate intelligence it would remind you of those dead batteries only when you passed live ones in a store. And ones the right size, to boot. (Getting Things Done, page 16)

In lawyerly terms, when does your mind tell you about that email you need to get to the client? Probably at midnight as you are trying to get to sleep!

Mental to-do lists are anxiety producing. They are demanding our brain handle a task that it was not designed for when a pen and paper could serve just as well.

With a to-do list you can be incredibly efficient. Have then minutes before the next meeting, check the do to list for what you can get done quickly.

Deciding whether you can help your colleague with that file, have a look at the to-do list for what is on the go in order to make a sound judgment call about your capacity to take on new work.

I am back on my to-do list habit, and my Monday has started with zooming through a whole lot of overdue tasks and it feels good.

If it is all in your head, start today by getting it all out onto a external list and notice what a difference this makes.

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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