Balance Goals & Planning

Ten practices to support you in doing your best work – part 1

Sandra‘s office was piled high with files, her work-life was spent putting out fires and her dog was feeling so neglected it had taken to chewing the couch.

Jeremy felt like it had been a long time since he had a life. Days and weekends were spent at the office, he’d gained 20 pounds in a year, and his wife had gone on vacation to Mexico with her best friend Gary the hairdresser – again.

Sandra and Jeremy are not alone. These days it seems like the standard answer to “Hi, how are you?“ has become “Busy, and you?” Having a successful professional life and keeping the plants alive and your partner speaking to you requires a whole new set of disciplines.

The higher we climb in our careers the more projects we juggle. Our work becomes increasingly complex. The deadlines are just as short as ever. To survive and thrive under these conditions it is critical to develop new skills and strategies for mastering the demands. In my work as a professional coach I have come across ten simple practices that have made a significant difference for me and for my clients.

They are called practices – because they are simply routines and approaches for you to try out in your work day. Implement them one at a time and observe the effect each one has on your performance. I shared these last week with the attendees at the CBA Women Lawyer’s Forum Annual Conference in Vancouver and was delighted to discover this approach to work is catching on and some of the senior women lawyers were applying practices like these successfully in their work.

Over the next month I will be posting the series. Let me know how they work for you.

Practice One:  Morning Ritual

Open the day with a planning session. Review priorities and upcoming deadlines. Plan the work schedule for the day. Take a short break followed by focused work on the top priority for the day. Try not to spend any time on your email until later in the morning. If necessary have an assistant review the morning email for any urgent messages requiring attention.

Practice Two: One Thing at a Time

I remember back in the 90’s when I had “skilled multi-tasker” proudly highlighted in my resume. Now I would have to say that I am a multi-tasker in recovery. I guarantee this post was written without stopping to check email.

Multi-tasking is over-rated. Once paraded as a virtue, it is now getting known for what it truly is – a time-waster and productivity killer. The human brain can’t multi-task attention. In Brain Rules neurologist John Medina clearly indicates why multi-tasking doesn’t work: “Studies show that a person who is interrupted takes 50% longer to accomplish a task. Not only that, he or she makes up to 50% more mistakes.”

Create zones for intense and focused work during the day. Turn off the email. Close the door. Focus on just one project for up to ninety minutes. Observe how this time for uninterrupted concentration impacts the quality of your work.

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.