When I was a girl in elementary school, I was a very good student, as probably are many of you. And I had one of my first tests; I think it was history, something like that. I told my mom “I am so nervous about my test that I need to read my whole textbook”. I think it was a final exam, actually. It might have been the first time I had a final exam. And so I read, cover to cover, this textbook and I remember my mom supporting me because I wanted to read it out loud to her. Oh my gosh, I remember that. And so those were some of my first memories of over-preparing.
I'm sure many of you have those kinds of stories, especially being a lawyer, when we over-prepare. We're so nervous, that we just go above and beyond what's necessary. We spend so much time doing things that may or may not be helpful. And this can show up studying for the bar; it can show up preparing for court, anything like that. I would like you to think about a story when you over- prepared. There are probably many. And then also choose a story when you procrastinated. When you didn't want to do a big project, it's like it was haunting you in the background and you just put it aside, and kept putting it aside, every day. And there was this cloud over you.
Think about that, that story, your procrastination story from when you were younger, or now as a lawyer, or as a law student. I invite you to think about how these two concepts are really the same. These are time wasters. So either we are over-preparing or we are procrastinating. Either we're spending so much time working on a case that really after a while is diminishing returns. After a while, it doesn't really matter what you put into it, you're basically ready. Actually it can be harmful. As you know, you could be detracting from the good work you've done. We are fatiguing ourselves; and instead we could have been doing something else that would have been more fulfilling and nourishing that would help us for the task at hand.
We could be getting enough sleep, finding a calmness and stillness so then we can approach whatever problem or test or trial is in front of us, so we can think more clearly. Instead of that we're just over-researching over-working, over-preparing. There's this loop that will just continue to do that until we can't anymore; essentially until we burn out.
And then procrastination is very similar. So we have things to do; we know what we need to do, for the most part. And if we don't, we have the skills and wherewithal to find out how. But we keep putting it aside; we don't want to deal with it for many reasons that we come up with. We don't want to deal with that project, that client, that task: whether it has to do with your business/your law firm, a case that you don't want to deal with, a client that you don't want to call (you're avoiding). And this can go on for a short period of time, or sometimes we can be very successful - for a long period of time we can be procrastinating.
So both of these conditions/situations have something in common: they waste time. And the reason we are doing them comes to one thing: perfectionism. So for both of these activities, whether we're avoiding something or we're over- prepared for something, it means we want to be perfect. And we don't have the confidence to know when we are perfect and when we're finished. Or we don't want to approach a project because we want to do it perfectly, and we may not have the experience, or it's just it's very difficult for us. And so we don't want to even try because it's not going to be perfect. And it's really not! We have that knowing; we have that intuition. It's not going to be perfect at our best level work. And so we just avoid the whole thing.
Or we figure, “This is not my best work, so I'm going to compensate by over-preparing.” This lack of confidence shows up in these activities, which is probably mostly what we're doing a lot of the time. And then we say we don't have time, right? In today's episode, I just really wanted to bring attention to these time wasters. “No judgment”, as they say, but just an invitation to develop awareness that when you're engaging in these activities, go deeper.
Let's go deeper. What is this about? Is this about perfectionism that doesn't exist? Is it about high- achieving stories that we have that we're supposed to do things a certain way? What if we become more aware of what we're doing and maybe ease up on ourselves? I know, I know. But first just become aware of it. There's something about becoming aware of a habit or a cycle that can help it kind of loosen. If we're aware that we're over-preparing maybe we’ll over-prepare less. If we're aware that we're procrastinating we might procrastinate less. Because we know where this train is going, we can get off that train.
In creating this awareness, you will create time; we can tackle these time wasters. This is not about feeling bad. This is about creating the life that you want to live as a lawyer where you have enough time and space and energy to serve your clients, to have work-life balance, and to feel good, to have confidence, and feel good in your work product. Thank you to our sponsor for this episode and blog post: Strahle Legacy Planning Law Offices, located in Soquel, CA helps individuals and families protect their legacy and create peace of mind through estate planning. They focus on Wills, Trusts, Trust Administration, and Probate. Strahle Legacy Planning can be reached at (831) 621-2165 or http://www.santacruzestateplanning.com/ To get your free copy of “The New Billable Hour” book and other resources, visit www.newbillablehour.com. If you are interested in working with Ritu to transform your relationship with your law practice, schedule a free consultation here: www.calendly.com/ritugo