Procrastination and Boredom, Evil Twins

I almost didn’t get to this post. Procrastination. Boredom. I get bored—really bored sometimes. Boredom leads to procrastination. If you are anything like me, the minute you actually feel “good enough” and confident in your ability to do something, you get bored doing that something.

Am I the only lawyer who sometimes doesn’t want to do the work we’ve been hired to do? I sincerely wish that was true, but I know it isn’t because if that were the case we wouldn’t be told otherwise in almost every legal ethics workshop.

I find myself in this space almost every day. I’m really good at many lawyering skills including drafting contracts, operating agreements, and trademark applications. Those are the things I do. Sometimes those documents can bore me to tears, but they have to get finished even when I don’t want to do the work, so I’ve identified 8 approaches for breaking through procrastination and boredom.

1. Materialistic

Use this when starting your law practice. Think: “$250/hour. $250/hour. $250/hour” or whatever your billing rate is. Of course, if you know anything about me, you know that this doesn’t work for me anymore because I’ve eliminated the hourly billing model from my practice. I’m kind of ashamed to admit that sometimes I still motivate myself to do the work by doing a couple short jumps and saying “Show Me the Money!”

2. Systems

Use this when you’re feeling fat-headed. Think “I’ll do this now, but as soon as I can afford it, I’ll delegate this task to some underling.”  Of course, some tasks SHOULD be delegated to an assistant or a paralegal and we should pay attention to what those are, but as a solo practice attorney, you’ll ultimately have to pay attention to the details. So, allow this to work for short-term motivation and understand that you might never have the perfect minion to deal with the work your clients hired you to do.

3. Punitive

Use this when you’re almost on deadline. Think, “I’ll get grieved or fired if I don’t do this RIGHT NOW!” This one especially effective on those really boring, hard-to-start tasks.

4. Altruistic

This works only on the tasks for clients who are changing the world.  Think: “Drafting this contract will really help this client, and this client is doing great things. I’m contributing to making the world a better place by doing my part in this project.” You might think I’m being sarcastic here, but I’m not. This can be a very sincere feeling when the task, client, and goal align.

5. Spiritual

This one is good for those tasks that you are uniquely qualified to accomplish. Think: “God (or whatever you choose to call a higher power if you believe in one) gave me these unique skills, talents, and abilities and brought me this specific opportunity to use them. I should do my best.”

6. Zen

Think: “This is all part of the experience of life. It’s how I chop wood and carry water.”

7. Athletic

Think: “Just Do It.”

8. Hedonistic

Think “I’ll feel REALLY good after I finish this project.”

Some days one of these works while all the others fall short. I don’t care which one is effective. Neither should you. Try not to judge the motivation. Instead, focus on the result. Maybe it’s better to do things from a “higher” motivation, but if that’s not working for you today, then “Show me the money!”

What do you do to break through motivational challenges?  Post a comment.

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  • Clayton

    If I’m having trouble getting stuff done, I’ll often set a timer for 10 minutes. Mentally, I’m basically hitting the “snooze” button. I’ll waste a little more time, but then after the 10 minutes are up – time to work.

  • Great thoughts Kevin. I use many of these motivating techniques myself.

  • Kari

    Guilt is my ultimate motivator. I was raised Catholic, so…