Can you get things done when no-one is shouting for it?  Two of my clients had both been recently made up to partner and were enjoying the semi-autonomous nature of their new role. However, they were both finding that now they didn’t have lots of deadlines imposed by a partner (or the audit they were managing) they were struggling to get things done. They needed to be able to work without deadlines. Sounds easy, but not always easy when you have been used to working with others continually setting your deadlines. It’s not just about new partners it’s also anyone in practice who is finding it difficult to actually do anything that requires self-motivation such as business development activities. This blog post explores how to find your self-motivation so you can get things done when no-one is shouting for it.  

New partners need to be able to work without deadlines

When you have a line manager or partner giving you objectives and deadlines and you are hardworking and conscientious, it’s fairly easy to be organised and get things done. However, as soon as you remove this mechanism it can become a lot harder. I found this when I went from corporate life to being my own boss. Suddenly, I found I could only get things done when I had a near and motivating deadline to hit. It’s often the same with new partners in a firm. Up until this point in your professional career you’ve pretty much been told what to do and by when. As soon as you make partner this switches to being asked what you want to do. In effect you are suddenly the master (or mistress) of your own destiny. Whilst it feels very freeing to be a new partner after often 10-20 years of being at a partner’s beck and call, it can highlight some personal traits which need adjusting.  

Business development also requires self-motivation and being organised

Balancing business development and client work also requires lots of self-motivation and self organisation. It’s always far too easy to postpone your business development work if you have client work which NEEDS to be done. However, postponing business development activity just starts to build up a problem for the future. I.e. it’s not going to help your figures as someone who wants to make partner or help keep a consistent flow of work coming in if you are a partner.  

Be aware of your natural tendencies

I am my own worst enemy when it comes to being self-motivated to get things done. I am assuming that I am also in good company if you are reading this article with a view to getting some tips to help your own personal situation. There are 3 types of procrastinators. One of the types is a type called last-minute thrill-seekers. – you will struggle to get things done unless you are up against a deadline. Guilty as charged! Last-minute thrill seekers often identify as a Myers-Briggs ‘P’ rather than ‘J’. I.e. I can play at any time. If you are a last-minute thrill-seeker then the best way to help yourself overcome this self-sabotaging tendency is to give yourself some accountability or false deadlines. For example this could be working with a coach, or putting in place progress meetings for client work or internal projects with another member of staff which will force you to get things done.  

To-do lists tend not to work

To-do lists tend not to work for people who identify as Myers-Briggs ‘P’ and who have to work autonomously. Although I wish they did! I am always wanting to get into a good habit of doing a weekly and daily ‘to-do list’. It just doesn’t work for me. What does work is keeping it simple. So instead of a ‘to do’ list, think about a ‘to achieve’ list, which has a maximum of 3 things on it. I.e. once a week you decide on what you want to achieve during the week and allocate time in your diary to do this. Then every day you review and refresh this list and build a daily ‘to achieve’ list. The key is keeping the list at a fairly headline level. It can also help to share your ‘to achieve’ list with anyone responsible for booking your diary or who helps keep you accountable for your actions.  

Be clear about your ‘why’

I’ve never had a problem about getting business development activities done. This is because there has always been a very clear ‘why’ for me. Stop doing business development and my pipeline of new work will dry up. Then the family finances will get very stretched. Recently I took some time out to review progress on my business and where I wanted to be. This act of taking some time out helped me identify the two biggest priorities during my next 3 months. As you can imagine this helped shift my thinking for what really needed to get done. If you are struggling to self-motivate yourself, getting clear on your real priorities can often help you make time for things that really matters. In order to make partner, business development needs to become part of your day job. If you keep that in mind – perhaps with a post-it-note on your computer – it may help you always make time for it.  

Use a default diary.

A default diary is one where you put in recurring tasks or responsibilities through your normal day or working week or month. And then you stick to these tasks or responsibilities. For example this could include:

  • Reading the emailed daily bulletins and then doing a LinkedIn update as your first job of the day
  • Having a team meeting on a Monday or Friday at a certain time to focus everyone for the week ahead
  • Having the first Monday of the month as the day when you write a blog post
  • Scheduling an off-site half day every quarter to do a review of how the last three months went and what you need to achieve going forward.

Diarise tasks.

This tip sometimes works for me and sometimes doesn’t. But a 50% success rate is still a win for me! (Yes, I can be that unorganised at times) This is a simple technique where you allocate time in your diary for specific tasks or things to achieve. Or even better the person who manages your diary does this for you.  

Examine your ‘too hard’ box.

Everyone has a ‘too hard’ box. This is where you subconsciously put in any tasks which seem hard or take you out of your comfort zone. Then you often forget about the tasks and they don’t get done. This could be:

  • Using LinkedIn to have a cold email approach to potential referrers
  • Having a conversation with a client to tell them about fees going up
  • Doing a piece of client work which is outside of your comfort zone
  • Videoing yourself and sharing the video on LinkedIn
  • Going to a networking event where you hardly know anyone.

Every once in a while it is definitely worth taking the time to see what things you are putting into your ‘too hard’ box. Then examine how you can build different strategies or work with a coach to tackle the tasks that you have put in your ‘too hard’ box.  

Don’t change everything at once.

It’s really easy to look at our hyper organised colleagues and think, why can’t I be like them? And then try and do everything that they do. The net result is an initial burst of energy and then we go back to our old ways. My advice is just change one thing at a time. Then get that new habit working and part of your ‘normal’. Then change another thing. Just remember that everyone works differently. Your highly structured colleagues may be looking at you and wishing they could be as easily flexible as you are! It’s a skill to get things done when you need to be self-motivated, regardless of whether you are a partner or not. This may mean, you developing ways of working, in order to deliver on your commitments every time.

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