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Melissa Shanahan

#243: Course Correction: How to Stay Focused, Consistent, and Achieve Your Goals

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Any time you set out to achieve a goal or do something that feels important to you, it requires deliberate focus. Unfortunately, it is human nature to get distracted by day-to-day stressors, lose focus, and fall back into your default way of being. This is where frequent, regular course correction comes in.

Getting back on your path to progress doesn’t just require course correction here and there. If you want real progress and to create real results, you need to course correct often. This is something Melissa teaches her clients how to do, and she is sharing how to do it strategically on the podcast this week.

Listen in to learn how to course correct so effectively that each time you fall off track (and you will), the time it takes to regain focus gets faster with less friction. Melissa shares why having a regular cadence to your course corrections matters, two tools to make them more effective, and why getting more specific about what you want to accomplish makes course correcting along the way easier.

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Show Notes:

What You’ll Discover:

• What it means to course correct.

• Why you need to course correct more often, and how to ensure you do.

• The power of having check-ins with outside parties, but especially with yourself.

• How to use the Engagement Scale in your check-ins with yourself.

• Why being more specific about your goals makes course correcting easier.

• How doing the Friday Wrap exercise helps you stay on course.

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The Monday Map/Friday Wrap Process

#199: Consistency: Laying the Groundwork (Part 1)

#200: Consistency: Building Stability Before Growth (Part 2)

#201: Consistency: Progress, Not Perfection (Part 3)

#202: Consistency: Overcoming Obstacles (Part 4)

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Full Episode Transcript:

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I’m Melissa Shanahan, and this is The Law Firm Owner Podcast Episode #243.

Welcome to The Law Firm Owner Podcast, powered by Velocity Work, for owners who want to grow a firm that gives them the life they want. Get crystal clear on where you're going, take planning seriously, and honor your plan like a pro. This is the work that creates Velocity.

What is up everybody? Welcome to this week's episode. I mentioned, either last week or the week before, we started this year strong here at Velocity work. We had a bunch of private client retreats early on, and a group retreat that we led; it was a very busy January.

So, what I did was bake in at the end of the month, a couple of days to go visit one of my best friends who moved to Charlotte last year. I haven't been to visit, I haven't seen her new life, and so I took some time to do that. I left my boys here at home and went for a long weekend to visit her, and it was fantastic. Just relaxing and fun, good meals together. I got to see her new home she's building, and met some of her new friends there. It was an absolute blast.

Now, we're back. Actually, on the way home, because I was coming from the East Coast flying back to Denver, I stopped and worked with a private client for a day on something super specific that we dug into. That was a great day as well. So, I'm back, I'm refreshed, I’m ready to go, and it feels good.

I really needed that. I needed that space. I want to encourage each of you, and this sort of ties in with what we're talking about today on the episode, each of you, please take time to think about what you need to keep you going strong. If I would have kept going at the same pace I've been going in January, I would have been a shell of myself come mid-February. I needed the space, and so I took it and it was fantastic.

Now, I'm ready to go again. But it doesn't happen if you don't put it on the calendar. If you're anything like me, I'll take the space because I have to, because I'm crashing, and it messes things up. But if I plan it, I put on the calendar, I can take the space. It's expected that I'm going to take the space, and it makes everything easier. So, planning ahead makes a big difference.

That does actually bring us to what we're going to talk about today. What we're talking about today is course correction, and how to course correct more often, which means, basically faster. Anytime we set out to do something that feels important to us, something that we are working towards, if it requires a change or it requires deliberate focus that withstands the day to day, the norms, that we currently have.

When you're working towards something, when you're trying to create a change, or you're trying to complete a project, or when you're trying to shift something into a new gear or create a new normal, that requires focus. It requires consistency, that's what it requires. And so, that's probably the better way to think about this, as consistency.

When you start to drift from consistency back into your default mode, or you set things to the side or life gets busy, and so you don't make as much project or headway you aren't as focused on it, you aren't as consistent with the attention towards that thing, it's going to fall away. Then, you'll probably course correct, but you'll be really frustrated when that happens.

Because it's like, “Man, okay, why did I, last quarter, set this down? Let's pick this back up. This is something that needs to be done. This makes sense for everyone.” But somehow, the day-to-day wins, the default way of operating wins. Now, what I just talked about was I gave an example of the next quarter. You may say, “Okay, we’ve got to get back on this,” and so that's you course correcting.

A lot of people don't course correct often enough. As time has gone on, I focused more and more on this. There are certainly times where I don't, but I can recognize it now. So, I usually set myself up to win at this game better than I used to.

With a course correction, basically what this means is that you have spaces, more often of the time, where you can reflect on progress and make some decisions about what needs to happen so that you stay focused on what it is that you said was important. Or so that you are consistent, where it's very easy to not be consistent. It is a check in.

If you have these more often, that you actually you show up for, just asking yourself a few questions can put you back on track, back on course, so you’re course correcting. This is a much more efficient way to accomplish something that you're really wanting to accomplish because you're not wasting as much time.

There's not as much space that goes by where we're just falling back into our default ways. And then we kind of get sick enough of something again, and it brings it back into focus, and then we focus on it again. And there was a bunch of time that lapsed in between when it fell off our radar and right now, here we are, and we are wanting to focus on it again.

This pattern is super normal. You are human. We are not capable of perfection. We are capable of immense progress. We are capable of consistency, maybe not perfect consistency, but consistency. And that is what matters.

I did a series in this podcast last March, so you can go back and look it up, it was a series on consistency; Part 1, 2, 3, and 4. The reason I did that series was because we were crossing over the 200th episode of the podcast, and as a team, we thought through what we should do for the 200th episode.

What I kept coming back to is the idea of consistency, because it's the only reason I was able to cross over 200 episodes; was the commitment to being consistent. Now, the journey behind the scenes wasn't perfect. And the consistency required a lot of me at times. And my point here is that consistency is what matters.

And when we set out to do something, recognizing how important consistency is. And in order to stay consistent, your focus has to stay high, your awareness has to stay high, your commitment to that thing has to stay high.

And there are times where we get sidetracked, where all the things that are vying for our attention in the real world, pull out us enough where we start to drop or lose focus on the thing that we said we wanted to accomplish.

And what is required in those moments is course correction. And when you course correct more often, you stay the course more of the time, which means you will get to your result faster and with less friction. You'll still have friction. But it'll be less friction because you’re course correcting so much more often.

So the question becomes, what can you do to ensure that you course correct more often? And that's a very different question than ‘what can I do to stay perfectly consistent towards my goal?’ Yeah, of course, you have plans to be consistent, you have plans on what you're going to do in order to take yourself to the goal.

But the important question becomes, after you've made those plans, what am I going to do to course correct more often? To ensure that I course correct more often? How are you going to set yourself up to win at this game? When you ask yourself this question or these kinds of questions, that means that you are giving the thoughtfulness that this result deserves. You’re giving the thoughtfulness that you deserve in order to achieve the result.

And if you don't give it this level of thoughtfulness, when you get off track the chances of you staying off track for longer than is necessary is very high. When you do have a plan on course correction, you make sure that you aren't wasting as much time drifting off path.

So, in order to course correct, what does that look like? What do we do? How do we course correct that we ensure that we aren't being inefficient towards where it is we say we want to go, the result that we say we want to create? It comes down to check-ins. Now there are a couple of different ways you can do this for yourself.

Number one is you get accountability so that the check-in is with an outside party. So for instance, Mastery Group members, for sure, use our calls that we have every week as a time where they can course correct. It's a wakeup call, it pulls them out of their day to day, it has them evaluate their progress towards certain things, and is really useful.

I also often call this the “reset button.” I want them to use these calls as reset buttons. They don't have a bunch of homework to do before they show up. Their job is to be present on these calls and use it, leverage those calls, to course correct, to stay on track, to get back on track, so that they don't waste as much time out on left field. And that works quite well.

So having an outside party where you have to show up, you have to be reminded, you're going to be challenged to think about these things that you have said matter.

Another is to have check-ins with yourself, which I highly recommend even if you do have outside accountability. Because the more that you strengthen this relationship between you and you, you strengthen the trust that you have that you will follow through. Not because you're a robot, not because you're a perfectionist, not because you are a super woman or Superman, it's because you have these check-ins.

That's how we stay on course. And if you check in with yourself, I do have something I recommend that you can use. But you could also infuse anything else that feels like it might be useful. What I recommend, is that when you sit down to check in on your progress towards a specific thing, and I'll talk about specificity more here in a moment, you ask yourself: How engaged have I been towards this result that I'm trying to create?

This is a tool I learned years ago called “the engagement scale.” So you rate yourself, on a scale of 1-10, in terms of how engaged you are at creating the result that you want to create. Whatever number you land on, and 10 means there's no room for improvement, 0 means clueless.

Whatever number you land on the question then becomes: What could I do that would make it so that I could rate myself just a notch or two higher? I'm going to repeat that. What could I do that would make it so that I could rate myself a notch or two higher on this engagement scale?

Your answers there are the very things that you need to calendar, you need to do, you need to make sure that you make time for. And it's probably worth mentioning that the question isn't: What do I need to do so that I could rate myself a 10? That's not the question.

The question is: What do I need to do so that I can rate myself a notch or two higher on this engagement scale? Because, again, we're not shooting for perfection, we're shooting for progress. Staying plugged in consistently is progress.

Expecting yourself to consistently be perfect towards this thing is unrealistic and you will fall off. You will not achieve what you set out to achieve. It is not worth your time to entertain it because it doesn't work. People want to do that. They say, “Oh, I rated myself a 6 on the engagement scale, in terms of how engaged I am currently. What can I do to be a 10?” And so then they'll flame up and they'll flame out, which is the wrong approach.

Consistency requires small consistent steps in the right direction. When you flame up, you're going to flame out just as quickly. And that is the nature of this, this is the nature of how this works. And when you try to defy nature and how nature works, you're working against yourself. So don't do it. Don't try to shoot for a 10. Try to shoot for a notch or two higher.

Every week, if you focus on that you will make the kind of progress that will blow your own mind. So let's do that, shall we? If you're anything like me, you have a tendency to flame up and take big swings at something, and then before you know it, it's just such an afterthought. And then things will come back around where you'll think, “Why didn't I follow through on that? Oh my gosh, I wish I would have. If I would have followed through in that I'd have the result now. But now, here I am starting over again, starting again.”

And that's okay. And if you find yourself there, that's okay. But can we not keep repeating that pattern? And the way you prevent the pattern is to course correct more often, and ask yourself: What's next, so that I can rate myself higher on this scale, in terms of engagement towards getting the result?

Okay. Now, the other thing I will say when it comes to specificity, the more specific that you are when you are thinking about what you are going to accomplish, the better off you'll be and the easier it will be to course correct. If you have a general something that you want to get better at, leadership within your firm for example, that's pretty general. And it's not that you won't come up with answers, with the questions that I've posed before.

You will be able to rate yourself in terms of engagement. You will be able to come up with what you need to do in order to be able to rate yourself a notch or two higher. And so you can make progress there. But when you have a specific thing you're shooting for, that changes everything. It speeds you up because you have a specific thing that you're shooting for.

So it lets you be more pointed with your actions, line yourself up with something extremely specific. If you do have a general area that you want to get better with, I don't want to discourage you from going for that. So go ahead, make some progress.

But just keep in the back of your mind that when you can name a very specific result within that area, that you've deemed worthy of improving, then make no mistake, you will go faster towards that result. Which will likely mean you are better in general with the area that you said you wanted to get better at.

So for instance, if you have an area of your practice that you know is not operating as efficiently as it could, then oftentimes, when someone isn't great at this for themselves, and they haven't had training in this, and they don't have facilitation with thinking through this, they could just say, “I'm going to increase efficiency in this practice area.”

And they start to do a bunch of things to get more efficient, or what they think will help them be more efficient in that practice area. Now, when you go to course correct, it's harder to evaluate if you're doing all the right things to be more efficient in that practice area.

What would be better is to say, “This specific result is what I'm going to create in the next two months.” And maybe that's to go from spending six hours on this matter type, each file or each matter, to three hours. “And in order to do that…” so that's what we're shooting for… “In order to do that, I'm going to train the team on X, I'm going to automate Y. And I am going to reset expectations out of the gates with clients, with Z.”

So there are three things that you're going to do, and then that's super specific. You've gotten specific, instead of just doing things to be “more efficient,”… which isn't efficient, ironically. What is efficient is naming, “This is what I'm shooting for. This is the result I'm going to create. And to create that result, I'm going to do X, Y, and Z.”

Then you set up time on your calendar to be able to spend time on X, Y, and Z, or spend time delegating the major pieces to get X, Y and Z done. So that progress is being made towards the specific result of spending three hours per matter instead of six. So this is an example.

You, I am sure, are thinking of something right now in your firm, or for yourself as an owner, that you want to be better. What is that? How can you name, specifically, a result that you're going to create? Not just a general area that you're going to be better at. And then make a call, and what needs to happen in order for that result to be created? What specific things are you going to do in order to create that result?

And when you ask yourself that, it allows you to make more progress more quickly, be more efficient with your execution. So you're setting yourself up right away at making more progress towards the thing that you wanted to do. And if you take seriously this idea, that course correction more often will ensure efficiency and less friction towards the very thing that you want to create.

When you have your check-ins it's so much easier to see where you're off path because you are lining yourself up so specifically with a result. Your aim is so clear that it is very easy to see where you're slipping off path and where you need to get yourself back on.

Where if you were just headed for a general direction, ‘better at leadership, better with efficiency,’ then it is harder to have a strong answer when you're reflecting. To ask yourself: What could I do that would make it so that I rated myself higher, in terms of how engaged I am in getting this result? The more specific you are, the easier it is to come up with clearer answers to those questions, which gets you back on track faster.

And that's really just a tip. But the more specific you are, and the clearer you are with what you're aiming for, the easier is to course correct because the answers are just blatant. And there's not very many answers, right? When you're aiming for a general direction, there's lots of things you could do to be better generally. But we're going for a specific result.

So that's just a tip on how to get the most out of your path towards improving something, or creating a new normal. But the whole point of this episode is about course correcting more often. So though I was giving tips on how to think about, and set yourself up, to have efficiency on the path and to know if you are on track or off track, all that is true.

But this episode, the whole point of this, is to have you pause and consider how you can course correct more often. Because you will get off track. You will let things slip. You will mean to do something and then not follow through for some reason. And how can you course correct more often? Because the sooner you course correct, the sooner you can get back on track. And there isn't such a lag between where you are now and the result that you're trying to create.

With the clients that I work with, what they typically are on track or off track for, and they can course correct sooner, are the Rocks that they're focused on and the goals that they set. So goals are numbers that they're shooting for; revenue, cases open, profit margin, conversion rate. Whatever it is, right? That's goals.

Then they have Rocks, which are key efforts that they set and decide every quarter, and those key efforts are chosen, are decided, because those are the levers that members and clients are going to pull in order to take themselves to their goals.

Now, they're usually some sort of project; implementing a system, making a key hire, launching a marketing campaign. Whatever it is, deciding those things, and then lining yourself up to get those things accomplished or completed, there's often times where at least one of the Rocks that have been chosen, someone starts to get off track. Life gets busy, work gets busy, and this thing starts to fall out of focus.

But we have our calls, so that they can come on the call and they can use that call to course correct, to push the reset button, to get back in the game. To figure out what's one step that they can take. And so consistency is a lot easier when you have course correction built in.

I talked earlier about course correction and what it looks like, the question you can ask yourself. It's a quick check-in, it doesn't have to be something major. I'm going to offer you a couple things to think about for a check-in that I haven't said yet on this podcast.

The first thing is to do Friday Wrap. We teach a process called Monday Map/Friday Wrap; you can get it on our website VelocityWork.com and you can opt in for it. It is a guide that walks you through how to plan your week and then honor your calendar, and all the things to think through. It is a very thorough guide.

Now, initially, some people are overwhelmed by it. But that is why we have support inside of Velocity Work. If you follow those steps, and you show up every week for that process, you will get better at it. And you will begin to operate in a much better, a much higher-level way; getting more done in less time, and being extremely intentional. And the more intentional you are, the better things go.

Well, Friday Wrap is a part of that. It's the shortest, easiest, part of the entire weekly process. It is three questions. It's a check-in with yourself. It has you look back at the week and evaluate. It just takes a few minutes to think through, evaluate, and reflect on areas of opportunity that you have to shift into operating in a way that really serves you and supports you in the firm.

And this is a very obvious, easy way to begin to course correct. And people find that, they do course correct. That's the whole point of it being a weekly practice. When you course correct there, at least it's happening weekly.

Which brings me to the next thing that I want to make sure I share on this episode. And that is you need to decide on a cadence for when you're going to course correct. How often? And you get to decide what feels appropriate right now. Weekly is fine. If that's feels right to you just do weekly, start there.

There are times though, and I wouldn't go beyond a week. Y'all are too busy. There's so much going on, it's so easy to fall off track because you're honoring some other things that have popped up. And you just don't want to live in that space where you're reacting to the world.

If you have a week of it, you have a week of it. But course correct, so you don't have weeks of that, where you get really off track. So I wouldn't go longer than a week for a check-in on course correction. And there's easy ways to build that into how you roll. For example, Friday Wrap as a weekly practice.

Now, if you're going to do weekly, it needs to be on the calendar, purposefully on the calendar. So you can say ‘course correct,’ that could be an actual small calendar event on your calendar that you show up for. And inside that event, you can list out a few questions you're going to ask yourself. But also, you can just count on Friday Wrap as taking care of that for you.

Now, we talked about weekly; I am a proponent of doing this daily. Of reminding yourself of a few things that help you stay the course. And it serves as a course corrector if you do this every single day. I do not recommend that you “course correct” every day for multiple things in your life. I think there should be one main focus. One thing you're locked into; maybe two, depending on how good you are honoring your plans with execution.

And finding a way to incorporate reminders. It's almost like a touchstone every day, “This is what we're focused on. This is what we're doing.” And when you look at that every day, you don't get too far off track. Even if there's a couple of days streak where even though you reminded yourself of it, it's like, “Oof, the day did not go how I planned. I didn't focus on these things because the space got pushed out. I allowed all that to happen. I reacted to the world. An emergency popped up.”

There are going to be times where you do fall off course. But because every single day you're starting your day with reminding yourself, “This is what we're doing. This is what matters. This is the priority,” you don't get off track for very long. It's a good way to help yourself stay on course. And Lord knows, we need all the help we can get.

Because there's just a lot going on, there's always a lot going on, and we have big things we want to do. And I have the privilege of working with a lot of law firm owners. They have a lot of things that they want to accomplish, big dreams, big moves, big hires, and big results for their clients. There's just a lot of things to juggle, and that's not to mention your personal world.

So when I said earlier, we need all the help we can get, I mean it. We need all the help we can get. We need to set ourselves up for success here. And don't leave it to chance, we will fall off course. So think through this and make some decisions about how you are going to ensure that you course correct more often, so that you don't waste a bunch of time. You don't get deflated.

And you don't have a bunch of judgment on yourself for not following through, or finding yourself focused on the same thing again, because it didn't actually get done. Just start to help yourself win at this. This is not about you and willpower.

This is not about you not being able to follow through with things. This is about you waking up and making some decisions ahead of time to ensure that you actually do course correct more often. It's just anticipating what you're going to need in order to stay on track.

All right, everybody, course correction, that's the name of the game. How can you course correct more often? How can you set yourself up to win at this game? Maybe it's something from what I have shared here on this episode. Maybe it's something entirely different. But don't not think about course correction, because we all need it, every single one of us need it.

So how are you going to make sure that you course correct more often, so that you can achieve the things you want to achieve with more efficiency, ease, and flow?

Have a beautiful week. I'll see you here next Tuesday.

Hey, you may not know this, but there's a free guide for a process I teach called Monday Map/Friday Wrap. If you go to VelocityWork.com, it's all yours. It's about how to plan your time and honor your plans. So, that week over week, more work that moves the needle is getting done in less time. Go to VelocityWork.com to get your free copy.

Thank you for listening to The Law Firm Owner Podcast. If you're ready to get clearer on your vision, data, and mindset, then head over to VelocityWork.com where you can plug in to Quarterly Strategic Planning, with accountability and coaching in between. This is the work that creates Velocity.

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