back icon
All Episodes

Melissa Shanahan

#261: The Power of Prioritizing: How to Move the Needle on Important Things

Listen Now:

It’s human nature to fixate on day-to-day tasks—whether that’s in your firm, your personal life, or elsewhere. Maybe you’re overwhelmed by the prospect of achieving something greater for your practice or you think that anything outside of those menial tasks requires too much time and energy. Well, consider this your wake up call.

This episode is all about taking a moment to stop and assess if the actions that you are taking—the behaviors that you're putting forth into the world—are lining you up with the things that you say you want. If not, it’s time to check yourself and learn how to begin hyper focusing on your priorities.

If you’re ready to lock in (and do so relentlessly), Melissa has the insights to help you manage your priorities so you not only get more done but enter a state in which you can achieve more in an efficient manner. It’s all about finding “flow”. Tune in as she breaks down how to become more focused and turn off the voice in your head telling you that you can’t do it.

If you’re a law firm owner, Mastery Group is the way for you to work with Melissa. This program consists of quarterly strategic planning facilitated with guidance and community every step of the way. Click here to learn more!

Show Notes:

What You’ll Discover:

• What it means to be “locked in” and how it can be achieved.

• The difference between being focused and being hyper focused.

• Why your brain should sometimes not be trusted, especially when trying to focus.

• The reason you may not be following through on your overarching goals.

• What “flow” means and why it’s essential to both prioritizing and executing tasks more efficiently.

Featured on the Show:

Create space, mindset, and concrete plans for growth. Start here: Velocity Work Monday Map.

Join Mastery Group

Join the waitlist for our next Monday Map Accelerator, a 5-day virtual deep-dive event.

Schedule a consult call with us here.

Jerry Colonna, Reboot

Steven Kolter, Flow Research Collective

Enjoy the Show?

Leave me a review in Apple Podcasts or anywhere else you listen!

Full Episode Transcript:

Download Transcript PDF

I’m Melissa Shanahan, and this is The Law Firm Owner Podcast Episode #261.

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.

Hello, welcome to this week's episode everyone. I'm so glad you're here. Today, we are talking about a topic that everybody needs reminded of, everybody needs support in this way, everybody needs to bring themselves back to the truth. And so, today I'm going to dig in with you all here on the immense value of hyper focusing on your priorities.

This sounds simple. It sounds enticing. Most people like the idea of this, but actually doing it, that's a different story. And sometimes we get caught up in the rat race, we get caught up in the busyness, even if it's good busyness, that can still be a distraction. It's important to stop and assess if the actions that you are taking, the behaviors that you're putting forth into the world, are lining you up with the things that you say you want.

We get caught up… Especially you guys, you have so much important work to do in the world so it is very easy to justify that filling your space with the important client work that you have, it wins out. And this episode is meant to say hold up. Check yourself. Are you actually lining yourself up with what it is that you say you want?

You all know how much I love the quote from Jerry Colonna that says, it's a question that he poses, “How are you complicit in creating the conditions that you say you don't want?” So, yes, this episode is really meant to get at the heart of that.

But I want to make sure that after you listen today, that you are clearer about what your priorities are, and clearer about how you are going to be more intentional about lining yourself up with that. Or maybe you were clear, and you just sort of lost sight of it. So, you regain clarity on what you already know was top priority. So, that's what we're going to talk about today.

And this almost sounds fluffy, but you guys, I cannot tell you… In my work that I do, and I observe this in myself as well, but in the work that I do, I witness people mentally get off track, get so frustrated, and feel like they are having such a hard time. That they are at the whim of the world, and there is a sort of this defeat that you can hear in them, and this exhaustion that you can hear in them. They feel like what they need are huge swaths of time to get realigned with their priorities.

But the truth is quite the opposite. You actually need consistency; very little amounts of time, consistently, to get focused again on your priorities and line yourself up with them. And when I say “focused”, and this is what I really want to get across to you guys today, I'm not talking about just focused on, as it's sort of an afterthought. I'm talking about, locked in, relentlessly locked in, on what you say you want.

Where you don't forget. You don't give yourself the opportunity to forget. It doesn't slip your mind just because things really bubble up to the surface with other important areas of your life that make you sort of turn your head away from what you said you wanted.

And when I say, “hyper focused”, I mean it. There's a difference between “focus” and “hyper focus”. And it's important to look at this from the macro perspective, as well as the micro perspective. So, when you think about hyper focus from a macro perspective, it's bigger. It is the result that you want to create. It is the outcome that you are locked in on, and you are committed to creating.

And if you understand that, then it allows you to have hyper focus in the micro. So, macro hyper focus is being extremely clear about what it is that you want to create. And then, day to day, week to week, what are you doing? What actions are you taking that are lining yourself up with the ultimate outcome that you would like?

The reason I'm digging in on this today, because I've done similar episodes, but this angle that I'm coming from is stemming from the work that I've been doing with some Mastery Group members and with a private client. The problems that I have the privilege of helping them work through is, the problem presents as ‘the numbers aren't up’, or they're extremely stressed out, or they feel all over the place, or they can't find good help. That's the way that the problems present.

The real problem, root cause, underneath all of it is a lack of relentless… like being locked into an outcome that they are committed to creating. Period. That's very natural, right? I was going to say it's not their fault, I don't know if that's the best way to describe that. I wouldn't say that “fault” has anything to do with anything here. It's more just about, that is natural.

All of us, I don't care how successful of a person you know, they also have fits and spurts with this. This attention, and locked in, this hyper focus on a result that they're trying to create on the macro level. And then, on the micro level, this hyperfocus that, because they're so locked in on it, the natural thing is to spend time doing what you need to do in order to get yourself there.

In these cases that I mentioned, it's such an honor to really work through this with people, because it will change your life. If you can learn how to glom on to something that you care deeply about, and don't lose sight of it, don't lose the plot, just stick with it and see it through to its end, you will shock yourself. It is remarkable the results that you can create, and in an amount of time that would blow your mind.

If you are hyper focused on a priority, on a result that you are working to create, then inevitably, you give the attention to it that is required. And when I say, “give attention to it”, everyone works differently. But I really want you to hear me when I say you do not need huge swaths of time to relentlessly move towards the result that you want to create.

I'm going to take a breath. I'm trying to think of a way to get this to land for people. If you can get this, if you can understand this, intellectually understand it is first step. But then put it into practice, and that's what I help people do. Right? This is the thing. This is root cause at its core. This is why people don't make the progress that they really want to make, that they say they want to make. It is because they lose sight.

Number one, they might not be clear enough, and that is something that needs to be fixed. Just pick something. Pick something and have your own back with the thing that you pick. Maybe it's a money goal. Maybe you're listening to this and for some reason, you don't feel ready to set a revenue goal, but you know that they're super important things that would help make your life as an owner easier, and deliver a higher quality standard for your clients, and to make the business healthier.

You know there's something, this thing, this project, that you could do, so maybe you start there. But you have to be very clear about what you are locking into. What are you going to be hyper focused on? If you don't know that, the rest is going to crumble. And this is what I see people do. It's like they were focused, but they lost it. They forgot. They weren't locked in. That's the way to say this, they were not locked into it.

And the other thing I'll say, when we talk about… I keep saying “locked in”, but it doesn't lock us in, you choose to stay locked on it. That is a difference. I think people sort of expect that the ‘umph’ that they feel inside, when they first decide to go for a specific result for themselves, that that drive is going to stay, and it won't without work.

You're committed to it. When you are in a commitment with something or to something you show up for it all the time. This is a funny analogy. But when you're married, and you are in a committed relationship, you show up 100%. Not 50/50, 100/100. Your desires, your results that you want to create, they are just waiting for you. They are there, they're ready. All you need to do is be all in.

And so, when you decide that you're going to be all in, the way to make sure you stay all in, that you stay locked in, that you stay relentless towards it, is to every day bring it back into your focus, bring it back into your focus, bring it back into your focus. And when I say “focus”, it's not just, “I need to be a better business owner. I wish my business was healthier. I'm going to make my business healthier.” It's, okay.

But that's not really specific enough to have you locked in on key actions, on a regular, consistent basis, that will change the game for you and get you the result in a lot less time than you would think that you need. Consistency is the key.

And the only way to stay consistent, and in my experience in my own world, in my own life, and then also working with hundreds of clients, the only way to stay consistent is to keep it top-of-mind. It is to recommit every day to the result that you said you wanted to create. This is so important, guys. I cannot stress this enough. If you don't have this, there is no reason for judgment on it, but you need to start to wake up.

There's something else I want to say here. Sometimes people say that they can't get focused because they're too overwhelmed. That is a story that your mind is serving up to you, that your brain is serving up. And if you've ever heard that quote, “Don't believe everything you think,” this is a perfect example of how that is so true.

Do not believe everything that your brain is telling you. That's not a fact. You might think it's a fact that you're too overwhelmed to be able to focus. But the very thing that's going to pull you out of overwhelm is letting one thing rise to the surface, that is the top priority that you're going to be striving for in terms of results. You have to let that rise up.

If you are going to be hyper focused on something, you can't have it even with a bunch of other things that, by the way, are important. There are a lot of important things. Again, I said this earlier, I'm going to say it again. There are a lot of important things that you are juggling and that you were dealing with.

So, it's not to say that the other things aren't important and you're going to name one that is important. It is saying, “I am going to hold this thing up,” almost like a reverence for this thing. You're committed to it, you're connected to it, and you are working towards it.

And if you really know and if you understand your “why”, like, why you're doing that, why would you? Why did you pick this result? And usually, it's because there's a net win for you. There's a net positive effect of that result having been achieved. And so, if you can really stay locked in on, “There is this thing I am going to see through. I will do whatever it takes to see through for this thing. Because I know that the result, creating that result for myself, will change my relationship to my company, the culture at my firm.”

You can fill in the blank: the quality of work, the consistency and quality of work that's getting spit out, the amount of money that I can take home, the amount of time that I can spend with my loved ones, so increasing the freedom. There are reasons why you have a desire.

Your desire to create a result or to have a certain outcome, don't ignore it. It's there, because there are some underlying things that you are really, really wanting underneath at all. And you see this result that you could create as a bridge between where you are now and what you like to be your reality. And that's a beautiful thing.

So, honoring that is very important. And in order to honor that, well, you have to keep it top-of-mind. It will not stay top of mind because there are too many other things competing for your attention. You have to give attention to the thing that you say you want. And in order for you to keep your attention on it, you have to, every single day, remind yourself of what you are aiming for and why. That is it.

Inside of Velocity Work, every single client I work with, once we figure out what they're shooting for; goals, which are numbers, and then also the key priorities. That's what we're talking about now. What are they going to put their attention on? What actions are they going to take in order to get themselves to the numbers and the goals that they would like to see?

And when we do that, at the end of it all, I have them write down. What are the key reminders that you need to read every morning, so that you stay locked in to what really matters here? There's no one I don't ask to do this when I'm working with them. Because I've learned over many years of consulting and coaching, and coaching myself, like self-coaching, and being in coaching relationships, I know how this goes.

This is the game, keeping it in your line of sight. Keeping it in view and keeping it close to you is very important, because if you don't, you get distracted. You have a lot of important things competing for your attention. If you don't hold your attention here, you will lose sight of it.

So, this idea of hyper focus should be reserved for the most important thing, for the time that you are in. And the reason I say, ‘the time that you're in’, is because with different phases of life, even, shoot, different from quarter to quarter, it changes, the need, the thing, the result that you want to create, it can change quickly.

Now, sometimes it's a big enough result that's going to take more time. And so, in that case, you have to hold it and hold it, and hold it for longer periods of time in front of your face, in your line of sight, really connected to it. And in some cases, it might take you 90 days, and then it's the next result that you want to focus on. It doesn't really matter, right? To each their own.

For more the beginner side, I would say the shorter, the better. I was actually talking to someone recently and said… They're new at this, they feel overwhelmed, and I shared that they need to pick something close to them. I help them do this in Strategic Planning, so they're going to be fine. But this was just a conversation about it. Where they need to pick a result that they want to create.

And it should be something that they can get done within 90 days. Because then they'll be able to really check the box and practice the skill of keeping that thing in focus for 90 days, instead of something that might take a year. People have visions that they hold for five years, 10 years, 25 years. So, you could start small. Because it really is a meta skill in applying this ability, and applying yourself in a way that ensures you won't disconnect from the thing that you say you want.

So, when I was talking to this person, I said to just start with 90 days. And when I realized how overwhelmed they were, I said, “You know what? Just pick something for the month. That's it. For one month, you have to be hyper focused on something more macro so that you can line your day to day up with the results for the month.”

For those of you who remember, we used to offer these 30-day sprints. It was sort of misnamed, because sprints imply that you are going really fast. And what it was, was saying, “Okay, there's a 30-day sprint here.” Every participant had to say one thing that they were going to accomplish over the course of the month. Like a project, a system to be put into place, a spreadsheet to be built, a hire that they wanted to make, whatever it was.

There were all kinds of things people would bring to the table and say, “In this month, I'm getting this thing done.” Instead of a sprint meaning “speed”, it was a daily check-in. Every single workday, they would check in with us and say, “This is what I'm going to get done today.” The next day, they come back and say, “I got it done. I didn't get it done.”

They would give a lesson learned about why or why not. Like, what contributed to how they operated, what are they going to walk away with? What's a realization or a lesson learned that they could carry forward? And then, “Okay, what's the one thing today you're going to get done?” And we just would repeat that every day.

It did help develop this meta skill of locking in on something and relentlessly going towards it. Not with a bunch of time. I mean, seriously, some of those participants, again, it was like 20 minutes a day. That was it. But many times, they would finish it in week three out of four.

What the heck? It's been sitting as an idea on a sticky note, pushed up on their computer screen that's been there for nine months or more. And now, they just did it in three weeks, spending 20 minutes a day on it. That would happen all the time in those sprints.

Going back to my point here, if you're feeling really overwhelmed and you're like, “Melissa, I don't know what results I want to create,” pick something small that you think over the course of the month, by the end of the month, you can have this puppy done. If you stay hyper focused on it, and you give consistent daily action to it, because you're hyper focused on it, then it can be done.

Pick one thing. One thing that's just been irking you. That has just been in the back of your mind for so long but it's just never quite risen to the top. Pick it, commit to it, and lock in on it. And every single day, you remind yourself of what you're focused on, why you're focused on it, and you have time scheduled every day, given to it. Maybe just 20 minutes, whatever you want. Right? If you could afford more time than that, that's great. But you don't need that. You just need consistent attention on it.

So, man, I actually thought I was going to go in a different direction with this. But once I started talking about it, and just riffing here with you about what I'm noticing… I know that it's the natural course of things, right? We all have cycles where we do lose focus; the thing that we really said we cared about it fell out of sight. That's sort of a passive way. It's almost like a victim-ey way of thinking about it.

It didn't fall away from us; we allowed our sight to shift. We allowed our attention to be diverted. That's the truth. It doesn't feel like it because it's unconscious when it happens a lot of time, but that's the truth. So, start with the truth; everything that you said you wanted to do that you haven't gotten. That you haven't been able to accomplish. That you haven't even been able to start because you don't know where to start. Whatever.

Whatever stories you have about results in your life that you haven't created but you'd like to create, make sure that you are choosing your language wisely. Your language is a reflection of the way that you're thinking. And so, when you say something like ‘it fell out of sight’, I know that we all say that, but really make yourself get accurate and literal with what happened. And that can help put you back in the driver's seat.

I mean, sometimes it can feel defeating when you first have the thought, “I allowed the client work and the busyness of the client work to win over this priority. I didn't realize I was doing it, but that is what happened. And now, here we go.” Getting honest is the best place to start when you are choosing what you're going to be locking into, in terms of your focus.

So, just really get honest. That helps you be able to make progress faster. There's no b.s., right? It's you and you. It’s you and your brain. And you have to use your brain; don't let your brain use you. Use your brain to stay in a hyper-focused state towards the result that you want to create.

I was doing some research before I did this episode, just to see what's out there on this topic. And there are so many benefits that are listed of hyper focusing, and being committed to a result. Number one, because of the clarity that it provides. Because if you really are locked in like that, you give attention every day to it. And through the attention that you give to it, you find your way to the result.

Even if you have a result that you don't know how to create, but you really want to create it, well, I'll tell you what. If you put 20 minutes to give attention to that topic and to that result, every day, you will figure it out. I mean, oh my gosh. The audience for this podcast are the most capable humans with figuring out whatever they need to. You will figure it out.

So, the benefit that was listed, that I wanted to make sure to share here is, because of that, what ends up happening is that it leads to a flow state, and that's highly rewarding for your brain. But not only your brain, for you and your world. So, it does tend to boost this overall sense of wellbeing when you're locked in on something like this, when you're hyper focused on something. In the macro, yes. But in the micro, that sort of force functions in being hyper focused in the micro, the day-to-day.

And when you do that, when you spend 20 minutes or an hour, really sunk into this thing that you're working towards, you get into a state of flow. Anyway, lots of research on “flow” out there, if anybody's interested. Steven Kotler is my favorite author that talks about flow and flow state, and the benefits of it and how to get into it. That's his research.

Okay, another really practical benefit is that efficiency is increased when you are hyper focused on something, because you're working at your highest efficiency. You're not wasting time. When you think about the times where you've started a project, and then you have gotten diverted and then finally you come back to it, it could have been done. It just didn't get done.

So, efficiency is increased. Not just in your minutes, when you're working on it… because that does happen, because of flow… but also, from beginning-to-end of the result creation, that amount of time has decreased.

As I was sitting and preparing for this episode, I gave a lot of thought to… People kept popping in my mind that, for me in my world, are such an example of success. And by success, I just mean, they created the results that they said they wanted. And over and over and over again, they keep doing it.

There is a fulfillment that they have, which is really beautiful to see. Some more than others, we're all human. We all have our demons. We all have our quirks. We all have our tics. We all have our neuroses. It's human nature. But even with all that, I'm picturing these people that over and over and over again, create results. They do what they said they wanted to do. And the clarity and the relentlessness towards the results that they create, generally speaking, there is a fulfillment that's really beautiful to see.

There is a contentedness that I think many people are afraid of experiencing, that contentedness, because they imagine that that will make them complacent, that they won't really need to create more. But that's not true. We always have desires. We always will have desires. They're going to shift, they're going to change, you're going to care about something five years from now that you didn't even know you were going to care about.

And you're going to forget what you cared about a lot today, right? The chances are high that that will happen. So, this contentedness, it's really beautiful to see; contentedness with someone who consistently creates results for themselves. And that contentedness comes from, it stems from, the ability to be able to stay locked in on a result, to be hyper focused.

I think we, oftentimes, will point to others and say, “Well, that's just a gift that they have.” No, you develop that. Maybe some people are born with a tendency to be more hyper focused than others. But that is not off the table like some of you might think it is for yourself. It's not off the table.

So, this is your wake up call. This is meant to serve as, what do you need to wake up to? What do you need to get honest about? And what do you need to lock in on? The other work is going to happen. You're not going to stop doing your client work because you decided to really put this thing up as a priority. Hold it up a little higher, in terms of how you're honoring that priority. I think you guys hear what I'm saying.

This is really important work. This is what it comes down to. If you don't have this ability, you end up wasting a lot of time. You end up off track more than on track. And I know, if you are listening to this podcast, you care about that. You care about being on track. You care about having clarity. You care about not wasting time, or other resources for that matter.

So, don't just skip over this episode. I really encourage you… If you're anything like me, you have podcasts in the queue. “This is going to be over, let’s go the next one.” Can you just push pause and think about this episode? Ask yourself, what are the most important takeaways for yourself from this episode? Maybe it's re-listening to it weekly, I don't know.

But maybe you already know the thing that you are going to be hyper focused on. But you choose for you. Push pause, and figure out your takeaways that'll be the most meaningful for you and will have the greatest impact in your world.

Alright, everybody. Have a wonderful, wonderful 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, 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 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 where you can plug in to Quarterly Strategic Planning, with accountability and coaching in between. This is the work that creates Velocity.

Latest Episodes