What do atomic habits mean for legal project management? | LawVision

New year, new habits. You may have already given up on your resolve to exercise regularly, to make healthier food choices, to be a more empathetic listener, whatever. But James Clear, author ofAtomic Habits: An Easy, Proven Way to Build Good Habits and Break Bad Ones”, may have advice that will strengthen your law firm this year and in the future.

Of course, Clear isn’t specifically talking about lawyers or law firms. He is, after all, a writer. But he has some great ideas that can help you go from zero to 100 with your legal project management initiative.

Clear explains, “Habits are not just the methods by which we achieve external measures of success…they are also the pathway by which we achieve internal change and truly become someone new.” This is an attractive possibility for law firms.

The thing about habits

Habits are not a matter of will and motivation. They usually happen because we do small things on a consistent basis. Whether it’s food choices or work processes, few people have the drive to always make the best choices. Why is that?

This is because these good habits come at a cost, whether in time or effort. And the reward for making the best choice is often delayed. Who can blame you if you choose to eat the chocolate donuts on the conference room table rather than the organic apple you left on your desk? Ditch the sweets under your nose and stick to your diet, you’ll be healthier, maybe with lower cholesterol – in six months. The donut, however, is fresh from the bakery and utterly delicious right now.

Moreover, everyone wants transformational change immediately. Change is hard…and the little things are just too tiny to care about. We were taught to think big or go home. But don’t overlook the value of small changes.

Chris Nikic personifies Clear’s belief in atomic habits when he set a world record using the 1% better philosophy.

One percent improvement for remarkable results

Chris faced many physical and developmental challenges growing up. But his father, Nik Nikic, a business coach with more than two decades of experience, knew he could overcome the limitations others wanted to impose on his son.

Nik asked Chris to write down his goals and together they developed the “1% Better Challengeto help the young man realize his dreams. In addition to wanting to buy his own house, a car, and marry a “smoky” wife, he wanted to compete in an Ironman competition. It’s not easy for anyone, let alone a sedentary young man who underwent open-heart surgery as a baby and four major ear surgeries when he was 17. But the 21-year-old didn’t let that stop him.

Chris has set his sights on Ironman Florida. For 10 months, he aimed to improve by 1% every day. It meant establishing a system of small habits. He didn’t need fancy technology or even an Excel spreadsheet to track his progress. Using a whiteboard and colored dry-erase markers, he taped his visual aid to the wall to stay motivated and focused on his task. Chris went from one squat, one sit-up and one push-up on day one to 200 of each exercise a year later.

In the end, Chris completed the 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike ride and 26.2 mile marathon in 16 hours 46 minutes and 9 seconds, 14 minutes under the 17 hour limit. He set a Guinness World Record. But why? This is because Chris is the first person with Down syndrome to successfully complete an ironman. Of course, he’s not done proving the skeptics wrong. His next goal? Special Olympics 2022.

Eh. It’s quite an achievement for a young man who only walked at the age of 4. When the doctors said don’t expect too much, that was Chris’ cry. All it needed was a system of small, regular upgrades.

Better habits with LPM

Clear says these are simple calculations. But you might want to use a daily interest calculator. If you were to make a 1% improvement compounded daily for 365 days, you would be about 3800% better by the end of the year. “Habits are the compound interest of self-improvement,” Clear says.

Bad habits, however, have the opposite effect. One way or another, we make small changes all the time. These discrepancies can either help you build a sustainable legal practice or derail your long-term prospects in an increasingly competitive field. Without a process in place, these tiny changes can be detrimental.

This year, an investment in your LPM program can make a big difference. You don’t have to make a drastic change. You also don’t have to go as small as one percent. LPM is nothing more than a formalized process for instilling good habits that bring better results to your business. You don’t need motivation and you don’t need willpower. Plus, you’ll make fewer cringe-worthy calls asking for forgiveness for an invoice that went over your client’s budget without fair warning.

There are no limits to what you can do. You just need to follow a plan. New year, better results. Legal project management is easy once you get started. In future blogs, we’ll explain more about atomic habits and how to develop them in your business.