By WomenLawyersNews WLN • March 28, 2016•Issues, Other Issues
Women lawyers are smart, hard-working, and talented. We are really good at many things. Unfortunately, we are not so great at recognizing our accomplishments. In fact, we often go the other direction, criticizing ourselves too much or setting unrealistic expectations. Let’s dig into three ways you may be undermining yourself:
1. You forget you’re surrounded by other amazing people. We are often surrounded by other impressive humans – lawyers, business people, academics, politicians – something to be grateful for and inspired by. The problem is, all that amazing-ness can start to feel a little too normal when it’s a big part of your world. In other words, we can very easily take for granted some pretty incredible accomplishments. For example, it’s easy to forget just how awesome it is that you are a lawyer, that you have the knowledge and insight to help clients, and that you are well-respected by other amazing people. Keep challenging yourself, but try to remember all the little accomplishments, because they are really not so little.
2. You compare yourself to others…and not very thoroughly. Ever have a great day and feel pretty pleased with yourself? Maybe you went to the gym before work, impressed a client, got all your time in for the previous week, had a great meeting, and finished a research project all by lunchtime. You feel like a champ. Then you see a firm-wide email congratulating a colleague for getting an article published in an industry magazine, and you start to internally criticize yourself for not spending enough time on your marketing efforts.
We have a knack for finding the one thing that someone else is doing better than us on a particular day. Then we unravel a bit. The truth is, your industry-published co-worker probably didn’t make it to the gym that morning or impress any clients that day. Maybe they had a mundane meeting, were late to the office, and are behind on their time and other projects.
Next time you feel tempted to compare yourself to someone else, remind yourself how impressive you really are, that you are focusing on just one thing they are doing right at that moment, and that, at the same time, someone else is probably also thrown off their game by something impressive you are doing right now.
3. You end your day frustrated by something you didn’t get done. More specifically, you probably had 20 items on your to-do list and miraculously accomplished 19 of them. It was probably realistic to expect you could accomplish only 15 of those things, but rather than feeling like a superstar overachiever for hitting 19, you’re staring at that one unchecked box on your to-do list. Why do we do this?
First, we never realize that our expectations for the day are unreasonable because we make a to-do list without mapping out how long it takes to tackle the items on our list. Yet another reason we’re such big fans of scheduling the whole day.
We don’t count unexpected accomplishments. In other words, maybe you didn’t get to everything on your to-do list because you lost an hour to solving a close-call-crisis for a client. That’s an amazing accomplishment, but it doesn’t always register that way if it is not something you set out to do at the beginning of the day. (Time out to virtually high-five those of you who add that completed, unexpected task to your to-do list just to have the satisfaction of crossing it off again. We feel you.)
We also take on too many goals at once. Maybe this past new years you decided that you were going to drink more water, go to the gym three times per week, get your billable hours in on time, eat more vegetables, and read a novel a week, all while continuing to rock at your career. It’s great to set new goals, but it’s more realistic to focus on one or two key things at a time and add/replace others as we master those few. Just throw the rest on a personal wish list until you are ready. That way, every time you think of something you should be doing, remind yourself that goal is ancillary for now. Return to focusing on your current goals, and feel the weight lifted.
If you need to take two minutes at the end of the day to literally list everything you did that day, go for it! Even doing this just for a week can be very enlightening. Plus, it’s a great way to end the day. (If you like the idea of ending your day with a little sense of accomplishment and gratitude, check out the Five Minute Journal.)
Bonus: Want a productive, multi-tasking way to remind yourself how awesome you are? Update your resume! Update your descriptions of your current position and responsibilities, add any marketing articles you have written, groups you have joined, presentations you have given, etc. You should also start an accomplishments file to make review time easier.
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