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Jamie Collins

By: Jamie Collins

Today, we’re going to discuss New Year’s resolutions! Big surprise, right? Not all that original of a concept this time of year, is it? Just me and about a million other bloggers felt inclined to share a few tips on humanity’s grand entrance into yet another year; one brimming with optimism, as you glance through rose colored paralegal glasses with a handful of goals swirling around the periphery of your paralegal mind of all the things you’d like to accomplish “this” year.

Here, at The Paralegal Society, we’re offering up a few tips from REALITY…remember reality? That unmagical place where pounds don’t just magically melt off, pay raises aren’t just handed out with good mornings at your firm and you have to actually work hard to achieve your goals? Work hard? Remember? You with me? Reality. For many of us, our resolutions seem to fade away, much like sunlight as it sinks below the horizon.

Like the rest of us, I’m guessing you have at least a few things to add to your list of New Year’s resolutions this year, right? Of course you do! We all do. So, let’s come up with a new way of thinking about our New Year’s resolutions; one that might actually work for once. Sound good? Here goes…

You Have to Really “Want” the End Goal. This is no fly by the seat of your paralegal pants operation. For starters, you have to “want” your goals …and I mean really “want” them. Just because you say you want something doesn’t mean you actually do. For example, I may want to sit for the RP, but if I don’t actually apply to take the exam and study for it, not really, because I’ve put no action behind my desires. I may want to learn a new area of law, but not really, if I’m not taking a seminar or reading a book about it. I may “want” to lose weight, but I only want it until the very next lunch break, when I get to pick out my favorite luncheon spot a/k/a The Calorie Cave, I don’t “really” want it.

You have to want it as much as you’ve ever wanted anything in your life that you had to actually work toward (and work really hard). Perhaps, the same way you put yourself through school, passed a very difficult statistic class, raised your child as a single parent, were willing to forego dinner outings to save up for new furniture for the house…and the list goes on. You have to want it like that. You with me? You have to REALLY want it.

If you don’t “really” want it – it doesn’t make the list. Don’t set yourself up for failure!  Stick to 1 or 2 goals you will actually work really hard to achieve rather than setting your sights higher on an elaborate (and unrealistic) laundry list of goals.  

Categorize Your Goals. As humans, we love to set lofty goals for the New Year. These goals typically fall under one particular category or might overlap a few categories. When planning your goals, consider the following categories: personal, professional, family, fun or aspirations. Lose 10 pounds? That’s personal. Learn more about e-Discovery, get a raise or promotion or buy a few new suits? That’s professional. Develop a better work-life balance? That’s personal and family. Launch a new business, start a blog, get an article published or teach a paralegal class? That’s personal, professional and aspiration (and hopefully “fun” too). You with me here? You have to first categorize the goal.

I would recommend creating a table or list with each of the main categories and any others you may think of.  List each specific goal under the correct category on your table/list. What area of your life will each goal affect? Write them down and categorize them all. This will also help you to realize your primary focus for the year – perhaps one you weren’t cognizant of. Perhaps it’s a big family year for you or a big professional year. By looking at your table or chart, you will see if you have balanced goals or if you are hitting on all cylinders in a particular area or two. It’s your world! Just jot down each goal and categorize it.

Chart a Realistic Course. As humans, we also like to pretend we have magical super powers around New Year’s. [This is the voice of reality here to tell you that you must remain in reality]. You back? Terrific! So, you must think of your goals, categorize them, but them you must perform a realistic analysis to make sure the goals are realistic. You can’t lose more than 10 pounds in a month (or at least you shouldn’t). You can’t transform into a legal tactical assault ninja overnight, that will take some tremendous work on your part.

Rather than planning your goals as though they are for a year, chart a course! Set out 2-4 specific intervals of time. I would recommend charting your goals quarterly. In other words, rather than stating you want to lose 35 pounds this year…chart that you will lose 5-10 pounds in the first 2 months – by March 15, another 5-10 pounds the next 2 months – by May 15, etc. Perhaps you want to take an e-Discovery course or learn a new area within the next 6 months or by June 15, 2012. This is a far more realistic way of looking at your goals and working to obtain them. Chart a realistic course.

Don’t scrap a resolution – work toward it. Okay, so let’s say you fail to lose 5-10 pounds in your first 2 months or you fail to apply for a paralegal designation exam (Big surprise, right? No comment). Rather than scrapping the entire goal and writing it off as another failed New Year’s resolution (as we are all inclined to do)…get back at it….attack it on month 3 and 4. Nail your goal on March 15th and prove to yourself you can do it! If you view each of your goals as periodic bench marks, you will be way more likely to reinvest and attack if you should fall off of the New Year’s resolution horse (his name is Reality…by the way).

Tell at Least 2 Other Paralegals About Your Goals. It is important that you share your resolutions (at least the important ones) with at least a few other paralegals that you respect. Why paralegals and not just family members, you ask? Because it will help you to take your goals more seriously! Typically, when you, as a paralegal, say you will get something done, it gets done, right? Absolutely! It’s how we make a name for ourselves. So, don’t just commit to your goals as a person, but as the paralegal you are. Further invest yourself in your goals by sharing them with at least a few close comrades in the paralegal world that you admire and respect.

If you are a member of The Paralegal Society’s LinkedIn group, you can share them on a string we plan to start for this very purpose! And no… you can’t just share the easy goals…we want the real ones, paralegal gladiator! I promise to list my own…just as soon as I figure out what they are!

So, as you approach yet another New Year – 2012, we hope you’ll take a moment to reflect upon all the things that made your life so great in 2011 (and perhaps the things that made it not so great), as they have helped to share you into the person you have become over the past 365 days. We hope you’ll really commit yourself to your personal, professional, family, fun and aspirational goals as you enter the New Year!

Remember:

(1) You Have to Really “Want” the End Goal.
(2) Categorize Your Goals.
(3) Chart a Realistic Course.
(4) Don’t scrap a resolution – work toward it.
(5) Tell at Least 2 Respected Paralegals About Your Goals.
(6) Work hard as a personal (and paralegal) to achieve your goals!

Don’t be the first paralegal to fall off that New Year’s horse named Reality!! We’ll be sure to pick you up and dust you off, but we might make you clean the TPS stable!! Wishing you and yours a fun, happy and prosperous New Year!

Great Things in 2012,
Jamie & The TPS Crew

p.s. Be sure to look for our first blog post of the new year, TPS readers! We plan to issue a personal challenge your way. One we hope you’ll accept with full gusto in the true spirit of “the paralegal.” We’ll see you next year!