Productive Doesn’t Mean Obsessive

There’s a point at which being more productive can become a bit obsessive.

In fact, lots of lawyers have pretty high drive (as well as a competitive streak) and so we do show obsessive characteristics pretty frequently.

The interesting thing is the confusion that a lot of people bring – they think that they are being productive, whereas in reality they are not – they are just obsessive.

What’s Obsessive?

The interesting thing about being obsessive is that we generally start with otherwise good qualities.  However we super-charge those qualities that were doing us good, and we turn them into massive problems for us professionally and personally.

Here’s a few good qualities you might like to reflect on which, when taken to extremes, become problems:

  • Hard Work.  I know, it’s been drilled into us from a young age.  The problem with “hard work” is that the longer the hours we spend, the less productive we become.  People who spend 14 hours a day in the office are, in my experience, generally not efficient with their time.  They view themselves as being hard workers but in reality they are simply “there” rather than contributing properly.
  • Excellent drafting.  This is one that I can sometimes tend to.  When we think of ourselves as good draftsman (and many are) it sometimes gets in the way of simply “letting go” of pet hates in order to get a job done.  Sure this might mean leaving the phrase “we note that” in a letter when you really really want to cross it out – but you need to ensure that you’re going for costs versus benefits of that kind of analysis.  Will it impact on the client, cost, relationships, or persuasiveness?  If not – perhaps you just need to let it slide and get the job done rather than tweaking over and over again.
  • Relationship Building.  This one you might not have thought about – there are some lawyers for whom relationship is everything, even with clients they shouldn’t want to have.  There is no doubt that relationship is important (and many would say critical) to success in the law, but is it always paramount?  Not necessarily.  Those who obsess over relationship will frequently do so at the expense of profitability and ultimate success.

What can we Do about it?

As most of us are aware, the first thing towards fixing a problem is identifying it in the first place.  The above are just a few examples, but perhaps you’ve got others?

If you find yourself taking good characteristics to unnatural levels, perhaps you need to tone them down.

The easiest way I have found to do this is not by simply trying to “stop” doing that thing, but by identifying another thing that is more important.

For example, if you are prone to working excessive hours in the office – perhaps reminding yourself of the importance of your family or friends will give you the incentive you need?  If you aren’t inspired by those things, find something that you are passionate about to take some of your obsessive tendencies and put them to good use, rather than bad.

Otherwise, your incentive is going to come in the form of problems – unhappy clients, unhappy spouse, imbalanced children who don’t listen to you.  Whatever it may be, better you find a positive way of getting things under control than a negative one.

What you are aiming for is energy and productivity – not obsession.  If you can find that balance you’ll be well on the right path.

Got any more obsessive characteristics of lawyers we all need to know about?  Let me know in the comments!

Happy Lawyering!