Holy cow it’s December 1st today. I’ll spare you the ritualistic “where did the time go” but let’s be realistic: the time between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day is one of the most challenging periods of the year. Most people turn down the dial on intensity and float through six weeks until the next year.
This is especially true for lawyers trying to hit end-of-year hour requirements and to make it through deals and litigation driven by end-of-the-calendar-year deadlines. Most of us are just trying to get through everything so we can (hopefully) have a quiet week between Christmas and New Year’s Eve.
But while you may be “floating,” the holidays can be a difficult time of year for lawyers feeling trapped in jobs with demanding hours cutting into what’s traditionally considered family time. Then there’s the increased spending associated with the holidays which can make you feel even more trapped in a high-paying job (or more stressed by a low-paying job).
Thinking about money/employment often begins a downward spiral where you think money or student loans are causing you to work in a high stress job which is causing you spend more money which is causing you to work in a high stress job.
How can you break out of the cycle and finish the year strong?
December is actually a great time to anticipate all of those 2018 goals you know that you’re going to make when the New Year rolls around.
It might not be the time to execute on those goals, but why not get started building some of the systems?
Here’s a couple of examples:
- Upcoming Raise. You know you’re getting a raise effective January 1st and you want to save more next year. Why not send in the paperwork to bump up your 401(k) contribution or instruct your bank to increase an automatic contribution that’s already being made (or set one up if you don’t have an automatic contribution)? The great thing is you don’t even need to spend time figuring out if it’ll work. Just bump it up today and then let the chips settle in January. If you got the number wrong, you can always fix it then anyway.
- Student Loans. Have you said to yourself that you need to open up a separate checking account at your bank to handle all of your student loan payments? Many people find this to be a way to supercharge your payments, no matter how much you’re paying today. If you wait until January to implement, you’ll be delayed by getting the paperwork set up. Why not log onto your bank right now and press the right buttons to open up the account now? You can figure out the details in January but at least that account will be waiting for you.
These are just two ideas to illustrate the point that if you really want to accomplish something, you need a system. Trying to rely on motivation is for suckers. Motivation is a weak muscle that can only get a few things done in a short amount of time.
On the other hand, systems are strong muscles that will change your life. Unfortunately, they’re a lot harder to implement because inertia is so powerful. You can break through the inertia by taking small steps and December is a GREAT month to take those small steps.
If there are things you want to accomplish in 2018, these last four weeks are a great time to start putting together the pieces. You can throw a lot of stuff against the wall and see what sticks when the dust settles January.
Joshua Holt is a former private equity M&A lawyer and the creator of Biglaw Investor. Josh couldn’t find a place where lawyers were talking about money, so he created it himself. He spends 10 minutes a month on Empower keeping track of his money and is always negotiating better student loan refinancing bonuses for readers of the site.