How to Escape the Debate Loop

The Endless Loop is a set of instructions that lacks a functional exit so it repeats indefinitely until it is terminated by some external action or force. The term comes from the computer programming world.

It’s also the thing that sabotages professional careers and businesses.

The endless debate loop happens when you find yourself debating which step(s) to take to improve your professional and personal life – but you’re not exploring them.

The unchecked debate loop can take on a life of its own as your active imagination creates stories about why exploring options is a bad idea, too hard, too complicated, or that you might not like what discover. Or that maybe you will like what you discover and then have to make a choice?

I’ve seen so many successful professionals and business owners who’ve come to regret getting caught in the debate loop. Like Harry, who had a successful dental practice. His internal debate loop around retirement lasted nearly 10 years until time and the market left him with few choices.

Here’s how to escape your endless loops.

First, name it. Call it what it is. When you give it a name you give your brain the ability to think clearly about it and figure out how to solve it.

Second, write down what you hope to accomplish. You’re probably debating how to get someplace, but not where you want to go. Getting clear on the destination will help you set waypoints to achieve. The route comes after you set the destination.

Third, pick just one of the options you are debating and give yourself the assignment to investigate it – just as you would if you were assessing a case or a new project for someone else. Pick a defined date to report out what you’ve found – even if it isn’t complete.

Finally, stop trying to do this by yourself. I’ve escaped multiple debate loops because I had the right coach at my side. They helped me learn to ask better questions, evaluate results, make better choices and avoid regressing back to debate loops.

What’s one debate loop you’d love to escape?

Doug BrownHow to Escape the Debate Loop
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When Everything Feels Like a Chore

Three out of four professionals surveyed said the Pandemic has altered their career plans.

49% said that the Pandemic has caused them to reflect on what they wanted from their career, or employer, prompting them to look for other job opportunities.

I’m kind of surprised it’s only 49%.

Thinking deeply about what you really want out of your career, and for your life, is a natural and healthy part of midlife.

It’s also pretty intimidating.

Even when you’re feeling dissatisfied and uncomfortable where you are.

Especially when you’ve invested so much time and energy establishing yourself as a professional.

So the natural reaction is to suppress feelings of apathy and lost purpose and that ‘autopilot’ mode.

And bury yourself in your work.

Hoping the feelings will pass and that you’ll somehow get your mojo back.

Then another January comes around and the feelings come back, again.

You’re a year older and you repeat the cycle.

There is a better way.

I’ve learned that pushing down feelings of discomfort doesn’t make them go away.

In fact, researchers have found that bottling up emotions had an adverse effect on your body and your mind.

The constructive way to deal with these feelings is to acknowledge them, discover the underlying cause, and create a productive response.

And that’s pretty hard to do when you’re so close to the subject.

Just like when lawyers try to represent themselves.

Here’s the good news.

You’ve got more options than you think.

And you don’t have to abandon what you’ve created to fly to the island and open a margarita stand. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

Don’t fall into the trap of slogging through to retirement in the hopes that you’ll find satisfaction.

Give yourself the gift of some thinking time to reflect on what’s really working well for you – and what’s driving you up the wall. Write it out longhand.

Because it’s only when you confront and name a challenge that you can start to solve it.

By the way … if you’ve been thinking about this for a while, and you’re really ready to discover what’s possible – whether it’s small changes to your business – or planning for the margarita stand, just CLICK HERE and let’s talk.

Doug BrownWhen Everything Feels Like a Chore
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FOMO is Real

What if there was a way to discover and overcome the hidden obstacles that are keeping you from growing your firm into exactly what you want?

And what if you missed it?

Perhaps you saw the opportunity and a voice in your head said you don’t have time to do it.

Here’s another chance.

This past Wednesday we revealed how to Overcome 5 Hidden Obstacles to Growing Your Law Firm.

We were so happy to see so many people attending – and to get great feedback on strategies we shared.

Here’s your link to view the replay.

I used to be in the same trap that makes it so hard for lawyers to grow their businesses.

The day-to-day grind was so intense that I’d lose perspective and motivation.

It was all I could do to “get through” the next thing and hope the next week, month, or year would be better.

Then I made the shift that we described in the webinar.

When I reconnected with my values and what I wanted to create in the world everything changed for me.

I just needed to give myself permission to do it – and a system to follow.

If you would like some of that just check out the replay here.

And don’t listen to the little voice in your head saying you don’t have time for this.

Doug BrownFOMO is Real
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High (Time) Anxiety

You’ve tried countless time management techniques and productivity strategies. Yet you still feel like you don’t have enough time – and that time is slipping away. The more you try to get better the worse it seems.

You might have time anxiety – the feeling that you never have enough time to meet your goals, or that you’re not maximizing the time you have. Time anxiety is a close cousin to productivity shame – that feeling you haven’t done enough.

Time anxiety isn’t another short-term spike in your already overloaded and stressed-out schedule. It is an emotional state that haunts you and causes procrastination on important tasks – and ultimately burnout.

You can’t just power through time anxiety.

It won’t get better by itself. Trust me on this one. To manage it you have to understand it and how it infects your thoughts.

Time anxiety shows up in a number of ways, including:

  1. Daily where you feel rushed, stressed, overwhelmed like there is not enough time in your day.
  2. Future where your brain obsesses about “what if’s” and all the things that might or might not happen.
  3. A life where you are anxious about the limited time you have to live your life – and you want to make the most before the finish line jumps out at you.

That’s a pretty daunting list. I know I’ve been in each of these places – sometimes all at once.

Here are a few strategies that have helped me get some relief from time anxiety:

Fix Your relationship with time

Lawyers have a really tough time with this because it seems our entire worth and value is tied to the billable hour. If you spend more time you are more valuable. If your billable rate is higher, you must be a better lawyer. Wrong. For most lawyers, your relationship and mindset about time is the first problem. So let’s accept some truths:

  1. Time exists, and it can’t be managed or controlled.
  2. You do control your energy, actions, and attitudes about time.
  3. Your value as a professional and a person is not time-centered.

Create a picture of time well spent

You get anxious about time when you feel like it is not well spent. But do you know what “well spent” is to you? Can you define it in advance – rather than just know it when you see it in the rearview mirror?

If you are like I was, your answer is probably “no”.

If you’d like to be in more control and cure some of that anxiety then make some time in your daily and weekly planning to visualize what “well spent” will mean when you review at the end of your day.

Get Real about your Production Capacity.

Do you believe that an eight-hour workday means you should expect eight hours of productivity?

How’s that working out for you?

When I started at a big firm we were expected to have 1,900 billable hours a year. Yeah, I know, your firm might expect a lot more. But let’s do the math. That’s 36.5 billable hours a week for 52 weeks a year. That is 7.3 hours per day in a 5 day week (or 5.2 in a 7 day week). This expectation alone sets you up for time anxiety and burnout – because our brains are just not wired for that kind of production.

Study after study shows that most people have, at best only 2.5 truly productive hours a day. So even if you are twice as better as average, you only have 5 hours a day – and that’s a stretch.

I don’t mean to increase your time anxiety. I only mean to make the point that you have to be really intentional about how you schedule your time and realistic about how much truly deep knowledge work you can expect to accomplish in a typical day – it’s probably 4 hours maximum, on a good day. So make sure you put the right tasks at the right time of day.

Don’t worry about maximizing time

This was a tough one for me. I always thought I should be making choices that gave the maximum benefit down the road. It was pretty stressful because I always felt anxious about whether I was making the right call, and whether it would limit my choices in the future. Of course, it did, but that’s not the point.

Psychologists have found that people who make choices according to a set of established, current criteria (what they call “satisficers”) make better choices with less stress and anxiety. To do that you need to be clear about the criteria that matter at the moment, and let them guide your actions.

This brings me all the way back to the importance of a healthy planning routine. But that’s a topic for another day.

You’ll have to work at curing time anxiety. And you need to be patient with yourself. Remember, you are trying to adjust a lifetime of embedded conditioning, and that takes – time.

If you’d like some help getting started just email me at and I’ll send you a free time management self-assessment.

Doug BrownHigh (Time) Anxiety
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Suffering is Optional

We see way too many lawyers suffering when it just isn’t necessary.

They have busy practices – often they are busier than ever. But they’re not happy.

They’re trying to be everything to everyone – all the time.

Without even realizing it, they’ve bought into the “no pain no gain” myth about building their practice.

And when they see the truth they know that suffering is optional.

Like Steve, who got more time to spend with his daughter once he learned how to structure and grow his construction law practice – without working more hours.

This is just one of the myths we’re going to bust in our free webinar masterclass where you will Discover 5 Hidden Obstacles to Growing Your Law Firm (and Exactly What to Do About Them)

It’s on Tuesday, September 21 @ 12 noon ET (9:00 am PT; 5:00 pm IST/BST).

Reserve your spot by going HERE now (and register even if you can’t attend the live training so that we can send you the replay.)

You’re going to walk away knowing exactly what to do to avoid the causes of unnecessary suffering when you’re trying to grow your practice.

You’ll get the same strategies that we teach to our executive coaching clients…strategies make life dramatically easier… and don’t take much time to implement.

You can still make 2021 the best year ever – and set yourself up for the extraordinary opportunities ahead.

Be ready.


Doug BrownSuffering is Optional
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The Dog Catches Car Problem

You’ve worked really hard to get where you are.

Now you’ve got the work coming and you’re really busy doing the work you’ve always wanted to do – work that pays you well – if you could just get to it all.

You’ve started to get the help that’s easy to get – like outsourcing your bookkeeping and getting someone other than you to worry about your IT and your copiers – maybe even your phones.

But you need to do more if you’re going to keep up.

You might have the dog catches car problem. You know, where the dog finally latches on to the bumper of the car it was chasing only to wonder “… now what?!!”

If this sounds familiar then you’re ready to do more than just grow your practice. You’re ready to do something businesses call “scaling”.

When you simply grow you’re increasing revenue and resources (expense) at the same rate. That makes it difficult to make more profit – which is why you’re in business in the first place.

When you scale you’ll be adding revenue at a faster rate than you take on costs. Which means you get to keep more of the additional revenue as profit. And probably work less if that’s your choice.

To avoid the dog catches car problem you’re going to need to go even deeper in creating bulletproof systems and processes so your business can run without you needing to be everywhere all the time. When you do that your business can run without you – and you’ll still have the control you need.

There is no one-size-fits-all solution for these kinds of systems. But there are common principles that work in virtually every firm.

You could spend the time learning how to scale all by yourself – and hope you get it right in time.

Or, you could follow the example of the world’s top athletes and enlist the help of an experienced guide to help you avoid hidden obstacles and accelerate your success.

If you’d like to know more about that just get in touch and we’ll talk.

Doug BrownThe Dog Catches Car Problem
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When Yes Means No …

If you want to make more money in less time then you need to start saying “no” more often. It should be your default answer.

Having “no” as your default answer has some important benefits – especially when you do it in the right way. Benefits include:

  1. Control of your headspace and your energy (and time).
  2. More focus on your high-value opportunities.
  3. Greater effectiveness for you and your team.
  4. Improved relationships and more referrals.

Even when you understand the benefits, it is hard to shift your default to “no” instead of “yes”. That’s because so many professionals have been conditioned to say “yes” almost without thinking.

At one point in your life that may have served you. When you were younger and had limitless energy – searching for direction. Not anymore. What got you to this point in your career won’t necessarily get you to where you want to go.

You only have so many quality hours of critical thinking and high-attention time every day. You know, the kind of mental energy you need to do your job. It’s a matter of will, work ethic, or character. It’s brain science.

The brutal truth is that when you say “yes” to one thing, you are really saying “no” to something else. So you must choose wisely – based on your values and your value as a professional.

And you need to have a system to make this work for you. If you’d like to take the first step check out my guide Saying No Without Being Negative. This guide shows you how to create a Stop Doing List – and it gives you the words you can use to say “no” without missing out. CLICK HERE for your guide.

Doug BrownWhen Yes Means No …
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Escape the Gilded Cage

Joe is a successful lawyer who prides himself on always having the right answer.

No matter how obscure the question, Joe will respond as if he knows – even if he’s not sure, or he’s just winging it. He’s pretty confident so it works most of the time.

On the inside, Joe isn’t quite so sure of himself. He’s really busy being busy – and he feels like it isn’t sustainable.

He’d like to increase his income without working more hours. He’s tried lots of things, but it isn’t coming together. And that brought him to my (virtual) door.

Our conversation rolled around to about his goals for the year – and what he was trying to create long-term.

There was a long pause.

Joe didn’t have an answer. And that surprised him. He was going so fast that he hadn’t thought to slow down and get really clear on where he was going – or why.

Joe’s response is surprisingly common for attorneys.

The pressure to get stuff done and take care of others causes tunnel vision.

In the busyness whatever dreams and goals we may have had back in the day got pushed to the side – or put off entirely.

It’s like being trapped in a gilded cage. We don’t give ourselves the “luxury” of dreaming or imagining.

One of my favorite things about my work as an executive coach is helping people like Joe give themselves permission to dream and set goals.

I help them to see what they are truly capable of achieving. I help them see new ways of thinking and operating and new skills so they can make those goals into reality. To make their own key.

Coaching isn’t for everyone. You have to be willing to learn and take action. You need to value honest feedback from someone who’s been there, who knows you well and wants the best for you – and will always tell you the truth.

If that sounds good to you. If you want to know how to build your own key then just CLICK HERE and let’s talk. We’ll see if coaching might be for you – and whether we’d be a good fit. Either way, you’ll be glad you made the call.

Doug BrownEscape the Gilded Cage
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Got motivation?

Don’t wait until you are motivated to take action.

It can often be a very long wait.

Especially when you are working on something out of your comfort zone.

The motivation you need might never come, or it might come too late.

Like my client, George.

He was pondering why he wasn’t motivated to do the work required to get new clients for his practice.

I told him it didn’t matter.

We had already plowed that field.

All that mattered now was being in action toward a goal he already decided upon.

To do the work.

Motivation follows action.

When you are in action you will make progress.

You will be in control. And that momentum leads to motivation.

The way to get in action is to decide.

That’s it.

Make a decision on what action you’re going to take.

Decide when you create the plan for the day.

Keep it simple, clear, and direct.

Make it something you can accomplish in the time you’ve got.

And when the time comes, act.


Motivation will follow.

Be in action.


P.S. … Really successful attorneys seek out a coach for the same reasons top athletes surround themselves with coaches.  To hone their skills, to offer fresh perspectives and honest feedback, and stay on track to their goal.

Like my client David, who recently wrote:

“Doug’s coaching produced tangible results for me in the form of increased profits for my firm and general attitude improvement. The attitude adjustments were significant enough for my wife and children to offer unsolicited complimentary observations about my overall demeanor.”

If you’re ready to up your game and get the kind of results that David did then CLICK HERE to connect and see if we’re a fit.

Doug BrownGot motivation?
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More than my accomplishments …

Simone Biles’ withdrawal from Olympic competition provides important lessons for lawyers and hard-charging professionals. We need to stop and notice – and change the narrative around mental health in the law, and business.

Her statement that “… I realize I’m more than my accomplishments and gymnastics which I never truly believed before” applies to everyone. All you need to do is replace the word “gymnastics” with your profession.

The competitive nature of high-achievers can lead us to the false belief that we are our accomplishments and that our professional identity is who we are as humans.

Add in the legal profession’s programming to associate mental health with professional competence and to exploit any perceived weakness and you’ve got a recipe for disaster.

I see this all the time with my private coaching clients.

On the outside, everything appears to be great. But a look behind the curtain reveals the cost of the outward success. The prolonged stress, the pressure of living up to everyone’s expectations – including their own. The need to continually do more and more, faster and faster. It’s overwhelming and lonely.

Successful lawyers come to me for coaching on productivity and growing a profitable practice. At the start, they are not thinking that we’re also going to dive into foundational practices, like self-care – including mental and emotional health. Then they see how it’s all connected and they appreciate having a thinking partner as a guide to cut through the clutter and achieve their goals.

Key reminders for me – and maybe for you:

Mental health is at least as important as physical health.

High achieving professionals are not immune to mental health challenges.

Your community and support network has a huge impact on mental health.

You are much more than your accomplishments and your profession.

If you’d like to know more about busting mental healthy myths then check out my podcast guest appearance on Steve Lawlor’s Legal Wolf Podcast.

Doug BrownMore than my accomplishments …
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