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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Comfortable Lies that Keep You Trapped

Beware the comfortable lies that keep you from living the life you deserve. Lies like: “It’s just too late for me”, or “I don’t have any transferrable skills”.

The biggest lie of all is that you have to figure it all out yourself. As if there is some trophy for going it alone. That’s just not how it works.

The good news is that there is a path to follow that works for your unique situation.

I’ll show you how.

Click here so you don’t miss out


Doug BrownComfortable Lies that Keep You Trapped
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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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Escape the “Always On” Trap …

Our most difficult leadership challenge is the 6″ space between our own ears. It’s a mind and mindset game that can feel rigged against us.

Especially when you’re the “continuous improvement” person who is relentless about always trying to be better, think better, be more positive, and optimize your life. Only to feel like you’re chasing smoke.

You know that always being on isn’t the answer, but you never feel quite right when you are off.

You might describe it as the need to be invincible or bulletproof.

Or you might feel like you must be everything to everyone always, continually falling short of impossible expectations.

In his book The Practice of Groundedness, Brad Stulberg describes this as “Heroic Individualism”.

And it’s not a good thing.

Heroic Individualism is an unwinnable, “ongoing game of one-upmanship, against both yourself and others, paired with the limiting belief that measurable achievement is the only arbiter of success.

Even if you do a good job hiding it on the outside, with heroic individualism you chronically feel like you never quite reach the finish line that is lasting fulfillment.”

I felt like Brad was talking to me – and many of my clients too.

He also offers a solution with his Principles of Groundedness:

  1. Accept where you are to get where you want to go.
  2. Be present so you can own your attention and energy.
  3. Be patient and you’ll get there faster.
  4. Embrace vulnerability to develop genuine strength and confidence.
  5. Unlock the Power of Deep Community.
  6. Move your body to ground your mind.

I love these principles because of their power and simplicity. That doesn’t mean they are easy to implement. But nothing worthwhile is ever easy.

I’ve found #4 – embracing vulnerability – to be the most difficult to implement. Especially in professional cultures where it is viewed as a weakness to be exploited. And that’s what makes it so powerful for breaking the always on cycle of the heroic individualist.

Working on yourself, and your mindset, is not selfish. Quite the opposite. It increases your capacity to live your best life, and be your best for the people who need you the most.

Which of the six principles has been most important to your leadership journey?

Doug BrownEscape the “Always On” Trap …
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Essential Quarterly Questions for Success

Can you believe it? We’re in the last week of the 3rd Quarter!

That makes today the perfect day to stop and check in on how you’re doing on your roadmap for the quarter.

This short and simple exercise gives you a greater sense of control and certainty for the weeks ahead. If you invest just 30 minutes to work on these 3 questions you will also greatly improve the chances that you actually reach your goals for the quarter and upgrade your income.


Turn to a new page in your handy notebook and write down your answers to the 3 questions below. The act of physically writing out your thoughts, either in bullet points or sentences will help you remember and get into action. It will also be a handy reference when you do this again in 6 weeks.

1) What has worked really well for me in the last 6 weeks?

2) How am I doing on my cash flow and time/productivity goals?

3) What can I improve in the next 6 weeks?

Answering these 3 questions will allow you to celebrate your wins, and to course-correct to make sure you achieve your goals for the year!

And if you’d like the “TL;DR” version – and how to do it – keep reading.

Read on to learn more …

Ok, you’re still here.

1) What has worked really well for me in the last 6 weeks?

Starting with your wins helps get you in the right state of mind – especially if you are not in the habit of celebrating as the wins come along.

If you’re struggling to find wins it might help to think of it in categories. You might use business categories like time & productivity, cash flow, clients, the team that supports you, your network, and your own well-being. You might also use personal categories like career, family, fun, relationships, community, or spirituality.

2) How am I doing on my cash flow and time/productivity goals?

This gets its very own question because these are the primary causes of stress for most attorneys and entrepreneurs. How has your cash flow and productivity been over the last 6 weeks? What do you need it to be in the next 6 weeks?

If you’re ahead of plan then don’t let up – see how much better you can do. If you are behind the plan, or you are unsure, then this is the time to decide what concrete thing you can do in the coming week to improve. Commit to working on that for 30 minutes in 3 of the next 5 days.

If your thing is getting more qualified cases then you might start with the referral strategy. Simply identify one person who has been a great referral source in the past. You can call them – on the phone. Have a conversation about what is going on in their business, and see if there is a way you can be of service to them. They will ask the same of you, and that will be your opportunity to share with them (or remind them) the profile of a good and qualified referral for you.

One of my clients did this and after a single phone call got 3 additional referrals. Just imagine what it could do for you if you make one of those calls each week for the next 6 weeks. Remember, you are not calling to ask for referrals – you are calling in the spirit of service to that person because the relationship is important.

If you are not sure how to describe a qualified referral then it is time to get busy working on that. Because if you can’t describe the referral you want then there is little chance that your people can deliver those referrals to you. If you’d like help with that just hit REPLY and we’ll find a time to talk.

3) What can I improve in the next 6 weeks?

You’ll probably have a lot here besides money and time. Most attorneys are so self-critical that this can be a pretty long list. That’s ok, for now. Let the thoughts flow so they are all right in front of you. Don’t get hung up on what didn’t work. Focus on what you can do to make it better. Then pick the top 3 things that you control, and block time to work on one of them each week for the next 3 weeks. Then repeat for the following 3 weeks. You’ll have a chance to review how you did at the end of the quarter.

You will get whatever you focus on. If you focus on problems you will get more of those. If you focus on opportunities and growth then you will get more opportunities and growth. So use the experience of the last 6 weeks to find the opportunities in the next 6 – and work on those.

Make it a great week this week!


Doug BrownEssential Quarterly Questions for Success
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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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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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Calendar Blocks – The Missing Piece

Mike is always running late. No matter how hard he tries he can’t seem to stay on schedule.

He is using time blocks for his appointments. He is even leaving the all-important white space between blocks as a shock absorber to deal with unexpected things. He’s still running late.

Mike is missing one important piece of his calendar block system. This one additional step made all the difference for him. It gave him more control, and he was late less often.

The missing piece is to schedule the whole appointment – including travel and transition time.

Let’s say that Mike has a 9:00 a.m. court appointment. And it will take him (on a good day) 30 minutes to get to the courthouse, another 10 minutes to park and get to the courtroom and be ready. He expects it will take an hour and then he’ll be back at the office.

Mike’s calendar block should start at 8:10 to 11:00, and say “Hearing for X Matter, 9-10 am at <location>”. The 8:10 start gives him time to travel and get in position with a little buffer. The 11:00 a.m. ending time does the same. That is scheduling the whole appointment.

His scheduling SOP (Standard Operating Procedure) would be not to schedule other appointments within 15 or 30 minutes of an existing one – to make sure he’s got the flex he needs in the schedule. His assistant would know the SOP and have access to his calendar to help him stay on track.

You are free to implement this idea in whatever way works for you. For example, some of my clients prefer to have separate blocks for travel, transit, preparation, and follow-up around their appointments.

Be like Mike. Schedule the whole appointment.

Let me know how it works for you.


P.S… Keep track of how long you expect things to take and what you actually experience. This will help you make more accurate estimates for your calendar blocks.

P.P.S. … You might also like my guide to Tame your To-Do List – which explains my 7 Bucket system to make your time blocks even more effective. Click here to get your copy.

Doug BrownCalendar Blocks – The Missing Piece
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How to Untangle Your Thoughts to Solve Complex Problems

What do you do when you are trying to solve a problem but your thoughts are tangled up? It can happen when you’re under time pressure and you’re trying to create something new or deal with something that’s really different.

Your brain starts moving really quickly – identifying options and trying to evaluate possible solutions. The next thing you know you’re stopped cold – like when a boat gets a rope wrapped around its propeller shaft. In this video, I share how I get untangled when I’m in this situation. Check it out, and let me know if it’s helpful to you.

Please like and share how you get untangled when you’re stuck.


Doug BrownHow to Untangle Your Thoughts to Solve Complex Problems
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