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My New Year’s (not to do) resolutions

Last year, I celebrated my first anniversary in solo practice. So, as I rang in 2016, I decided to make some business-related resolutions — but not resolutions to do certain things. Instead, I’m making resolutions not to keep up practices that make my life harder and more stressful.

This year, I resolve:

1. Not to respond to client emails after 6 p.m.

It’s torture for me not to respond to an email after hours if it only requires a quick one-line reply. But I’ve found some clients take that kind of accessibility for granted. I bet they wonder whether I have a life outside of work. While I’m always available for clients during true emergencies, this year I plan to limit my after-hours communication with clients.

2. Not to procrastinate.

I’ll be honest: I’m a chronic procrastinator. I like to say that I perform better under pressure but, truthfully, I know that I do my best work when I’ve had a lot of time to brainstorm a project, complete it, and review my work over and over.

To stick to this New Year’s resolution, I plan write reasonable to-do lists for the week and for each work day. I’ve also started to put dummy deadlines on my calendar for two weeks before the actual deadline.

3.  Not to take on cases I know I shouldn’t.

One of the benefits of being a solo practitioner is choosing which cases to take. But one of the hardest things for me to do is to turn away potential clients that have paid my consultation fee and taken the time to come in. I’ve taken on a couple cases I knew I shouldn’t have and I’ve been burned every time.

I have one of each of the following difficult clients: the flaky client that couldn’t keep an appointment if her life depended on it; the obnoxious client that calls seven times a week; and the client who’s chronically late in making her payments.

Whether it’s because their case isn’t very strong, they can’t afford my retainer, or I sense they’re going to be a problem client, I vow to trust my gut in 2016 in deciding which cases to decline.

Do any of these resolutions speak to you? What are your not-to-do resolutions for this year?