Once upon a time, as I returned to private practice from my time as Executive Director of the Federal Defenders of Idaho, I made plans. Not going to get behind. Going to keep that calendar clear enough to run, ride or swim every day. Keep my time for me, and Sue and the kids.

“Sweet dreams are made of this….” But dreams are not reality.

That Hebrew prophesy came true. “Man plans, God laughs.”

So, as I think about time, or the lack of time for life in a busy law practice, I am recalling the advice of my close friend and “lawyer coach.”

Be true to yourself and the stuff that really matters to you. In other words, focus. Set your priorities. Plan your time and don’t give it away.

Priorities are tough for me to sort out. I want to work hard for great clients with real problems. My problem (and maybe yours) is figuring out a way of planning my day and not get lost in the “too many” people who vie for it.

As my paralegal and “best office brain” says way too often, “this place was a zoo today.” How do we get past that “way too busy” problem?

First, I need to reverse engineer the practice. Don’t take cases that will distract from the most important things I want to do. The stuff that really matters to me. Great clients, not necessarily huge cases. Folks in trouble, misunderstood and underserved. Mostly federal criminal defense as that is where I like to practice. Kids and addicts looking to change their lives.

More importantly, I need to focus on my life. My work has to fall into place with my priorities; family first, health always, time to relax and breathe. That’s real life. Sitting under a tree for a few hours with some great book. Riding bikes with a couple little bits. Dinner with a bride who still rocks my world after four decades.

Saying no isn’t easy when folks with problems call, but it can mean more time to do a better job for the cases we accept. It can also mean that I have more time for me.

Yesterday I heard Patty (the aforementioned “best office brain”) tell someone on the phone, “I’m sorry but he is simply too busy right now and I can’t let him take that case. Maybe we can help you find another lawyer.” A pit bull blocking my door!

Thanks brain. We all needed that.

Blogging daily? Not very likely, but let’s just figure more often.

Next up – case planning; theories, themes, and winning. Where do you start? Spoiler alert – for me it’s with the other side. Understanding their case so we can build the case you entrust to us.

I mean it. I will not wait another four months.