I know we say this every year, but where did the year go?! Has it been a great year for you? That’s what we’re going to talk about as we close out the year…What were your wins for the year? It’s time to reflect on the past year and celebrate the wins of your paralegal career.
Prefer to Listen Instead of Read?
It’s time to celebrate your wins for the year! Better yet, start a practice of celebrating your wins weekly (or even daily!). But let’s assume you probably haven’t been doing that for this past year.
Let me start with WHY you might want to take the time to do this now. I know you’re busy. You might still have guests in town from the holiday. You might have some big deadlines coming up at work.
So why take the time out of your busy schedule to sit down and think about what your wins were for this year? And I’m not just asking you to THINK about your wins, I’m also asking you to WRITE them down.
The Importance of Documenting Your Wins
There are a few reasons why you want to think about them and write them down.
1. Mental Health Effects
For the first reason, I’m going to cite a study by Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer at Harvard Business School. It found that any accomplishment, no matter how big or small, activates the reward circuitry in our brains. Your brain actually releases dopamine, which in turn then motivates us even more to do better things.
Maybe when you look back on this past month, all you can pull up from your memory for a win is that you received an email from your attorney thanking you for coming in on a Saturday. You received that email and thought, yeah, well, it wasn’t my choice. Getting the email was a win. Many attorneys (most attorneys) don’t know that the occasional appreciation can go a long way, and maybe they don’t do a great job even acknowledging it. Yours did. That’s a win.
Or maybe you received an email from a client thanking you for the quick response.
It does not matter how small the win was. It doesn’t even have to be something in writing or someone acknowledging your effort or work. It could be the feeling you got when you nailed that trial notebook. Or that you got to attend a deposition for the first time.
2. Positive Recall
The second reason to write down your wins is that our brains are better at remembering our mistakes than the positive stuff.
Think about your last performance review that might have had all positive ratings and comments except ONE single area that had some room for improvement. If you’re like most people, you hyper-focused on that one area and forgot the 20 other positive ratings and comments. It’s normal. But if that happened, I would highly recommend that you go back to that performance review and make a copy of it.
On the copy, use a black sharpie to block out the one negative thing and just read all of the positive ratings and comments. It’s not to say you can completely ignore that one, but that’s not what this is about. It’s time to celebrate wins. You can set your goals for improving that one area later. You’ve already focused too much on it. For now, we’re celebrating your wins.
3. Gain Confidence
The third reason to write down your wins is that it will improve your confidence. And this isn’t just a tip for new paralegals. This is important for everyone, regardless of your years of experience.
How to Celebrate Your Wins
Now let’s talk about the actual process of celebrating our wins.
It’s the end of the year, and you haven’t been doing this at all this past year. So start by doing 12 wins. One win for each month. Start with December and work your way back to January. If you can’t think of one for a month, don’t spend too much time on that month; skip it and return to it after you’ve finished. If you have to, go through your calendar to remind you what was happening that month. Or back through your emails – not reading every single email for that month – but when you combine a calendar review with an email search for a particular project, you’ll find one win for the month.
Then, starting in the new year, put it on your calendar for every Friday afternoon. Write down one win you had for the week. Now, if three come to mind, then write them all down. But at a minimum, write down one win you had for the week – and that’s one win at work because this is a blog to help you fast-track your paralegal career.
That being said, you could add a personal win for each week too. You’d have two wins, one professional and one personal.
What does a professional win look like?
Here are a few examples:
- You had the courage to speak up at a team meeting and offer an idea to streamline a process. It doesn’t matter what the result of speaking up was. The point is that you had the courage to do it.
- The client (or your attorney) sent you an email thanking you for a job well done.
- The office manager thanked you for being a great team player when you filled in for the receptionist at lunch.
- You attended a mediation and the attorney used your kick-butt presentation slides.
- You finished that course that taught you a new skill.
- You used your problem-solving skills to come up with a solution to the vendor’s delay.
- You finally got that SOP (Standard Operating Procedures) manual drafted for your team’s eDiscovery projects.
They don’t have to be huge wins like you finished your first trial, or you were the lead paralegal on the firm’s largest M & A transaction this year. Those are great and should be included. But the little wins are just as important, and they will add up. This is especially true if you get in the habit of recording those wins on a weekly basis.
In addition to the act of writing the wins down and what it does for us psychologically, if you get into the habit of doing this weekly next year, you can use them to prepare for your performance review.
Steps to Get Started
- Sit down before the official end of the year and write down 12 wins. One for each month of the year.
- Put it on the calendar on Friday afternoons to make it a weekly habit starting for this next year going forward.
- Write one of your 12 wins in the comments section. Share your wins with everyone! Be proud of your wins, no matter how small or big.
Remember, this is your paralegal career. It’s not a job. It’s your career, and you own it.
I wish you the happiest of new years and I’m looking forward to another year of giving you actionable strategies to fast-track your paralegal career.
ARE YOU NEW TO LITIGATION?
You can fast-track your career with our 3-Step Roadmap to Manage Cases Like a Rockstar Litigation Paralegal! If you are new (or fairly new) to litigation, this free guide will help you get a handle on your cases and be able to anticipate what the attorney needs before they ask for it.
Meet the Author
Ann Pearson is the Founder of the Paralegal Boot Camp, and host of the Paralegals on Fire! Podcast Show, and passionate about promoting the paralegal profession.
Ann spent 20 years working as a paralegal manager and a litigation paralegal before opening the Paralegal Boot Camp in 2010. Her training programs focus on adding immediate value to a paralegal’s career and bridging the gap between what a paralegal learns in school and what they actually do on the job.
When Ann is not working, you can usually find her somewhere near the ocean, either boating, scuba diving, or rescuing sea turtles.