I Was a Successful Lawyer Suffering From Imposter Syndrome Until I Changed This Productivity Habit

  • Published on:
    May 18, 2021
  • Reading time by:
    3 minutes
I Was a Successful Lawyer Suffering From Imposter Syndrome Until I Changed This Productivity Habit - Women On Topp - Womenontopp.com

As a new lawyer, I walked around constantly worried I’d drop a major ball, feeling overwhelmed, and worried someone would discover I did not, in fact, have it all together. I was drowning in work and couldn’t reconcile how other people seemed to accomplish their workload without crumbling. As a result, despite looking like I had it together on the outside, inside, I lacked the confidence to stand up for myself and didn’t enjoy practicing as much as I wanted to. 

Have you ever felt that way about your business, career, or life? Like everyone else got a magic “how to adult” handbook that you somehow missed out on? Like you have this great opportunity in front of you, but you can’t even enjoy it because you’re too worried about mucking it up?

If this is or has been you, you’re not alone. So many women struggle with feeling like they’re failing, falling behind, or just barely keeping up with their long list of obligations. It sucks the joy and fun out of life while feeding the Imposter Syndrome monster. You fall prey to the idea that you or your efforts aren’t good enough, but if you just worked harder… maybe, maybe it’ll get better. That’s a dangerous mindset to have.

If you’re anything like I was back then, you might think that you’re bad at time management or productivity, which feeds that imposter syndrome. But I have some great news for you: you likely just have a work management system that doesn’t function well for you. Luckily, there’s a solution for that.

Getting on top of my time management challenges solved my imposter syndrome

Time management is a tricky thing. As women, we’re not taught systems that naturally work for us. Instead, we’re stuck with to-do lists and advice that doesn’t take into account our unique roles, responsibilities, and mental load. Many of these systems fail us because they make us feel like we are lacking when the truth is, that’s not the case. 

Once I stopped trying to live by my paper planner (and I loved my paper planner!) and to-do lists and upgraded to a more streamlined, modern system to manage it all, I began to feel the stress and anxiety easing. A few months after creating a time management system that actually helped me get it all done with a lot more clarity, my imposter syndrome was gone and I was enjoying life again. I can’t tell you how amazing and empowering it felt. I no longer stressed about dropping a ball. I didn’t worry about someone discovering I didn’t have it together because, truth was, I did. When spending time with friends, my mind no longer raced with thoughts of projects I hadn’t finished or concerns about when I’d follow up with that opposing counsel. Instead, I knew that even if something wasn’t completed, I had time protected in the future to handle it. No need to feel any pressure to do it now. I could relax and enjoy my time off because everything else was already mapped out. 

Here’s how I did it. 

Death to post-it notes and to-do lists

Blasphemy, I know. But the way women have been taught to track to-do lists and post-it notes holds them back daily, particularly when there is a simple solution that can replace all of them. Ready for it? 

Calendaring. 

This may sound overly simplified but stick with me. When you calendar your tasks, you’re developing a more intimate relationship with the length of time things take to complete. Instead of having a confusing list of things you need to do, you’re tying each task to the time you’ll take to complete it, protecting a certain amount of time to do it, and making sure it fits with everything else you’ve got going on that day—which gives you way more clarity than to-do lists and post-it notes can. 

To do this effectively, you want to take all of your tasks, projects, and activities and break them down into bite-sized steps. Then look at when the overall task or project needs to be completed and assign time blocks for the bite-sized pieces working backward. 

If you’re new to calendaring tasks, give yourself about twice as much time as you think you’ll need to get each task done. That way, if you run into a roadblock, you’ve added in time to protect the project. Not to mention, you may not know how long something will take to complete (we humans are notoriously bad at estimating how long things take us), so by giving yourself double the amount of time you think something will take, you can give yourself more breathing space and reduce your stress. Better to stumble upon bonus time than constantly find yourself rolling stuff over to the next day!

Why it works so well

Plotting all of your tasks and activities out in your calendar gives you a much better, objective view of your workload. 

Going back to when I was a young attorney suffering from imposter syndrome, getting that clarity about how I’d get it all done was huge. Calendaring time to do each bite-sized step helped me to see how everything could get done over time, instead of right now, which gave me the confidence that I was not behind and actually had a plan to get it all done. This meant I could take the mental load off of my plate and focus on the task at hand. 

Seeing it all mapped out in my calendar also empowered me to make decisions about what to prioritize, and I suddenly felt way more confident saying “no” to new projects or asking for help. Now I could see when I objectively had too much on my plate and could back it up with specific details.

Can you imagine how much your life would change if you weren’t worried about how you’d get it all done – if you had the peace of mind to know that everything you needed to do would not only get done on time but with quality care and significantly less stress? How would that change the time you spend with your partner, children, family, friends, even yourself? Instead of having that looming uncertainty and those nagging concerns interrupt your attempts to relax, you could actually take a shower or read a book and enjoy it.  

That’s freedom. 

Kelly Nolan

Kelly Nolan is an attorney-turned-time management strategist and mom. Using realistic time management strategies, she helps modern working women manage everything on their plate with less stress and more calm clarity. To get Kelly’s free guide on how to ditch your overwhelm, click here: https://www.kellynolan.com/ditch-your-overwhelm

You might also enjoy..

How To Attract Luxury Clients: A Guide To Getting And Keeping "High End" Clients  | WOMENONTOPP.COM | WOMEN ON TOPP
by Tanya Kabuya

How To Attract Luxury Clients: A Guide To Getting And Keeping “High End” Clients 

Do you want to get high-paying clients in your business? You're not alone in your desire to find high-paying clients and develop a high-end clientele. But, is it really possible? The fact is, most business owners struggle with this aspect of their operation. Selling real estate or professional services such as coaching, copywriting, consulting, etc
Signs You're too Smart For Your Job

Signs You’re too Smart For Your Job

If you see yourself in these examples, don't panic. You don't have to do anything today or tomorrow, but start thinking about what you'd do if you weren't doing the job you have now. Get a journal and write in it. Design your dream job on paper first to get clear about your direction. Then, begin branding yourself for the job you want.
4 Tips for Managing a Business Budget womenontopp.com women on topp

4 Tips for Managing a Business Budget

When growing a business it’s essential to plan and manage its financial performance. And by having a structured budget in place, you can effectively steer your business in the right direction. Most successful businesses invest time into creating budgets, reviewing plans, and tightly monitoring finances so as to meet objectives.
How To Build a Stronger You in Your Career
by Cherie Rickard

How To Build a Stronger You in Your Career

Maybe you’re feeling stuck in your job. Maybe you think your talents would be better served in a different career field. You may have been out of the work force for some time and don’t know how to get back or have never worked outside the home and now not working is not an option. Whatever it is, it may be now is the time for a career makeover.

Join the discussion!

4 thoughts on “I Was a Successful Lawyer Suffering From Imposter Syndrome Until I Changed This Productivity Habit

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.