How Do Lawyers Get More Done?
You have taken on too much.
There are times, at the end of the day, when you begin to fall asleep at your desk.
Your clients are not getting the best you have to offer. Neither are members of your family.
As much as you’d like to think you are working hard for their benefit, you know the truth. You are simply doing the minimum, in several different areas. Not by choice but because you are spread too thin.
Nobody is getting the best from you because you cannot make make a distinction between what needs to be done now and what can be put off. Simply put, you have trouble identifying and prioritizing critical issues in your life.
That’s not unusual.
Many attorneys and business leaders have this issue.
Overwhelmed and overcommitted you are on the hamster wheel of life. Stretched thin emotionally and mentally, you do your best just to keep it together every day.
This is not a productive way to go through life, let alone be effective as a lawyer or a business leader.
There is a way to simplify everything in your life and set better priorities. It requires self awareness and commitment. But once you begin down this path, you free yourself from the bondage of overwhelm.
Here are the steps to open the door to success:
First: Identify the your distinct capability. That’s the talent you have that sets you apart from everyone else. The Gallup Organization defines these capabilities as “strengths.”
Next: Determine what you want to accomplish and how you can leverage these strengths.
Then: Identify five priorities. Five things you enjoy, five things you will spend 90% of your time doing, five opportunities to leverage these strengths and live up to your true potential.
Finally: Eliminate everything else from your life except these five priorities. This will always be a work in progress but the process of elimination is highly productive.
Your goal is to use your talent to the best of your ability, 90% of the time.
I offer you myself as an example.
My distinct capabilities:
Strategic orientation: Helping people cut a path through the clutter to the end goal.
Activation: Getting things started.
Connecting people: Matching up people with complementary capability and focus.
Influence: Helping people identify, embrace and utilize their talent.
Resilience: A unique disposition to overcome obstacles.
My priorities (the opportunities to use these capabilities every day):
First: Spend as much time with my family as possible to help unlock the potential in the people closest to me. Their love fuels me and I in turn provide them with the benefit of my unique ability. Whenever possible, I include them in my other high priority activities because their presence makes me better.
Second: Help people identify their own distinct capability. This can be done in a one-on-one setting or in groups. It can be done in person or via technologically enabled methods.
Third: Help people position themselves to be successful. This is done through the creation and delivery of outstanding content (like this article or an audio program or in a video or speech).
Fourth: Sell people on their own limitless capacity for success. Sometimes this means getting them to embrace marketing so they can serve more clients, sometimes it means shifting strategy, sometimes it means abandoning old, less effective methods of doing business.
Often, people don’t embrace their potential because they do not see it. I reveal it to them and then then convince them they can achieve it.
Fifth: Connect people with others who bring out the best in them.
Notice there is nothing in these priorities about attention to detail. There’s nothing in there about financial management. There’s nothing in there about cleaning the house or cutting the lawn or managing the day-to-day activities of my business. Why? Because those are not the best use of my ability so I engage others to handle those things.
That’s the key.
If an activity does not meet with your priorities and does not allow you to utilize your distinct capability, you engage others or develop systems to handle those activities.
This means you are constantly examining your activities and deciding if you should handle them or if they are better suited for others.
Each of these decisions is a moment of truth. Your decision in that moment, in some small part, determines your fate.
So here is my challenge to you (in three parts). First: determine your distinct capabilities. Then: Identify your opportunity to use those capabilities and (third) organize your life around them.
This is simple yet life altering.
Embrace it and take action.
If you’d like help doing this, visit this page on my website.
Here are three other articles you must review if you want to make a great living and live a great life ®:
This is my one-on-one opportunity to get your life together. You need help setting priorities and holding yourself accountable to the priorities you set. Enroll in my private client experience today and begin to take control of your life.
This is a podcast I recorded to help you position your law firm for success during the next three to five years. Every day I am privileged to see things that are working for lawyers and strategies that provide a tremendous return on investment. Listen to this audio program now and take action and you’ll be ahead of the curve for years to come.
This is a four minute video every lawyer can benefit from watching. If you like referrals, this is the video for you. Watch it today.
The time is now. Take action today.
How To Do More And Feel Better
There is a link below to an interview I did with David Allen. David is the author of the Best Selling Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity.
I’ve also included a player that will allow you to listen to this interview right on your computer or mobile device.
You need to listen to this interview.
What David shares with me in this interview (five years ago) changed my career.
The single idea that made all the difference:
“Your mind feels overwhelmed when you focus on too many things at one time. When you write down a list of tasks, you instantly feel better because you have released that item from captivity in your thoughts.”
This was a huge breakthrough for me.
I knew I felt better when I wrote things down on a list but I didn’t know why.
Listen to the interview below and implement all the great ideas David Allen shares with us.
You’ll be happier and you will probably be more productive.
Beating Back the Time Bandits: How to Save An Hour Per Day
Time is your most valuable asset. And it is perishable. You will never again get back the ten minutes you spent figuring out how to install the toner on the copy machine. That time is gone.
Everyone wants more time from you. Your spouse wants you to spend more time with the kids. Your paralegal and your associates want you to spend more time working with them. Your partner wants you to spend more time billing. Your client wants you to spend more time on his matter.
Everyone wants more of that precious asset but only a few are truly worthy. Yet we do not treat our time as a perishable asset. We treat it carelessly. We give it away and we waste it on stupid inane tasks that are handled inefficiently.
Below is one technique – just one – that will help you save an hour per day.
Never, Ever Answer a Ringing Telephone
Taking an unscheduled telephone call from ANYONE is a horrible idea. There are only three types of UNSCHEDULED calls you receive during your work day. They are:
- Personal calls
- Calls related to a client matter (past, present or future)
- Calls from someone who wants to sell you something
In all of those cases, it is a bad idea for you to pick up the telephone. Here’s why:
Personal calls should be handled on personal time. If you are at work, work. Have a conversation with your spouse, kids, mother, whoever and explain to them the importance of momentum and productivity. Then be proactive and call the people who are most likely to call you during your “personal” time (while driving, while having lunch, while taking a break from your work).
Taking unscheduled calls from a client or about a client’s matter is a disaster because you have no idea why the client is calling you or what the call is about. It is far better to have an assistant take a detailed message from the client and ascertain the purpose of the call. This way your assistant can schedule a telephone appointment to discuss the matter when you are prepared and have the client’s file in front of you.
Never, ever talk to a salesperson. Have your assistant screen all sales calls. If you have a legitimate need for the salesperson’s services, set up a telephone appointment to speak with that person.
Don’t have an assistant? Get a voice mail transcription service. I use Phonetag. This service transcribes my voicemail messages and sends them to me as an email attachment. You can then choose what you want to do with the call.
Here’s the bottom line on time management and this specific technique: You must train people to do business on your terms. Does that sound egotistical?
Think about it this way: You are always operating from an agenda. You can operate from your agenda or you can operate from someone else’s agenda. It’s up to you.
Train the people who call you for personal reasons. Train your clients. Train your assistant. And most importantly, train yourself.
The only person who can improve YOUR productivity is YOU. Start today with this simple technique.
How To Double Your Productivity in 30 Days
All of us are plagued with too much work and too little time. Many of us have experimented with various time management systems and various electronic scheduling programs that we hope will keep us focused and on track and help us improve our productivity.
In reality we all possess the tools we need to double (and in many cases even triple) our productivity.
The secret is focus.
I’m not taking about listen-to-your- wife-while-you-watch-the-basketball -game focus. I’m talking about focus on one task and one task only to the point of excluding everything and everyone else.
And I’m talking about that kind of focus all the time.
But for most people, this is easier said than done.
Here’s how you can do it:
Step one: Write down everything you have to do and everything that takes up your time and energy during the course of the week. Make a big list. On this list put everything you spend time working on and thinking about.
Then lump these activities into categories. For example: driving to and from meetings, research, preparing a talk, returning client phone calls, sifting and sorting email, networking, drafting an agreement, etc.
Step two: Select the five areas of focus that are the best possible use of your time. Notice: This step has a hidden step within it. You must determine what your time is worth and decide what is the best possible use of your time.
Once you have selected the five things (or categories) that are the best possible use of your time, you can move on to step three.
Step three: Ruthlessly eliminate everything else from your life except the five things that are the best use of your time. The idea is to delegate or otherwise permanently dispatch these things from your life. Get rid of them completely.
Whenever I introduce this concept to my clients they always push back on certain items. Email for example, is one of the biggest time wasters on the planet. Here’s what I encourage you to do with email:
1). Never keep email open on your desktop while you are working.
2). Train your assistant or paralegal to sort your email. Have her alert you to anything urgent, handle what she can handle and flag things that need your attention.
3). Schedule time to check and respond to email every day. Select an hour in the morning and an hour in the afternoon.
4). If something in your email will need longer than 5 minutes of work, schedule time to handle it. Actually put it on your calendar – as long as it is one of the five things you are focusing on.
Another area people complain about is the telephone. Here is my solution for that problem:
Never take an inbound call. Have all your calls go to voice mail. Have the voice mail transcribed and emailed to your assistant or paralegal. Have the assistant handle the issue or schedule time on your calendar for you to handle the issue later on (as long as it is one of your five areas of focus).
Attorney Time Management: How to Boost Your Productivity
It is difficult for most attorneys to make time for legal marketing. In fact, one of the things that attorneys struggle with most is productivity improvement and time management.
This stems from the belief that you must react to every stimulus in real time. It is this belief that is one of the most limiting factors in the workday of any attorney. You do not have to give your time and attention to every phone call, email or individual that pops into your life at random. In fact, there is a more productive way to work.
This way of structuring your work became a staple for me a while back. At the time, I was a consultant with a major international research and consulting company and simultaneously attending Graduate School. For me, time was indeed fleeting.
I knew I only had about 8 hours in any given day. In case you do not believe the time budget, here is the breakdown:
- Six hours for sleep
- Three Hours for meals
- One hour total for commuting
- One hour total for personal hygiene
- One hour returning email messages (throughout the day)
- Two hours on phone calls throughout the day
- Two hours in meetings
- Eight hours of dedicated work time
Keep in mind that my time was never neatly allocated as I have described it above. Those are aggregate totals of time scattered throughout the day and spent on the various activities (with the exception of sleep, which came in one block).
The way I organized my work in order to improve my productivity was by developing a system. The system had three different aspects to it:
1). Bundle similar activities together
2). Control and dictate the time and pace of interactions with others
3). Say no to unproductive events and opportunities.
In order to understand how each these strategies work, you will need more detail but rest assured that if you think about structuring your workday in this fashion you will not only have more time to get your work done, you will also feel a giant sense of relief.
I am going to provide you with the detail you need to develop this into a workable system over the next few weeks. I will link each of the subsequent articles that describe my system to this one so that the entire narrative will be easy to follow.
If you master the use of your time you will also be more effective at legal marketing.