Hands up who considers themselves busy?
I’m willing to bet that most of you just put your hands up (or at least you gave me a mental nod).
“I’m busy” has become the default answer to the question “how are you?”, because the truth is, we are busy!
One of the most common challenges that law firm leaders face is how to find the time to work on developing their business when they’re stuck working in it.
I get it: you need to get the work done to keep the clients happy and pay the bills, but at the same time, if you don’t pull yourself away from the client work – at least some of the time – you’ll never be able to implement the changes that are still just ideas in your head.
The good news is that you do have enough time, you’re just not prioritising well. This isn’t about a blame game – this is good news! You can change what you’re doing, find the time and make all these good things happen.
I like to think I’m quite good at managing time. I’ve always been an efficient worker and I just like to get stuff done. This means I’ve developed some good time management techniques over the years. I’ve come up with a list of strategies – some I use, some the people I work with use – to make time for that business development work.
Before I get into my five strategies, I want to tell you about my favourite time management expert. Laura Vanderkam is a US writer, author and speaker and she is without a doubt the most practical strategies I have come across for managing time. Her tag line is “spend more time on the things that matter and less on the things that don’t.” What I love most is that her advice isn’t about shortening tasks by 2 or 3 minutes and making the most of whatever that adds up to, instead she’s about changing the way you think about and manage time to really make the most of it. If you want to work on your time management, I highly recommend her books, and, if you’re really keen, check out my interview with her on The Juggle Podcast.
Now, on with my five strategies.
1. Assess your priorities
There’s always enough time, it’s just a matter of priorities.
It might not be easy, but it’s true. There’s always enough time for the things we make time for. If you don’t have time to work on your business, chances are you haven’t made it a priority yet.
Be honest. Is time the real reason why you haven’t got started, or are you using time as an excuse?
2. “Plan it in and do it anyway”
“Plan it in and do it anyway” is a Laura Vanderkam motto. She recognises that we might make it through step 1 – the scheduling – but then we need to follow through and do it anyway – even though we don’t feel like it or have a full inbox when the time comes.
Planning it in might sound like a simple strategy, but I’m willing to bet the majority of you don’t have dedicated business development time scheduled into your calendar on a regular basis. Start by scheduling time for it and let your team know that this time is important. Working on your business is as important as a client meeting, so treat it like it is.
3. Have dedicated days
I find it quite hard to switch between working on a strategy, writing copy for a website, recording a podcast interview or building templates and legal work. To help with this, I have certain days dedicated to development work and others for client work. Sure, the lines may blur from time to time, but on my main focus is set.
4. Outsource or delegate the things someone else can do
Delegating is so important and it seems lawyers have a “thing” about it. Does it stem from wanting to keep billable work to do ourselves? I don’t know. But what I do know, is that if I had to put my career success down to one thing, it would be a good ability to delegate. Ok, maybe I’m underselling myself a little bit, but delegation is so important.
What is the best and most important use of your time? If someone else on your team can do the task that you’re about to do, why aren’t they doing it? If you’re running solo, consider the opportunity cost. What can you outsource to buy back some time? Think bookkeeping, web maintenance, social media and admin tasks.
5. Encourage your staff to take responsibility
Do you really need to settle every affidavit or oversee every staff meeting? Should you really handle that prickly case, or could it be a good learning curve for your junior staff? As business owners we tend to gravitate towards problem solving – after all, we want to make sure things run smoothly in our business. The problem with this is that staff end up bringing every problem your way and don’t learn the skills to resolve them . By being “too” helpful you do yourself and your staff a disservice.
The reality is that not having time to work on your business is usually not true. More often than not, you can find time. Start with these suggestions and notice how much more time you actually have.