Proctor : November 2017
40 PROCTOR | November 2017 Time Finding time to build your practice by Jamie Cunningham Tactics to combat ‘busyness’ and create the free time you need to build your practice or firm. Building a thriving legal firm or practice requires a specific set of skills and a unique sense of balance in managing your time. As busy professionals, this is almost always easier said than done. On one hand you need to protect your billable hours, but on the other hand, there are critical ‘working on the business’ tasks such as marketing, leadership and managing finances, which tend to fall by the wayside in favour of ‘the immediate’. The most astute lawyer recognises the long- term, sustainable results garnered from working on the business; however, the reality of working on these tasks often falls short of expectation. The positive news is that there are a number of ways to gain an advantage over the time crunch. Here are five tips you can use to give yourself the edge in managing your time: Why? The inclination to work on files now versus investing time on proactive yet non-billable tasks is often a case of immediate versus delayed gratification. It is often easy to see the payoff for working on these files now, but often harder to see the payoff for longer term strategies, which subsequently become seemingly less important. Developing a clear vision of what it will mean for you when you grow your firm, and knowing what emotional benefits you will get at that stage, switches your thinking patterns from short to long term. This, in turn, affects your behaviour and your choices. Every decision we make is influenced by emotion in one way or another, so becoming clear on what you will get emotionally is a driver to resist the immediate gratification. Ask anyone who has lost weight successfully and they will tell you the same thing. Dedicated time and rhythm If you had a medical condition that required you to attend hospital for half a day each week, could you make that work and still run your business? The answer is yes, you could. It could be said that the only reason you don’t allocate the time to work on your business now is that you don’t see it as important. Review point number one. Once you understand the importance of working on your business, set a regular time that becomes non-negotiable. Nothing should trump that time. In setting this time, set it up so that you can be successful at adhering to it. For example, if you are unable to keep to half a day, start with 90 minutes, but don’t miss it. Achieving rhythm through a regular time slot is critical to building momentum, as per the laws of physics. Have a plan It’s one thing to allot time to undertake proactive business-building tasks, but if you’re not clear on what you need to do during this period, procrastination sets in and you’ll default to things you know you can do, such as work on matters. Organising your thoughts into a structure with priorities gives you clarity on what to do. Be sure to break your work down into manageable tasks. Big tasks that leave you unclear where to start will also induce procrastination, and if a task feels too big, ask yourself “what is the first step here?” Once you have an answer to that, just focus on that step. Once you get started, things will roll on from there. Move out of urgency Everything you do has a level of urgency and importance. For busy lawyers, a lot of their time is spent on urgent tasks. The opportunity here is to undertand the distinction between things that are important and those that are not. This might sound like a simple concept, yet it can often become clouded if you’re operating from a place of urgency. When things are urgent, they have the perception of also being important, yet this is not always the case. If you gain more objectivity on each of your tasks, you’ll find some that can be reprioritised which will immediately free up time. Assess the importance of tasks based on whether they achieve your goals – not somebody else’s. Eliminate your excuses As humans, we are very good at justifying our choices. But at the end of the day, any reason for not following through on what you want to do just boils down to you being very good at excuses. This is the point where the rubber hits the road. If you want to make change, there is only one person that is 100% in control of making that happen. You need to be prepared to be the change. Good luck! Jamie Cunningham is business coach and the founder of SalesUp! Practice management Are you feeling burnt out? For 24hr confidential information and appointments 1800 177 743 qls.com.au/lawcare Externally provided by It’s yours to use LawCare is a QLS member benefit that provides confidential, personal and professional support. It is easy to access, complimentary and available to all Society members, their staff, and their immediate family members.