In 2013, I published my first post about the thrill of getting good at meeting financial productivity targets (Big Rock Billing Mountain). The theme—asking lawyers to get excited about their billing habits—felt a bit out there at the time. Little did I know that the topic would soon develop into a full blown passion in my coaching and consulting work. Yeah, you heard me: an abiding passion for making target.
Financial productivity equals personal power. Lawyers who pay attention to how they get work done each day, and carefully track that work to ensure that they meet their productivity targets enjoy much greater personal power in their practice. This is true at every stage of their career—starting out, working into a specialization, stepping to the side for parental leave or further study, preparing for partnership. Staying on target, without hassle or emergency, and being able to speak to your financial contribution to your employer,
isn’t just about filling your employers’ coffers. It offers:
1. Better prospects for promotion, bonuses, and increased remuneration;
2. More credibility and appeal as a “star” within the firm, which in turn helps attract sponsors and other career champions;
3. Less stress, as you regularly head home know that what was important got done, and was recorded; and
4. The joy that comes from being in a strong position to create the style of practice that works best for you.
Who doesn’t want that?
Controlling your time trolls The key to meeting your target—week by week, month by month, year by year—is to be aware of the time trolls that plague all of us at different times and in
different ways. Time trolls prevent you from getting down to work, from accurately tracking the work you do, and from keeping your billable and non-billable work balanced. Time trolls can be external: clients who call all the time, colleagues who pop in, administrators who send endless emails tagged with red exclamation marks. Time trolls can also be internal: hungry for the next email “ping” or Facebook update, complaining that you don’t have time to record your time, or whispering that you musn’t write down all the time you spent on that document. And each of us must content with a different mix of these hungry creatures.
Your perfect productive working day I’ll be writing a lot more about time trolls in the weeks and months to come, with tips for keeping them at bay. For now, here is a simple activity I
often use with coaching clients and workshop participants. It’s intended to get you to start thinking about preferences and your most productive times, so that you can start working to
Grab a pen and paper, and sketch out:
1. The time you like to arrive at work
2. How long it takes you to get down to billable work (I see responses ranging from 5 to 60 minutes, depending on one’s coffee, news, email, settling-in routine)
3. Your best 2-hour window for getting focused work done. 9-12? 11-2? 4-7? Everyone is different.
4. Your least productive 2-hour window each day. Everyone has one, and acknowledging it creates an obvious spot for scheduling internal meetings, admin, and other less focused activities.
5. Your preference for personal time during the day – lunch, the gym, etc.
6. The time you would like to walk out the door each day, with your time closed.
7. In this perfect productive day, how many hours are available to bill work? Don’t include the settling in and personal time, most of the non-productive time, and the time at the end of the day for finalizing and closing your time).
Most people who do this activity start making some powerful observations. Some recognize that they need to put in some more hours to achieve their target. But most come to realize that they can also reach their target by simply being more efficient – at getting down to work at the right time, or at ensuring that all their work is recorded accurately. And that’s where things get really exciting. Stay tuned for more.