Productive v. Busy
Don’t get busy. Get productive!
By GARY J. ROSS
There is never, ever enough time. Never time to get clients what they want when they want. Never time for the marketing you’d like to do, never time to write those articles you’d like to write. Never time to call Mom, much less visit home. Don’t even have time to do your own laundry.
Since you’re so busy, that must mean you’re billing ten hours a day, right? No? Not billing ten hours a day? Not even eight? Then maybe you’re just “busy,” like that person back in my state job years ago who was always all up in everyone’s business. (“I saw you were eight minutes late this morning, Gary. Have a rough night last night?”) Maybe it’s time to ask yourself: Are you productive? Or just busy?
Let’s review being productive v. merely busy.
Productive: Reviewing documents. If you have people below you, then you’re probably not preparing first drafts anymore, so reviewing a document won’t take long (or at least not as long as drafting the thing) and you’ll be able to bill for all of your time. And reviewing documents is what all lawyers do, like it or not, so when we’re doing it, we’re almost by definition being productive.
Busy: Reading all your junk mail.
Productive: Responding timely to inquiries from clients.
Busy: Responding immediately to non-client emails. OMG! An email just arrived in the inbox!! Must respond now. Drop everything! Must tell college friend who just canceled lunch when you’re next available! OMG! Another email!! This one asking if I have any ideas for CLE programs we can co-present. Must respond now! It can’t wait!! OMG! Another email! Next thing you know it’s quitting time, and you’ve killed the whole day on email.
Productive: Finishing that firm brochure that needs to go out to a potential client.
Busy: Immediately working on another brochure that doesn’t need to go anywhere.
Productive: Sending an email to an old friend who was just named GC of a major public company.
Busy: Sending 37 emails to old friends.
Productive: Completing every single thing on your client to-do list. Like sending your client that article you promised you’d send or those CPA referrals she requested. There’s always stuff that languishes at the bottom of the list. It’s fine to let stuff languish on your own to-do list, but not on your client list. Speaking of which…
Busy: Completing every single thing on your personal to-do list. Like looking on Amazon for those home shelves you need, or going to the liquor store for the perfect whiskey for this morning’s James Comey testimony drinking game. Do that stuff while you’re watching the Cavs get swept.
Productive: Getting that completed PowerPoint to the CLE provider for that presentation you’re giving next week.
Busy: Aimlessly surfing the internet for an hour looking for other speaking opportunities.
Productive: Reading a book on the train ride into work.
Busy: Playing Candy Crush anytime, anywhere.
Busy: Anything other than billing, except the next one.
Productive: Reading Above the Law.
Busy: Reading any other website.
At the end of the day, it comes down to maintaining focus. Letting yourself get interrupted every ten minutes or get sucked into marathon back-and-forth email exchanges that you can’t really bill for (or at least can’t bill for the amount of time that it actually takes) can take away your focus.
Eliminate those distractions, or at least confine them to certain hours of the day, so they don’t dominate the day and you’re left at 7 p.m. wondering why you didn’t get anything done today. Because gosh, weren’t you so busy today?
Don’t get busy. Get productive!