Are You Wasting Nonbillable Time?

lawyers and billable timeOriginally posted in The National Law Journal on January 20, 2014

Everybody has the same number of hours in each day, yet some people seem to accomplish substantially more than others. What is the difference between these high performers and everybody else?

High performers have three characteristics that set them apart. First, they eliminate time drains. Everybody has his or her own time drains — activities that distract and prevent us from doing important nonbillable work.

This could be something as innocent as following the news too closely or checking email too frequently. It can also include more damaging activities like excessive drinking or staying up late playing video games. High performers either manage or eliminate these time drains.

The second thing high performers do is choose their marketing and business -development activities wisely. I’ve coached hundreds of lawyers, and their No. 1 barrier to achieving business -development goals is lack of time. Lawyers’ nonbillable time is finite and thus must be protected as if solid gold. High performers choose high -pay off activities during their nonbillable time: They have lunch with their most important business connections and make telephone calls or send emails to top prospects and referral sources.

Finally, high performers are givers. Whether through service to boards, by writing blog posts or addressing business or legal gatherings, high performers are always giving in a strategic way. This doesn’t mean they volunteer for everything, but that they understand that a strategy of giving will bring tenfold returns.

Giving online is especially powerful, because messages online can be passed around to reach an exponentially larger audience and also endure. Articles I wrote four years ago continue to bring steady streams of engaged readers to my blog.

The fact is that everybody — even the best of us — is wasting some nonbillable time. But if you have the discipline to eliminate the biggest drains on your time and focus on the high-payoff activities, you’ll have a greater chance of reaching and exceeding your goals.

On another front, one of the most common problems I hear about LinkedIn is this: “I have a LinkedIn account, but I don’t really use it for anything other than to accept connection requests. How can I make better use of this tool?”

The answer depends on your career goals, but one overriding theme that will help anybody use LinkedIn better is: Quit being so passive. Don’t be afraid of reaching out to old friends, strangers in your industry or groups that seem like a great fit for you. Professionals actively engaged in finding and building relationships find the most success on LinkedIn.

Start by just engaging with somebody new every single day.


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