If there is one thing that all the attorneys I’ve trained have in common, it’s that they are all too busy. Busy generating leads. Busy meeting with prospects. Busy preparing for trial. Busy running their business. Busy going to court. Busy putting out fires. Busy going to networking events. Busy, busy, busy! It’s time to figure out how to achieve better work/life balance.
Unfortunately, that rarely happens. This is usually because most of us don’t know how to prioritize when a million demands are being made of us. We react, rather than consciously act. Consider this useful advice on how to achieve a healthy work/life balance, starting with the activities that provide the highest ROI on your time investment.
#1 – Write down your goals.
People who know me have heard me say I’m not a big believer in “resolutions,” but I am a believer in writing down my goals. For many years I had goals, but never took time to write them down. For the last five years, I’ve taken time at the beginning of each year to write down my personal, relationship and business goals. When I did this, I started achieving more of them. Whether it was the simple act of formalizing them in writing or being clear about how I would measure my success, I don’t care. What I care about is that I started reaching more of them. I now write down annual goals and monthly goals and keep them on my phone where I can easily review them at any time.
#2 – Do the one thing that is most important to you personally.
Maybe it’s breakfast with the kids. Perhaps it’s going to at least half their sporting events. Maybe it’s starting to write that book you’ve always wanted to write. If you don’t do the one thing that means the most to you in the world, years will go by and you will regret it. If it’s an event or a series of them, set them as appointments in your calendar. If it’s a project, break it down into bite-sized chunks. If you want a healthy work/life balance, you have to schedule it.
#3 – Find someone to hold you accountable.
Achieving your goals requires accountability (generally not your significant other). Whether it’s a business coach, a colleague or a close friend, you need to find someone to share your goals with and ask them to hold you accountable each month. Once per month, I meet with a group of other like-minded business owners to go over my goals and talk about ways to grow my business.
#4 – Do the one thing that is most important to the health of your law practice.
This is not answering emails. For most of us, it is doing something that will increase revenues, and that usually means marketing or sending out invoices. When you make marketing a priority, you are ensuring that the one thing that feeds your business – new clients – doesn’t dry up for lack of attention. You create demand that will keep your business going instead of treating business development like a luxury that will get your attention once you have the time. Because you never have time.
Lawyers are notoriously bad at sending out invoices on a timely basis. They don’t accurately account for their time in their billing software and then they don’t send out the invoices regularly. Both of these issues directly impact your cash flow (and not in a nice way).
Require yourself and your team to input billable time at the end of every day. An ABA article pointed out that lawyers underestimate their billable time by 20-30 percent when they don’t immediately put it into their time and billing software. Make it a point to send out invoices every month, like clockwork. If you’re a litigator or have invoices over $10,000, then consider sending them out every two weeks. Put someone other than yourself in charge of emailing and calling clients who are more than two weeks overdue in their payments. Once an account becomes more than 90 days overdue, the chances of collecting it are very slim.
#5 – Do the one thing that is most important to fulfilling your business obligations.
This is all the stuff you have to do to stay in business. And it’s not just taking depositions and working on case files, it’s the entirety of treating clients how they deserve to be treated. And that starts with hiring great people to serve them.
#6 – Do the one thing that is most important to your current business operations.
This not only includes answering emails, returning phone calls, putting better systems into place – all the stuff that is essential to your current business operations – but also ensuring you have written systems in place to automate as much of your operations as possible. These include:
- Processes and procedures to capture major marketing metrics and data. You have to know the “lay of the land” if you are to be effective.
- Tracking mechanisms to measure lead sources and results. Know where your referrals and leads come from and chart the volume of those leads and referrals.
- Reports for tracking the effectiveness of your law firm marketing efforts. You have to know what is working and what is not. Don’t waste time and money on techniques that are not effective for you.
- Metrics for quantifying ROI of all major marketing initiatives. If technique A has a ROI of 10 and Technique B has a ROI of 5, which one should receive the bulk of your attention?
- An online marketing system to generate leads and prospects from the Internet. Use your website, blogs, news releases and YouTube videos to help generate leads for your firm.
- A system to develop relationships with potential referral sources and generate consistent referrals from them. Take people to lunch. Meet face-to-face and ask how you can help them with their business.
- A system for connecting with prospects, clients and referral sources on a regular, consistent basis. This includes monthly newsletters, annual client satisfaction surveys, keep-in-touch letters, referral education system, etc.
Be sure to train your staff on how to use the systems you have put in place. The best plans in the world are useless if they are not implemented consistently.
#7 – Do the one thing that has been nagging at you.
It’s an obligation that has to get done, but is not necessarily critical to your business. If you made a commitment, honor it. You don’t want to be known as being untrustworthy, but when you’re running a firm, these items usually fall to the bottom of the to-do list.
#8 – Go live your life.
Are you working so you can work more, or so you can have a better life? No one on their deathbed ever wished for more money, they wish for more time. If you don’t take the time out to enjoy the fruits of your labors, you are missing the whole point (plus a lot more) of having a good work/life balance.