My client used to stare out her kitchen window for long periods of time while enjoying her morning coffee. Then, she would go to the office and read the local newspaper online for 30-35 minutes. At $350 an hour, this habit cost her nearly $200 a day. She now reads the paper at home and [...]
My client used to stare out her kitchen window for long periods of time while enjoying her morning coffee. Then, she would go to the office and read the local newspaper online for 30-35 minutes. At $350 an hour, this habit cost her nearly $200 a day. She now reads the paper at home and gets down to work as soon as she hits the office. She’s added thousands of dollars to her bottom line with this one behavior change.
Another client was addicted to Free Cell on her computer. She was spending up to six hours a day playing the game during business hours. When I asked why she did this, she said, “It’s my stress reliever.” Why was she stressed? She wasn’t making enough money. Why wasn’t she making enough money? Because she was playing Free Cell for six hours a day!
We all have them – these habits or distractions that use up time that could be more productively spent on revenue-generating work, marketing our law practice, checking in with clients, training staff, or any number of other activities that could have a positive impact on the bottom line. Whether your personal timewasters are internet surfing, computer games, e-mail, shopping on eBay, gabbing with others in the office, a candy dish on your desk for everyone to share, or something else entirely, you already know what they are. What you may not realize, however, is how much your timewasters are costing you in terms of potentially billable time.
To pinpoint your timewasters, and the damage they are doing to your business, take my 30-day challenge. It’s simple. For the next 30 days, write down everything you do every day, and the time it takes to do it. If you aren’t able to keep a log eight hours a day, one kept even half-time will help you identify your timewasters and how much time they cost you.
Once you see how you spend your time and how much of that time is dedicated to non-work-related activities, figure out what your timewasters cost you per year. Seeing the cost in dollars should make it a bit easier to change unproductive behavior. Then, develop a plan to substitute healthy behavior for bad. For instance, if e-mail is your problem, then limit yourself to checking it only two or three times a day at specific times and for a preset length of time. A time limit will help you focus on business-related messages and pass on reading the 97th forward this week from your Mother. If personal phone calls are your timewaster, inform friends and family that you will be available by phone in the evenings and on weekends, but that office hours are off-limits unless it’s an emergency.
Let me share one more story. Steve, an attorney friend of mine, signed up for a webinar I was doing on how attorneys underearn. During this presentation, I touched on the issue of timewasters. A week later, Steve called to thank me for the tip that had changed his world. He said, “My office opens up to my staff’s work area. I can’t help but eavesdrop on their conversations, and if it’s interesting enough, I get up and go join in. Also, anyone who comes into the lobby can see straight into my office and will often walk in and sit down if they see me behind the desk.” Without even knowing his situation, I had addressed the issue of interruptions with this sage advice – close the door! When the webinar was over, he got up from his desk and closed his door. He added 1.5 hours (value = $525) to his billable time that afternoon – and even more the next day. Steve estimated that this one little behavior change could add between $60,000 and $75,000 to his bottom line on an annual basis.
By the way, remember the Free Cell attorney? She had to close her practice, declare bankruptcy, and is now scrambling to find contract work with other attorneys.
Timewasters shrink law firm revenues. What’s costing you money right now?