Marketing Time Commitment

What does REALLY productive mean to you? For me it is a FEELING of being in the zone of productive. I’m knocking things off my TO DO list (yes, I am one of those obsessive list keepers and I sometimes write something on my list just so I get the satisfaction of crossing it off! Okay, I’ve admitted it!) I was reading Kevin Daum’s article in Inc. Magazine6 Things Really Productive People Do, and I have to admit he blew me away. Some tell me that I have more energy then 3 people combined, but this guy makes me look like I’m standing still, and I seldom get 6-7 hours of sleep. It’s more like 4-5. Take a look at this…

People often ask me, amazed, how I manage to do so many things. Aside from writing two columns every week, I speak regularly, travel, create videos, manage my business, write books, consult with five companies, network, socialize, cycle, run, read, cook, sleep six to seven hours a night and have dates with my wife. Oh yeah, I watch a lot of television while hanging out with my dog as well.

I have a friend that warns me that one day the lack of sleep is going to catch up to me… ok…ok… in 2013 I promise to sleep more! But how am I going to sleep more and still be productive? Kevin has some ideas…

Okay, I know it sounds ridiculous. But accomplishing my preferred future requires this level of activity. I have the same 24 hours in a day that you do, but I have made specific choices that allow me to make the most of every day, and still feel happy and relaxed. Perhaps these tips will help you make the most of your time as well.

1. Pick Your Priorities

Make choices about the activities in your life. With most endeavors, you can either go deep or go wide. Focus on spending time that for you is fun and productive.

What lifestyle do you want? I am clear about mine, are you clear about yours?

2. Go For Efficiency

You don’t do everything well. The things you do well usually give you greater joy and require less time. Don’t take on something with a steep learning curve if you don’t have the available bandwidth.

I love this one, because when we work within our strengths, we are happier and the sky’s the limit.

3. Integrate Your Activities

Many people go crazy trying to figure out how to spend time with friends, family, work, play, etc. Stop trying to balance time between them all. Find ways to enjoy them in a combined manner.

When you can share the thing you like doing with the people you like being around, it can’t get any better than that.

4. Actively Manage Time-wasters

Social media, family, friends, employees, co-workers and general whiners all under certain circumstances can suck precious time from you if you let them. Budget your time for necessary activities. Make a choice to limit non-supportive interactions that don’t energize you.

Don’t let people hijack your time. Yes, easier said than done. But if it becomes your focus, you are more able to recognize each situation as it happens… and short circuit it.

5. Be an Active Learner

You would think learning takes more time from you, but actually there are always new tools and new ways of doing things that can save you time on mundane tasks freeing you up for your priorities.

Lawyers are generally avid learners. So, put it to work.

6. Lighten Up

No need to beat yourself up if you can’t do all the things you want because you are handling other stuff that needs attention. It happens. The world won’t come to an end in most cases just because you left a few things undone. Celebrate progress and keep refining toward a happy productive existence.

We all need to take this one to heart… celebrate the journey!

So, you and I may not be as productive as Kevin but if we put some of his ideas to use I suspect we will make improvement… don’t you?

“I don’t have time!” I hear that over and over again. Often times, after lawyers complain about not having time we go on to discuss their business development initiatives and almost each and every time they divulge to me little and big things they are doing that don’t make sense that he or she is spending their limited time doing. But they don’t make the connection.

Time is money… I’m sure you have heard that phrase many times. It is never truer than it is with lawyers. Because you sell your time in hour increments and even if you charge a flat fee, you figure out what to charge based on how much time it’s going to take… Simple.

BUT, it’s not so simple when it comes to doing things other than legal work. Three times this week I spoke to lawyers about projects they were working on and each one lamented their lack of time. One talked about setting up a group on LinkedIn… great idea! But did she need to spend her time setting it up, no! The answer was… “It’s easy, I can do it fast.” Sure she can, but she has a team that could do it and besides, her time would be better spent writing an article to post on LinkedIn.

Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should. Others could bring expertise and insight that you may not have. And sometimes it’s simply a second pair of eyes that can be invaluable.

Ask yourself… “Could someone else do this task? Am I doing it because I like doing it or maybe because I want to prove how smart I am?” Neither of those qualifies as a good use of your valuable time.

Chelsea Greenwood wrote in Success Magazine… “Ticktock. Ticktock. Ticktock. For some, that’s what the passage of time sounds like. For others, it goes more like this: Cha-ching. Cha-ching. Cha-ching.” What does time sound like to YOU?

"I’m not procrastinating… I’m really busy! No! Really!"

How many times have you said THAT! I know I have. We create this feverish pitch of activity trying to get everything done… but we know full well that there are things on that list we will NEVER get to… right? Some of those things don’t warrant our attention… they shouldn’t be on the list to begin with. But there are other things that, if we would do them would have a sizable impact on our lives. And we know it! But still we don’t get to it. What is that all about? It’s procrastination! We could try and analyze why… look for the underlying meaning… the emotional damage that started it… and so on and so on… but I’m with Nike… let’s…"Just do it!"

OK, I know it’s not that simple. So, I have some good tips for you from my friend Allison Wolf. She is a columnist at slaw. Canada’s leading law blog. She was reading, The Procrastination Equation by Dr. Piers Steel… here are a few of Alison’s picks…

1. "Work in focused intense sessions of 30 to 90 minutes without checking your email"… I know this is going to be hard for most of you, but give it a try.

2. "Talk to your client. If you have a client file with dust on it that is keeping you up at night then immediately after reading this article prepare what you want to tell the client about it, pick up the phone and call them." This is a version of "just do it"… need I say more?

3. "Deal with the dog file first." I love this one, the dreaded project… because if you are like me, you are generally surprised at how quickly you got it done and how long you let it nag at you. 

4. "Break complex projects into concrete next steps." This is the classic… How do you eat an elephant? One bit at a time.

5. "What gets scheduled most often gets done." Elevating a task to the level of SCHEDULE is a big deal… so again… "just do it.

Look back on a busy day and ask yourself… Was I truly busy or was I hiding from something? Be honest. Now, pick one of these five action steps and get rid of the nagging feeling and you just may catapult your business development efforts forward with great momentum. Try it!

Peter Bregman writes for the Harvard Business Review and last week he was interviewed on ABC News where he shared his strategy for prioritizing and getting the right things done. 

Peter has written the book 18 Minutes: Find focus, Master Distraction, and Get The Right Things Done. OK… 18 minutes, how could a measly 18 minutes get you focused? Peter has a simple formula. Five minutes in the morning when you get your To Do list organized and schedule some of those items in your calendar with a specific time to accomplish them. Then at the end of the day you spend another five minutes to reflect on what went well and where you could improve… and I love this… show gratitude. Now that is only ten minutes… where do the other eight work in? Every hour take ONE minute to ask yourself… Am I working on what I need to? He sets his watch to go off every hour which will remind him of his commitments and priorities.

Now… let’s be honest. How often do you say "I don’t have time?" Imagine… how that could change when you get present to what you are doing every hour. I bet you will find that you aren’t working on what you need to! I have to admit… THAT is exactly what I realized. I was distracted… a lot! 

Here are some more take-aways for lawyers who are interested in gaining focus for your business development efforts.

1. Focus on follow through… He tells us that we probably don’t lack the motivation, what we lack is the follow through. Use the 18 minutes to focus on the things you need to do in order to follow through on the commitments in your 2012 Business Plan.

2. Learn to say NO… I love this one, as I have written before, is your time being hijacked? We often let others control our time with meaningless interruptions or pushing our buttons of obligations… YOU get to decide how you will spend your time and sometimes the assertion is NO!

3. Narrow your focus to five things… There is great merit in narrowing your focus. We minimize the distractions that get in the way of accomplishing what we have identified as our top priorities.

Black Pearl: Back in October I wrote about another one of Peter’s insights…. Find the one big theme for your 2012 efforts. It’s great insight to give an over all theme to your efforts. By the way… I finally figured out my big theme… adding structure and organization to my initiatives. What could yours be?

When you look back on the year, do you find that you OVER PROGRAMED yourself? OR did others over program your time by asking you to do things you felt compelled to do? Have you ever thought about saying NO? Well maybe it would be more like, NO THANK YOU, in a very diplomatic way that still makes YOU look like the hero or people pleaser that you are.

A colleague says, "The clients file is on your desk." When this happens you feel you have to drop everything and work the file OR do you?  You could say, "I won’t be able to get to it until Tuesday, will that work for you?"

A client gives you a document to review. You must be responsive, (after all your marketing materials say that you are.) But it is about the perception and managing their expectations. You could say, "I can get that for you in 48 hours, will that work for you?" When you say 2 days… that sounds like a long time. But if you say 48 hours… that has a sense of urgency.

An important contact calls and asks you to lunch. You know you need to spend time with this person but lunch is going to cut at least 2 hours out of your already jammed schedule. You could say, "I don’t have time for lunch but how about if we both grab our coffee in the morning and have a conference call say, about 8:30, I don’t want to miss the opportunity to get caught up. Would that work for you?"

When management asks for volunteers… you know that it is an opportunity to stand out, but you have so much on your plate as it is. You could say, "I can’t take on the entire project; however if someone wants to share the project, I could do that, and besides collaboration always makes for a better quality result.

In each scenario you said "No Thank You!"  However, it is in the most gentle of ways. Meanwhile you keep control of YOUR time and negotiate it on YOUR terms.

Black Pearl: Kendra Brodin at Lawyerist.com offers insight… The Art of Saying NO. Lots of great ideas, enjoy! 

If you are a regular reader you are well aware that I have been writing and working with clients for the past two and a half months on business development planning for 2012. Part of the process is to look back onto 2011 and examine what went well and what could be improved upon. There is a common denominator in the "improve upon" category.

What I hear over and over again is the fact that many business development initiatives seem to get "stalled". Why? Because they needed more work… the article was not perfect yet… the blog post was not substantive enough… and so on, and so on. It is a lawyer’s trait… perfectionism.

It is a very uncomfortable thought that you would put your name on something that isn’t perfect. But I ask you… "Whose job is it to judge if something is perfect?" Of course it seems that it is YOURS. When was the last time you saw a PERFECT anything? Not recently, I’d bet! Everything can be improved in some way… big or small. So, I challenge you to find a point that your business development initiatives are "perfect enough." And let go! Don’t let perfection get in the way of progress! 

Learn from your initiatives and make them better the next time. Because as we know… business development initiatives need to be repeated to yield results. So, you will have plenty of opportunities to improve as you progress. But you need to do something in order to PROGRESS! So, as they say… let go and just do it!

Do you enjoy your work? Can you get lost in the process of preparing for trial or analyzing a transaction? Are you energized by the interaction you experience with clients? Do you find it inspiring to discuss the law with colleagues? If the answer is YES… you my friend are very lucky. But sometimes the flip side is… guilt!

Do you have family, friends and colleagues that tell you that you work too much? Chances are you hear it, and when you do… you start to feel guilty and question yourself…"Maybe I DO work too much."

I was just working with a lawyer about this very issue. He was second-guessing himself. Does he work long hours? YES.  Does he like his work? YES. Is he building a practice? YES. Does he take time to enjoy the sporting events he loves? YES. Does he pay attention to his family? YES.

I shared a story with him. Many years ago my father was lecturing me about working too much. My response to him was… "If I were a priest, you would praise me for being so devoted to my parishioners that I would be visiting them at ten o’clock at night. And if I were the baseball player, Cal Ripken you would be so proud that I had played in 2,632 consecutive games… I would be a super star in your eyes!" My father, to his credit responded with…"Point well taken!" And to this day has never chastised me again for working long hours because he knows that it is my CHOICE and I love my work.

If you are passionate about what you do… and you do not neglect your other obligations… then DO what makes YOU HAPPY! And don’t let other people’s judgment about it make you feel guilty. Stay true to whom you are and what you want to accomplish in life. After all, we only have one life to live!

Welcome back! On Tuesday we kicked off our weekly poll with the question: How much time do you actually spend marketing each week?

Results

  1. More than 120 minutes – 32%
  2. 60-120 minutes – 27%
  3. 15-60 minutes – 21%
  4. Less than 15 minutes – 8%
  5. None – 11%

Thanks to everyone who participated in this week’s poll…

My Thoughts: A big congratulations to the whopping 59% of you who spend over an hour a week on marketing efforts. At first I was pleasantly surprised by the numbers, but I soon realized that even simply visiting this blog shows a dedication to furthering your marketing and business development. Anyone searching the web for education and information is most likely already on a marketing path. Fantastic!

Another congratulations to the 29% who at least make an effort each week. Even the smallest efforts can make a difference and you’re off to a great start.

As for those 11% who do nothing… see above! That’s 88% of your peers who spend time each week marketing themselves. It’s time to ask yourself why you’re not on board! Are you developing a practice or do you simply have a job?

But the bigger question is how much time SHOULD you be spending on marketing? The conventional wisdom is 200 hours a year for partners (associates 100). If you are doing that… fabulous! But, I think the most important issue is to FOCUS on consistency, small things over time make a huge difference. Instead of the pressure to carve out 4 hours a week, which may be overwhelming, and virtually impossible, think about doing something every single day. Create a habit… spend 10-15 minutes a day.

Everyone can carve out 10-15 minutes, even on the busiest of days. Call a referral source, make a lunch appointment with a potential client, write a handwritten note, spend time on social media… If you do that you will naturally move into more conversations and meetings that build relationships and develop business. It’s common sense, sometimes we just need a reminder.

How do you compare to your peers? One thing is for sure… to grow your practice you have to invest those non-billable hours. My advice… do something every single day!

Black Pearl: A little something to think about: Michael A. Stelzner, conducted a survey, How Marketers Are Using Social Media to Grow Their Businesses, and he found that 64% spend more than 5 hours a week using social media. Granted they are not lawyers but it is an interesting benchmark. Maybe for lawyers a reasonable target would be 1/2-1 hour a week. What do YOU think?

Welcome! Today I start my first blog… it reminds me a little bit of the first day of school… I hope all my friends are here and am looking forward to meeting new ones.

With this new forum I would like to open a conversation on… you guessed it… marketing, branding and business development, as well as explore great resources and new ideas!

What makes In Black & White different you might ask? The polling I will be doing each week. On Tuesdays I will ask a question that will only take 2 seconds to answer, then on Thursdays I will post the results and invite conversation. I hope you will join in and give everyone the benefit of your point of view.

Yes, today is Tuesday… so let’s jump in with both feet!

Make Your Commitment Absolute.

When it comes to lawyers and marketing, billable hours vs. non-billable hours is a constant struggle. In the end, it’s your career. So whether or not your firm rewards your non-billable efforts…you need to invest in your future.

One of my greatest challenges is trying to find ways to convince busy attorneys to place their focus on business development… when it’s not billable. I discussed this issue with Tom Grella, Managing Partner at McGuire, Wood & Bissette, in Asheville, North Carolina and I think his take on the situation may surprise some…

Treat your non-billable marketing hours as a personal requirement. This means that if you have met your billable hour requirement in a certain week or month, but not your non-billable marketing requirement, you simply refuse to work the extra billable hours until you have met your non-billable obligation. This commitment can be difficult because the lawyer will always find an exception, or special important matter, that simply is too critical to wait. To make such a plan work, the commitment needs to be absolute.

Let me repeat that: The commitment needs to be absolute. To me, that means setting a realistic goal and sticking to it. But what’s a realistic goal when you’re balancing billable hours? How much time SHOULD you spend on marketing? I have my opinion (which I’ll reveal on Thursday) but I’m curious as to yours. Poll closes Wednesday at 5 and I’ll post the results with my analysis on Thursday morning. See you then. Please take TWO SECONDS to answer this poll question, I will close the polling Wednesday at 5pm EST. and on Thursday I will post the results.

So I ask you the question… 
How much time do you actually spend marketing each week?(poll)