“Focusing is about saying no.” – Steve Jobs
Lawyers always want to be maximally efficient and effective. The more efficient and effective we are, the more productive, gratifying, and profitable our practices become. But efficiency and effectiveness are not possible without focus. Unflinching focus is what I believe is needed to allow you to have the career you want. But far, far too many lawyers are not focused enough, and as a result, they are less productive than they want to be, and more importantly, they are stressed out. Here are some tips I have incorporated into my daily routine which have allowed me to scale my law firm by staying focused.
Delegation. You only have so many hours in the day to get things done. To stay focused on work that moves the needle for yourself, you must delegate work to others. My approach to delegation is that if someone can do something 70% as well as I can do it (which is almost always the case) then I delegate it. Too many lawyers are perfectionists, who think only they can do the work the ‘right way.’ Shed that mindset and embrace the idea that people are needed to help you remain focused so that you are doing the work that you should be doing to remain maximally productive. Done always beats perfect, so always seek to delegate as much as you possibly can.
80/20. The 80/20 rule says that 80% of your work brings you 20% of the results. Conversely, 20% of the work, brings you 80% of the results. By always staying focused on doing as much of the 20% work as possible, your practice will grow and flourish. I recommend that you do the 20%, and delegate as much as you possibly can of the 80% which is basically busy work that only keep you running in place. Begin today looking at both your caseload and your practice in general and begin to 80/20 everything. This will result in massively greater production, significantly less stress, and much more job satisfaction. Your income will likely rise too.
Time management. This is really, really important. When I speak to bar associations, by far the most popular presentation I give is on time management and it is called Effective Time Management for Attorneys. We as attorneys have great pressure, expectations, and deadlines on our shoulders. Therefore managing our time to the greatest extent possible is constantly needed. My best time management ‘hack’ is to begin with mindset. Look at your time as if you were an investor. Always approach tasks by asking yourself if it is a good use of your time. Will you get a nice return on this particular investment of time? The more you do that, the more productive work, as opposed to busy work, you will get done. The more you stay militantly focused on managing your time to the greatest and most productive way possible, the more your practice advances forward. If you want to really take your time management up a notch, only take scheduled phone calls. It is a complete and total game-changer.
Goal setting. I recommend setting quarterly goals. Create three to four quarterly goals and then break them down in order to figure out what you need to get done each month, week, and day in order to achieve those quarterly goals. This forces consistent and focused action on whatever goals you want to accomplish. Less is more here so rather than pick 10 goals, pick just a few so that you can maintain laser-focused discipline on getting those goals accomplished. When deciding what those goals will be, always start with the end in mind. Where do you want your practice to take you? Then work backwards to determine what concrete goals that that when accomplished, will bring you measurably closer to where you ultimately want to end up in your career.
About the Author
Christopher Earley is the founder and CEO of the Earley Law Group, a personal injury law firm in Boston, Massachusetts. He writes a monthly column for the American Bar Association, Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly, and is a frequent presenter to bar associations both inside and outside of Massachusetts on various issues all practitioners face in running their law practices.