Where Does The Time Go? Ticking Away the Moments

Ticking clock2

“Ticking away the moments that make up a dull day
Fritter and waste the hours in an off-hand way”
Pink Floyd

Recently, Clio, a legal technology company, released their 2nd annual Legal Trends Report.   I am not endorsing Clio or any other company – please do your own research when you are seeking tech to help your practice.  However, the information provided in this report can help you run a more successful law firm if you utilize the data provided.

There are a few findings from this report that I do want to discuss for this post:

  • Lawyers spend only 2.3 hours (29% of an 8-hour workday) on billable tasks.
  • On average the majority of lawyers’ nonbillable time is spent on an administrative tasks (48%) and business development (33%) and if they had more time, 41% of law firm survey respondents said if they would use it to look for clients.
  • 25% of legal professionals are interrupted more than 10 times per day, and 30% are interrupted between 6 and 10 times per day.

How Attorneys Spend Time

Out of the 8 hour day that the report uses as a baseline, they state that attorneys are only using 2.3 of those hours for billable activities.  This means that almost 6 hours of time is being used for other tasks.  And while the report claims that 33% is being used on business development, I have, in my 15 years of business development coaching and training, rarely encountered an attorney doing 3+ hours of business development per day.  In fact, I am usually happy if they do 3+ hours per week to help them grow their business.

So what are attorneys really doing?

According to the results, “interruptions are killing productivity.”

If, as the survey mentions, legal professionals are being interrupted more than 6-10 times per day, this accounts for time being robbed from being able to do both billable and non-billable activities.

In fact, according to research, it takes 23 minutes and 15 seconds to get back to the original task as hand when you are interrupted.  Therefore, if you are interrupted 10 times per day, you could potentially lose almost 4 hours of productivity to these interruptions.

This means that there are about 2 hours left per day which the report says that attorneys are using on administrative/business development tasks.

I will not claim to know how you spend your time.  In fact, only you know how you spend your time, but are you kidding yourself with the amount of work you are doing for your practice?  Whether it is for billable or nonbillable work, do you really know where your time is going?

Where does the time go?

In order to become more efficient and productive, you must understand where your day is going.  This means accounting for every moment of your day from the time you awaken to the time you go to sleep.

One of my favorite exercises that I ask all of my clients who complain that they “do not have the time,” is the following:

  • Go to your calendar;
  • Pick out three consecutive days in the week (including days with meetings and appointments);
  • Print out the individual days you have chosen and keep them with you at all time;
  • Now, write down everything you do from the time you wake up to the time you go to bed.

Keep track of your day – if you go to bathroom, note it; if you make a telephone call, note it; if you get distracted by social media, jot it down; if you get interrupted by a colleague or client, or go to get a cup of coffee, make sure you document that time.  If you come home and watch TV, write it down.

Do not make judgements on what you are doing for those three days; just be brutally honest about where you are spending the time.

On the fourth day, take the time sheets and really look at what you are doing with your time.  Are there things you are doing that take you away from the goals you are trying to reach?

If you find yourself distracted by the email notifications while you are working on something billable, could you turn off the notifications?

If you come home after a long day and turn on the TV for 3 hours, could you be doing something better with your time?  I am not saying you aren’t allowed to do this, in fact I encourage clients to find ways to unwind, but if you are doing this every night, 5 nights per week that’s 15 hours of time you could be spending with your family or significant other;  you could be getting healthier by working out or going for a walk; it could be used for business development.

There are 168 hours in a week.  While I do not advocate working for the entire time – in fact, I believe you have to have goals in every area of your life – how much time is being wasted?

All opinions, advice, and experiences of guest bloggers/columnists are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions, practices or experiences of Solo Practice University®.

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