Do you work nights and weekends without any time off? If so, it is time for you to take a break. I know that within the legal profession it is a badge of honor that people wear to tell you how many hours they are working a week, how many hours they’re working a day. They say it almost half-way complaining like, “Oh, God, I worked like a 70-hour week last week”, but they say it boastfully. They are happy to tell you that they worked that many hours and it’s a sickness that has permeated our profession and it’s time for it to stop. This is especially true for solo practitioners who aren’t necessarily working in time to brag about it, we’re just working a lot because we are feeling like we’re always behind.
What I want you to do is to stop working so much. I want you to stop taking work home. Enough is enough. The work day is the time to work and that’s it. I saw a quote one time that said, “In making the smartphones it’s undone what has taken years to accomplish by getting a 40-hour, five day work week”. We feel like we have to always be on. I know that you’re probably thinking, “Oh, yeah, that’s easier said than done”, but it’s not. It’s actually easy to do. What you need to do is make sure you are maximizing your day because most likely what’s happening is you’re constantly being interrupted during the day. Now, that’s by your phone, being on your phone, being on Facebook, being on social media, refreshing your email, not doing tasks to completion.
There are so many studies out there that talk about how it’s not possible to multi-task, how it is not possible to do so many things at one time. And as a result, they say that if you’re trying to do two things at one time, you’re only going to get half the results. So one of the things that experts recommend is to put your phone completely away. Turn it off and put it away. I like to put my phone in another room in a jacket pocket when I am going to be working so that way I don’t feel like it’s even close to me to check it. It’s one strategy that I use that maybe you can try.
But another thing that you need to think about is that it’s actually been studied that if you take a break, if you take time off, if you take a vacation, you can better maximize your time. The thing that I hear from solo practitioners all the time is, “Oh, I can’t take a break. Oh, I can’t take time off. I’m always on”. Well, you’re always on because you’re choosing to always be on. Let that sit with you for a second. We have a choice that we can make. We can turn off if we want to. We don’t need to feel like we are constantly working. You need to just stop working and because you’re your own boss, you’re the one who can decide that, right? You are the one who decides when you work and when you don’t. It’s very important that you take the time to just stop working.
I used to think when I streamlined my practice, I would be leaving the office and I would have a few files to review but I was like, “Oh, I’ll just take them home and do it there”. Well, it turned out I never did them at home. And then I started to leave them at the office and I was able to fit it in my day. But you have to lessen your distractions. One of the ways, of course, is removing phones and social media, but another way is to stop socializing with staff. You can’t let them interrupt you and you cannot be interrupted by them. Once when I was working with another attorney I went in to do consulting with her, and within one hour of sitting in her office, she was interrupted probably 15 times with questions while we were in the middle of a meeting. So it is crucial for you to find ways to have people stop interrupting you during the work day.
One of the ways you can do this is to require that nobody, nobody communicates with you by coming into your office and that you don’t communicate with anyone by going to their office. Instead, you communicate through GChat or I know a lot of people use Slack, but if you use Google for business email, it’s really easy to use GChat. That’s the way you can communicate with people. Another way is that you do not take any phone calls from clients in the middle of your day because it throws you off, it gets you off balance. So instead, have your team schedule you for a phone meeting with a client instead of being interrupted the second that a client calls. So when a client calls and asked to speak with you, if no one can answer their questions, have your team schedule the client for a 15-minute meeting.
I have a designated time every day, usually between 9:00 and 10:00 a.m., during which I can be scheduled for a phone meeting, so I talk with my clients during that time. That way I am not interrupted throughout my day. All of these things help you maximize your productivity and if you are answering your own phones, it is time to stop. I have partnered with Abby Connect. I believe that you need a phone answering service so badly because there’s no way for you to have a productive day if you’re constantly being interrupted by a phone. You have to be able to have sustained attention to whatever it is that you’re doing so that way you can get it done.
And the thing is, you have to be accountable to yourself on this. No one else is going to help you be accountable so you need to make the time to take time off. You have to turn off the phones and all of the interruptions. You are the only one who can do it. Okay? So take action today by stopping the distractions in your law firm, that way you can reclaim your life. You can reclaim your time and you can actually enjoy your life again because life is meant to be lived! It’s not meant to be spent working all the time. At first, it may be hard to figure out how to fill your time without working but I promise you, you’ll find the ways. You’ll be able to connect with your loved ones more deeply and with yourself. I wish you lots of productivity this week and every week, now put your phone away and get down to work so that way you can get home by 5:30 tonight!