Years ago, when trying to improve some of my snacking habits, I stopped buying cookies, candy and savory chips. Magically (and perhaps obviously), I quickly found that I ate less junk food. In effort to find a few more minutes a day for marketing, I recently applied this same basic, but effective, technique to my time management and the results have been just as immediate.
Similar to the many professionals I coach, time is my universal excuse for skipping business development. That said, I recognize that if I don’t spend the time focusing now, I will spend too much of it worrying later. So, at the beginning of the year, I conducted a self-assessment and realized that I waste a few minutes a day (ok, maybe longer) reading the news.
Be honest — you occasionally (routinely) do this, too. You’re in the middle of a project and decide to briefly visit a favorite source of online information. All of a sudden, you are engrossed in minutiae traveling down a circuitous route of complete distraction. For example, I might read about a football game and then wonder when the stadium was built. So, I casually investigate the facility’s history on Wikipedia. I might find some odd details about arena naming rights and continue my research odyssey until 30 minutes have evaporated and a series of calls consume the remainder of my day, leaving no time for my objective.
Enjoy the Benefits of BlockSite
To combat this problem, I noted a list of websites that I visited most often to feed my need for distraction and procrastination. Then, I blocked them. Period. I found a browser plug-in named BlockSite and began adding URLs, such as NYTimes.com, Yahoo.com, and News.Google.com, among others, to it. Now, every time I have the urge to check the news during the day and instinctively try to visit one of those sites, it is blocked. What is interesting about this experiment is that I don’t actually unblock the site. In fact, my demand for information seems to be satisfied by simply trying, rather than succeeding.
The result is that I have found an extra 10 or 20 minutes a day, which may not sound like a lot of time, but over the past year, I have polled various groups of lawyers whom I have had the privilege of training about the amount of time they spend on marketing and business development each week. The majority spend less than an hour a week on these activities so if I exceed 12 minutes a day, I’m performing at a higher level than most.
If you don’t think eliminating distracting websites will work for you, there are a number of other simple techniques you can implement to find a bit more time in your day.
Try Two Calendar Tricks
I am a zealous time blocker. Whenever possible, I dedicate mornings for creative work or drafting. This time also includes speaking with my assistant about marketing and business development projects that I often overlook. Committing time in this way is critical because I use an auto-booking calendaring tool called YouCanBook.me, which I learned about from Procertas founder, Casey Flaherty. This free tool has changed the way I schedule meetings, set phone calls, and generally organize my day.
Anyone can book time on my calendar without confirming first. If the time slot is open, I’m available. I save countless minutes every day by not corresponding about meeting dates and times. Of course, every so often I need to reschedule something because of my side job as an Uber driver (to my kids) or for a last-minute conflict. In general, however, it is a flawlessly transformative system.
Get Even with Email
Although I have not completely tamed the email beast, I have taken two steps to minimize it. First, I subscribe to the theory of inbox zero. At the end of every day, my inbox contains no email messages because I have either responded, deleted, or added something on which to follow up to my calendar. Since I no longer use my inbox as a task list, I am exponentially more responsive and more likely to capture new opportunities more quickly.
I also no longer stress about responding to people, which is very refreshing. In fact, ever since I interviewed Jeena Cho for my podcast about her book, The Anxious Lawyer: An 8-Week Guide to a Happier, Saner Law Practice Using Meditation (which you can listen to at http://bit.ly/2nKfZ7Z), I have been trying to incorporate meditation into my schedule. While I have routinely struggled with this, I have finally found a technique that works.
Like many of my peers, I use my phone as an alarm clock. As a result, I have developed the unhealthy habit of checking it as soon as I wake up. To address this, before satisfying the urge to read my email or text messages, I write in a journal.
I follow the morning pages method Julia Cameron describes in The Artist’s Way of writing for a few minutes about anything that is on my mind. Although the entries almost always begin with some lament about my lack of sleep, each prompts me to list upcoming tasks for the day and an outline for accomplishing them. Often, when I’m done, I’m not very interested in checking my phone. And, the writing process is actually quite meditative.
I am a fan of the instant dictation feature available on both my Mac and my iPhone. In fact, I dictated the first draft of this article on a stationary bike (which may account for its quality so I’m grateful that you’ve kept reading). I am even in the process of writing a new book, which I will dictate as often as possible.
I adopt whatever method allows me to produce content, preserve time for marketing and business development, accomplish most of what is on my to-do list, and maybe have a little fun. Productivity has become a game of trying to add a few minutes into each day, which I’m slowly winning. But, please, no prizes, especially dark chocolate Hershey’s Kisses or crunchy Cheetos, I’ll eat the entire bag in one sitting and get nothing done.
***** Ari Kaplan is a legal industry analyst with Ari Kaplan Advisors. He provides legal technology-related ghostwriting, independent market research. For a video tutorial on implementing inbox zero from his software platform, http://www.Lawcountability.com, please e-mail Ari@AriKaplanAdvisors.com.
The views expressed in the article are those of the authors and not necessarily the views of their clients or other attorneys in their firm.