What is your highest and best use?

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As a lawyer, you do a lot of activities throughout the week, but what do you do best?

Take the time to answer this question because if you want to have the maximum success of which you are capable, what you do best is what you should do most of the time.

You may be good at a lot of things but you will achieve
more by becoming BRILLIANT at just a few.

Society pays top dollar for mastery. Your strategy should be to focus on your strengths and make them even stronger. Too often, we focus on improving our weaknesses. We realize that we don’t know how to build a web site, for example, and so we set out to learn. But learning how to build a web site is not going to make us more valuable to our clients. It is not the “highest and best use” of our time.

The 80/20 princple says that the majority of our results, probably in the neighborhood of 80%, come from a minority of our efforts (probably 20%). Conversely, only 20% of our results are derived from 80% of our activities. We can multiply our effectiveness, therefore, by spending more time on those high payoff, 20% activities that bring 80% of our results.

What are your 20% activities? What do you do best? What is it that if you could only do more of, it would add tremendous value to your practice? What brings you more income? What makes you more valuable to your clients? More attractive to referral sources?

When I set out to answer this question myself, I did an exercise that was a real eye-opener.The idea is to track all of your activities for a full week (in a spiral notebook or legal pad), noting everything you do, minute by minute, from the time you wake up to the time you go to bed. (If you want, you can limit this exercise to just your work hours, but if you’re like me, the line between work time and personal time is usually blurry.) Record everything you do, even if it takes just a minute or two, and how much time you spend doing it.

When you’re done, you should have a list of at least 50 activities you do throughout the week and the amount of time spent on each. Now, go through the list and put a star next to those things you believe are high payoff activities. They produce work product, generate revenue, or otherwise have a material role in your job description.

Now comes the hard part. Look again at the starred list and identify the THREE most important activities you do, the ones that give you the very highest payoff. What three things constitue "20% activities that produce 80% of results"? What if you come up with five things, or seven, or ten? Keep looking. Most of the time, you will be able to zero in on three things that contribute 80% of your results. You may have to combine items or describe them differently, but keep looking until you find those three.

The next step is to add up the amount of time you spent on these three activities. Based on the number of hours you work each week, what percentage of your time was spent on these three activities?

If you’re like most people, you probably spend less than 30% of your time on high payoff activities. Imagine what would happen if you could double the time you spend on those activities.

YOUR RESULTS WOULD GO UP 160%!

That’s because you would be investing two blocks of time on activities that now produce 80% of your results, so you would get two blocks of 80% results. A corollary is that by spending more time on high payoff activities, you would get more accomplished in less time. If you are satisfied with the results you are getting but want to cut your work hours, this is the way.

Where do you find the time to do more high payoff activities? By eliminating as much of your low payoff activities as possible. Look at your list. What can you eliminate completely? Be ruthless. Remember, every hour of time you reclaim will be worth much more than an hour to you when you reinvest it in high payoff activities.

Next, for anything on the list that cannot be eliminated completely, look for ways to delegate or outsource them.

Your objective is to do only what you do best and delegate the rest.

You will find a number of activities that aren’t high payoff (your list of three) but cannot be eliminated or delegated. You are the one who must do them. First ask, "Is that really true?" We often fool ourselves into believing that nobody can do what we do, when in fact, there are many who can do it as well, or almost as well, and sometimes, better! Again, if it’s not one of your high payoff activities, find someone else to do it.

For those things that you and only you can do do, look for ways to do them less often. Do you really have to do them every week? And, what can you do more quickly? Are their any tools you could use? Can you get some training on how to do it more efficiently?

Finally, give yourself permission to relinquish perfectionism. Some things just aren’t as important as others, and while we still need to do them, "good enough" might just be good enough.

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