Hack away at the unessential


I just heard about a hoarder who had 30 years of newspapers and magazines stacked floor to ceiling in nearly every room of his house. Yeah, he had a lot of issues.

(Rim shot.)

So last weekend, I cleaned out my closet and armoire and got rid of a lot of old clothes. There’s empty space now, and it feels good. Next stop, my office.

Once a year, I get the bug to de-clutter. I like to, “Hack away at the unessential,” as Bruce Lee said. Getting rid of things I don’t use, simplifying my life.

It’s not just about possessions. I try to do the same in my digital word. Eliminating (or at least filing away in a place I won’t see them) forms, emails, notes, and assorted paperwork. I pare down the apps on my iPhone, too.

I like looking at an empty email inbox and a slimmed down “My documents”. It gives me a sense of peace and control over my world. Fewer things to look at, think about, or update.

Bruce Lee talked about getting rid of the unessential to better focus on the few things that mattered most. He concentrated his work outs, his energy, and his focus on a few things. It made him more efficient, quicker and more powerful. He may never have described it as such, but he appears to have embraced the Pareto Principle, eliminating the “trivial many” so he could focus on the “precious few”.

In a law practice, that might be achieved by getting rid of (or filing away) eighty percent of your forms (letters, checklists), so you can focus on the twenty percent you use the most. You’ll have time to make them even better.

You could do something similar with client intake. Identify the most important parts of the process and spend more time on them. Do you really need to know all of the facts or review all of the documents at the first meeting or might some of this be done later? Freeing up some time at the first meeting would allow you to get to know the client better and he, you.

It could also mean paring down your client list, getting rid of marginal clients who pay the least or give you the most trouble, so you can focus on your best clients.

Bruce Lee believed that simpler is better. When you hack away at the unessential, you aren’t mired in complexity or distracted by minutia. Fewer moving parts makes you more agile. You get better at the most important things.

How can you hack away at the unessential in your law practice?