Why it is so important to value your time.

If you want to be a high-end, well-paid attorney, you must act and more importantly, think like one.   This journey begins in your own head.

The failure to value your time properly is wasting incredibly valuable resources.  You must find a way to spend less time on that which is not revenue generating.

In my humble opinion one of the biggest mistakes that we, as lawyers, make, is the failure to truly value our time.   I am not talking about the hubris of bragging that you charge X amount of dollars an hour for your time.  I am talking about what you believe in your heart that your time is worth.  It is difficult to charge (and collect) high hourly rates if, in your own mind, you don’t really think that your time is worth a great deal.  How can you be a millionaire if you don’t think of yourself as one? [1]

It is very hard to reach that platitude unless you think of yourself as someone who is both worthy and deserving of that kind of financial status.  For many, there are all kinds of issues around their view of money.  “Money is the root of all evil” is one of the many negative viewpoints that can hold a person back.  I know, because I had that attitude for many, many years.  If you hold these negative attitudes about money, you may need to work on that issue first.  Abundance does not flow into that negative space.  This isn’t a debate about income inequality or issues about greed.  This is about you believing that your time is valuable.  My epiphany came when I changed my focus from “value” to “time”

Time is the single resource that we cannot replace.    You can always make more money, but you will never get back more time.  Time is the single resource that has an unknown quality to it – in other words, we don’t know how much time we have.  Will we make it to the end of the day?  Most likely, but not everyone does.

When one thinks about time in this somewhat pessimistic view, the limitations of time come into sharper relief.  I must acknowledge that the understanding that we only have a finite amount of time on this earth in our present body is much clearer to me now that I am over 60 then it was when I was a mere 30, or even 40.  I have come to accept that there are more days behind me then ahead of me.  However, I encourage you to not wait till you are long in the tooth to understand the value of time.  Not to bum everyone out, but when one realizes that time is not unlimited, one should begin to understand just how valuable that time actually is. 

Once you wrap your head around this circumstance, the fact that you have a limited amount of time available to you, you MUST ask yourself the question – what do I want to do with that limited resource?

They say that no one on her death bed has ever said “I wish I had worked more.”  If this is the case – and I believe it is – then we must be strategic with our time.  We need to work and do things intentionally.  We need to let others help us so that our time is spent doing the things that are most valuable to us and to our goals.

If you are running a law practice[2] that is generating a significant revenue (or you want to), using your time to drive to Staples to get paperclips simply is NOT a good use of this extremely limited resource.  In fact, I would argue that most of the day-to-day operations of a law firm should not be done by the lawyer. Rather, having staff to answer the phone, make sure the supplies are available, set appointments, open files and the vast number of other tasks that are required to run a profitable, efficient, and effective law office is critical. 

What happens when you take these important but low-level tasks off your plate? You are then freed up, as the lawyer, to do the work that brings in the money.  To do the work that you went to law school to do.  To come up with the ideas and strategy’s that will benefit your client’s position.  To do the research and investigation that may make the difference in the outcome of the case.   And, to get the rest you need to be your most effective.  More importantly, to not waste your energy (for which there is also a limited supply) on tasks that someone else can and should do for you.  Certainly, if you are charging the correct amount for your services, this extra time that has been freed up from doing the day-to-day operations will more than pay for the staff that you need. 

You will note that this discussion about valuing your time morphed into my encouraging you to have staff.  That is the natural progression of a change in mind set.  When you truly understand the value of your time, you will not be willing to use it on tasks that you can pay some one $15 or $20 an hour to do for you.  Once you fully understand that, and incorporate it into your practice and life, you will begin to unlock your true financial potential.  As long as you continue to do everything your self you will be locked in a box, limited by both the hours in the day and the energy that you can muster.  But by opening the box and allowing others to do those things for you that do not require a bar card, you will expand your influence, increase your billable hours (without increasing the actual number of hours you work) and begin to increase your revenue.

The journey to valuing your time begins in your head.  But once you have made that journey, the doors of opportunity will open, and you will find that you can (and will) be more profitable and more effective without spending more hours.

[1] It is estimated that there are over 15,000,000 millionaire households in the United States – approximately 11% of the population.  80% of those are self-made (not inherited.)  In my opinion being a millionaire is fully within reach for any attorney that wants that outcome and is willing to do the right work.  While having a net worth of $1,000,000 is not what it used to be, it still is a goal worthy of working toward because it does provide significant financial security.

[2]  While I focus on running a law practice (because I’m a lawyer) I believe that these principals apply to any industry.

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