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Making time for the "important," but not "urgent"

In his book the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Steven Covey talks about the value of focusing on those activities which are important, but not urgent. In order to be successful, according to Covey, we all need to spend more time focusing on those things which can easily be put off in the short run. These are the activities which will hurt us in the long run if we fail to set aside time for them.

In the practice of law, management and marketing are perfect examples of this. Most marketing activities are not urgent. Similarly, office technology upgrades or performance reviews can often be delayed without any immediate impact on the bottom line.

But marketing and management ARE important. If we do not set aside time on a regular basis to build our business or improve our systems, our practices will suffer. If we do not take the time to give feedback to those who support our practices, they are less likely to improve. For many lawyers, however, billable hours are always the priority.

The first thing to do is to acknowledge the issue. Not every billable hour is "urgent" and not every client problem must be solved immediately. Instead, we should carve out time each week to address those things which are important but not urgent.

One way to address this problem is to take the time to write down your plan. Block off a few hours in your calendar each quarter to write down your marketing and management goals and translate these goals into actionable steps each week. In addition, block off time in your calendar each day to do some marketing and other non-billable work. Generally, it is best to make time first thing in the morning before you get going with client work.

Most marketing and management tasks are not "urgent." But if we wait until our pipeline of work dries up, if we wait until our computer systems crash because they are antiquated, or if we fail to give feedback to the people who support our work, these tasks may become "urgent" and by then, it may be too late to get a quick fix.

Tip courtesy of Stephen Seckler, director of attorney recruitment and career advancement, Marc Z Legal Staffing and president, Seckler Legal Consulting and Coaching.

Published October 10, 2013

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