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Ho, Ho, ...Hum? Make the Most of Your Holiday Downtime

Posted on 12/13/11 10:30 AM

holidayYou’re stuck at the office but things have slowed to a crawl. The phone’s not ringing and you’ve already updated your Facebook page. What to do?

The Legal Intelligencer has a great post by Neen James with some great tips for cleaning up and preparing for the New Year by organizing your 2011 mess including:

    • Clearing, deleting or filing those read e-mails in your inbox.
    • Throwing out unwanted, unread journals that you have been "meaning" to read, but haven’t and won’t.
    • Entering details into your contact management system of the business card pile that is gathering dust on your desk.
In addition to those mundane housekeeping tasks, she also offers ideas for activities involving your firm’s team and client strategies.

Part I:

The crazy holiday season … why does it make our hearts beat faster knowing we have so much more "to do" and so little time to achieve it all? Why is it we both love and hate this time of year? We place high expectations on ourselves and others during the holiday season; however, there are ways to be more productive during this holiday season.

The holiday season is not the time to slow down your business development activities or stop networking because we still have budgets, goals and targets to achieve. How do you handle the "unproductive" attitude that holiday season brings? How can you juggle vacation schedules? Historically, the holiday season may have been a time for you to take it easy, do the minimum amount of activity while you focus on what you will achieve for next year -- not this year! Decide to make this your most productive holiday season ever, here are some strategies that will help you do that and continually grow your business and set up a productive 2012.

Make 2012 your best year yet. Book a two-hour appointment with yourself to begin planning for next year to include potential new clients, cases and support staff development activities. Determine what you need to achieve to make 2012 your best year yet. This business plan should not be collecting dust in your bottom desk drawer - it is a living document to be used as a guide for you and your team.

Review your marketing plan. Invest the time and resources in creating a customised plan for your book of business. If you are a one person attorney firm, ask colleagues and people you trust to brainstorm ideas with you. If you have a large firm, ask clients, staff and colleagues what marketing activities will be effective for your business.  If you created a marketing plan for this year, review your progress to date and determine what strategies will be effective again for 2012.

Conduct focus groups. Invite a select number of key clients to your office and ask them about your firm, their expectations and experiences, and how you can better serve them. Collate the results and seek your team’s input on how to action them.

Conduct a six-month business review. Spend two hours reviewing your firm’s achievements for the past six months. Ask yourself the following 11 questions:

    1. How would I rate the past six months’ performance (1-10 with 10 being the highest)?
    2. Did I achieve my financial targets/billable hours each month?
    3. If not, why not?
    4. If not, what do I need to do differently in the next six months to meet my annual plan?
    5. If I did meet these targets (congratulations to you), were they big enough?
    6. Have I conducted staff reviews with my team? If not, why not? And when?
    7. If so, have I rewarded my team adequately?
    8. Do I need to invest more in my team or personal development?
    9. Is my marketing plan on track? If not, why not?
    10. If not, what activities do I need to conduct to implement more marketing strategies?
    11. Have I done sufficient business development to grow my book of business or my connections? If not, why not?
Part II:

Once you have completed this review, create a series of tasks, actions or projects to implement some of your strategies to help you really achieve all your targets for the next six months.

Clean up. You have heard of a spring clean, well this is a winter clean. This clean out could include:

    • Clearing, deleting or filing those read e-mails in your inbox.
    • Unsubscribing from all those newsletters that you don’t read.
    • Allocating one hour to get your paper filing up to date (if you have more than one hour’s worth, do 15 minutes per week until it is all complete).
    • Throwing out unwanted, unread journals that you have been "meaning" to read, but haven’t and won’t.
    • Reviewing your "tasks" on your to-do list or in your Outlook file and removing those tasks that simply won’t be completed.
    • Entering details into your contact management system of the business card pile that is gathering dust on your desk.
    • Spending 15 minutes cleaning the top of your desk, removing unnecessary stationery, putting away files, cleaning the dust off your family photo, throwing away empty water bottles and wiping down your computer keyboard and screen. A clean and clear desk will help you be more productive any time of year!

Hold a team development activity. If you manage a team of people in the firm, allocate some time to meet for lunch at cosy restaurant with a warm fireplace and delicious food or bring food to share for lunch and conduct a meeting in your conference room. Spend time listening to your team, their challenges and achievements. Plan your next six months and how you will achieve the targets for the whole team.

Cancel unnecessary meetings.  If you have regular weekly or monthly project or staff meetings that don’t need to occur during the holidays, cancel them. Most people appreciate being given more time and spending less time in meetings.

Book a "tele-coffee" with your clients. What is a "tele-coffee"? It is where you both make a coffee and meet by teleconference. It is a more productive way of meeting (and avoids time wasted in travel), especially if you are trying to avoid inclement weather or holiday traffic. Just like a normal meeting, you set an agenda, take minutes if required and agree on the outcomes.

Watch the blog for the next post in this series, which includes more tasks to get you started on the right foot in 2012!

Tags: Practicing Bankruptcy Law, General

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