As you loyal Stapler Confessions readers know, every month I set for myself a goal to “make ends meet with my income,” and many months I fall short. It’s not for lack of work — the attorney I work for has plenty for me. It’s for lack of putting in the hours.
Although, I do have a nagging feeling that, if I get everything on my “to do” list done, there won’t be any more work for me. This is not logical, however, given that we have a dozen cases in active litigation, and something always comes up. We are also taking on a new litigation case each month. So, the work isn’t going to dry up any time soon. If only I could get my brain to communicate that more directly to my subconscious, I would be much more productive.
I Need to Increase My Billable Hours
I need to take steps to increase my billable hours, so am starting to implement a Productivity Plan. I have the first few steps mapped out, but I want to get some suggestions from readers, too. And, of course, it’s great that you keep me accountable. That’s why I love you all — your encouragement and your ability to steer me in the right direction.
What Are Billable Hours?
Think about how much time each day you eat a snack or lunch, grab a coffee, read or send a personal email, use the restroom, and … and this is the killer … chat with your co-workers. An hour per day? More? If you’re billing clients by the hour, then that is time you won’t paid for. If it’s just an hour a day, you would have to work 45 hours per week in order make 35 billable hours.
Why Am I Short of Billable Hours?
At the beginning of each two-week billing cycle, I commit myself to 40 billable hours and plan what days I will make the two-hour roundtrip drive in to work. I am full of optimism. If I were a cartoon character, you would see dollar signs in my eyes.
On the days I go in to work, I usually don’t start working until an hour after I arrive, due to chatting with coworkers, checking email, and putting out whatever personal fire has cropped up in my email. I starting working (and billing), then take a break when my stomach is nauseous (signalling snack or lunch time), and chew on it while I read emails or blogs or Twitter or Facebook. I get distracted and continue reading long after I’m done chewing. Then I snap out of it and finally get back to work, and the cycle repeats itself.
At about about 4 pm, I invariably add up my billable hours for the day and discover that I’ve only billed 3 hours or 4 hours, or some amount that’s short of my goal. I usually spend 4 – 4:45 pm furiously working, until I hit the road in time to pick up Little Stapler from preschool by 6 pm.
How Can I Be More Productive?
There are two competing forces in my day. On the one hand, I don’t feel guilty reading emails or Facebook, because I’m not billing anyone for that time. It leads me to more goofing off than I ever did while on salary, when I would feel guilty doing personal things at work. On the other hand, there are the dollar signs in my eyes, telling me that the more I work, the more I earn. Somehow, I need to keep those dollar signs in my eyes instead of Facebook or whatever else is distracting me.
First on my Productivity Plan is to Stop The Email Madness. I implemented some long-overdue measures to reign in my email, and after only a few days I can see the difference already.
My Productivity Plan is a work in progress, so I welcome suggestions you might have — knowing what you know about my productivity problems — that can keep me on track.
What suggestions do you have to help me increase my billable hours? Is this something you struggled with too, as a freelancer?
Image by digitalart, courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net