NBH015: Take Breaks to Add Value

Time management is something that most of us struggle with, mostly because there's not enough time to complete the tasks we have. As usual, I'm inviting you to look at the time that you have differently. Overall it is not the quantity of hours that we work; it's the quality. We want to maximize our hours; we want to bill more hours; we want to be efficient. We want to make sure that the time we're working is actually high quality. And then we're actually doing something, and we're not feeling bad about it. We're not feeling distracted; we're feeling focused; we're feeling in the zone. We want to feel engaged and productive the whole time we work. We want time to have high value when we talk about the billable hour; but we want all of our hours to have high value.

The way to add value to your hours is something that you may have heard of before but maybe not doing - which is to take breaks. This is kind of an antidote to overworking, continuously working, and law of diminishing returns. We think that the more we work, the more hours we'll bill. But it’s more random and it's like we see what hits. But really if we want to actually increase the value, increase the quality of the hour, make more billable hours – then take breaks. It sounds counter-intuitive and it is, because we have been trained, and we have practiced, to work more, do everything more or harder. That is a badge of honor. That is what makes us who we are as hardworking people.

If we're not working hard, then we feel like we are not really doing our job; we're being lazy; we are missing something. This process is actually retraining our intuition, our thinking, about what we need to do in order to be better lawyers, to have more billable hours, and to have more time - which is what we all want. How can we get more out of our hours? By having less. Whenever I research it, I have found that productivity is about inputs and outputs. If we're putting in more, we should get out more. But really productivity is putting in less and getting out more. What about if we take breaks? Technically you're working less. What if taking breaks will yield more productivity, more hours that are billable, more hours that are productive and focused?

Lawyers tell me that they don't take breaks because then that would mean that they would have to stay late at the office. Somehow working without a break has become acquainted with leaving early. We think if we continuously work then we can get out of the office early. I guess that could work. It's a good strategy. What about the quality of work though? What is the quality when you work through that eight-hour day straight or even less than that? What is the quality of the work over time? You could do it for a while. And especially when you're newer, younger, you have more energy. But what happens when it takes its toll on your personal life and requires effort and energy, (which it does)? What happens to the quality - is it as good as it could be? Are you really feeling good about your billables, which is what we want?

A break could be a lunch break, which is Lesson Two of the New Billable Hour, or it could be a few minutes to walk around the office or outside the office, stretch, get a glass of water, or go to the restroom. These breaks are resets. And research has shown that these breaks get us back into what we need to do from a fresh perspective. It lets what we are doing settle, so we're not so scattered. It lets us absorb what we're doing and then it gives us more energy. It gives us energy. You know what it feels like when you step away from something and come back. You can see it; look at it differently.

This is a chance to get into our bodies and out of our heads. It's a chance to access those other intelligences that we have, emotional intelligence and intuition, by stepping away. That's what I mean about breaks. And I think the hardest part of anything that I teach is that we can understand intellectually, philosophically that things are true, but we don't really trust ourselves well. We trust our old ways, our old habits. “I know I'm supposed to take a break. I'm using that app that tells me to take a break, but I'm just going to finish this one thing.” And that's fine. What about over time? How can we bring in breaks? How can we bring in this idea of valuing the time away as much as, or even more as, the time that we're working?

We underestimate how much more we can get done with less effort. And this is what I'm working on also. We're not saying that we're going to have less of an impact, make less money. In fact, we're going to have more impact. We're going to get more done, more results (however you want to measure that for you) by putting in less. Remember the productivity formula I told you: inputs and outputs. When we put in less effort, we're going to get better results; we're going to get more value.

The topic of this blog is taking breaks to add value. And so that's what we want. We just need to adjust how we view breaks. We need to change how we view time and work. What does it mean to work? Does it mean to just be reading and thinking and being on a computer and sitting? If that is all we think that work is, it's going to be difficult to change that and expand that. We will cap out at how we've been working and we're not going to be able to work smarter unless we change how we see time. We are working based on this idea of breaks because everything has a complimentary opposite. The intense work that we do has to be balanced with a break in order for it to be complete. We can of course power through, and we can push through, to work harder and get things done. But it's not sustainable in the long-term and it's actually leaving value on the table. There's so much more value we can put it in if we balance everything we're doing.

For the high intensity effort that you put in, if you put in some break time to balance that out, you're actually adding value. You're enhancing it. This is a performance enhancement. Athletes take breaks. Artists like us have to take a break in order to do what we're doing. It's just part of it. And for lawyers, this is especially important because we have such intense work and we need to step away from it in order for it to actually reach its full potential.

We add value to our hours by taking breaks. It's not this optional thing. This is a hack. This is a productivity enhancement to actually work better, smarter, more competently by stepping away, by taking breaks. Add value to your time by taking breaks. Make a point to bring in breaks somehow into your day, into your work and personal life. Thank you to the sponsor of this podcast episode and blog post, Law Office of Yvette Saddik, APLC, located in Rancho Palos Verdes, CA. The firm assists clients with family-based immigration cases, including waivers and consular processing, victim-based cases such as U visa and VAWA, and citizenship cases. Law Office of Yvette Saddik, APLC can be found at http://www.ymslaw.com/  For a free copy of “The New Billable Hour” book and other resources, visit www.newbillablehour.com.

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