NBH021: Do High-Value Work

I recently read an article in the Harvard Business Review called “Stop Doing Low-Value Work” and I thought it was interesting. It caught my attention and there were some good suggestions in there about delegating. Obviously there are tasks that are lower value, especially for professionals. There are a lot of tasks that can be done by someone else. And the other part of the article was this idea of voting tasks “off the island”, and the idea was to stop doing things that didn't matter. Get rid of things from your to-do lists that actually you don't need to be doing.

And I love this idea of eliminating things all together. How do they even get there? It's like habit or routine. I really liked that a lot, and of course this perspective got me thinking to take it one step further for this blog. Instead of stop doing something, let's focus on what we are doing. That's why I wanted to write about doing high-value work instead of stop doing low-value work, which is still valuable. Can we focus on doing high-value work?

As lawyers we can understand that our time, especially billable time, is high-value. And we say that tasks that are not billable are low-value. However, there are tasks that are not billable that have value, are in the high-value category: business tasks, our law practice, our professional development. The New Billable Hour, I contend, is another way of looking at our time and work, putting high-value on time that we invest in ourselves. The New Billable Hour is billing ourselves first at least one hour per day for our self-care, our wellness, our mindfulness. And when we invest in that, when we make it high-value (as valuable as traditional billable time), we gain more out of it: more billable hours, more productivity, work-life balance, all of the things. We were basically putting value on it by calling it something billable. Lawyers perk up and we're putting high value on it.

And by putting high-value on our personal growth, this will carry over into all areas of our work and life. By emphasizing high-value work, the low-value tasks and distractions must fall away. That's just how it works. There's not enough room on the island for the high-value and the low-value. And so we have a choice. We have a choice all of the time: in our work time, in our so-called free time, and our vacation time and our family time. We have a choice of how we value our work, meaning our efforts, our time, our value of who we are and what we are bringing to this life.

It's like diet and exercise. We can practice self-control and discipline for only so long before we break. We can do a challenge. We can do something short. We'll see short-term results. However, then we go back to our old patterns. It's the long-term additions that we make, not what we're stopping to do. What are we valuing? Are we valuing sleeping at night? Are we valuing eating high quality food? Are we valuing time with our family? Are we valuing exercise, bringing in physical activity into our lives that we actually enjoy? Once we bring in things that we value, it's the long-term additions that we like and care about and that we value that make a lasting change in our health. That's what will just become part of our life, and change our lifestyle. It's the same with our time and work. If we continuously put emphasis on what's high-value work, the work that's most important for you and your clients (and I would say the world, and the profession), then the low-value work won't have space in our lives. There's not enough room.

When we take this courageous step to change our patterns and do the high-value work, we change our results. They are more long-term and we are more focused; we're more confident in our abilities. It sinks into who we are and what we're about. And this is an ongoing process and I contend it to be a very worthwhile one. With every moment we get to evaluate what is most important to us. It is an ongoing process where we look at what we're doing and we judge it a little bit. We decide, “Is this high value? Is this what I want to be doing?” And if not, “Is it something that I can make high-value? Can I enjoy it? Can I enjoy some admin tasks? Can I enjoy business development because it's valuable because I can see the value in this and my business?”

But if you cannot see the value, notice that. And as we evaluate constantly what we're doing, that makes all the difference in that moment and over time, because we're in here for the long haul. Do high-value work and most importantly, evaluate. Figure out the value of the work you're doing when you're doing it.

Thank you to the sponsor of this podcast episode and blog post: Law Offices of Rebekah Frye, located in San Jose, California, works with families involved in complex litigation with an emphasis on child custody matters. Law Offices of Rebekah Frye can be found at www.familylawconcerns.com. For a free copy of “The New Billable Hour” book and other resources, visit www.newbillablehour.com

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