How Much “Fake Work” Are You Giving Yourself and Your Team?

“The most dangerous way to lose time is not to spend it having fun, but to spend it doing fake work.” –Paul Graham

 Do you frequently come away from a long day at the office feeling exhausted but still wondering what you actually accomplished? Do your team members feel the same way?

It’s a common malady for many law firms and other offices—a phenomenon we call fake work that makes you feel like you’ve spent your whole day busy as anything yet reaching no measurable goals. Let’s define fake work as the “busy work” we feel we need to do but which isn’t actually productive. It’s not moving the law firm forward in any way. It does nothing to help us get more clients or to add value for the clients we have. It doesn’t help our business grow. It’s just work that keeps us busy for practically no reason, and we probably would be none the worse if it didn’t get done. All it does is steal time from what we really ought to be doing to grow the business.

Have you fallen into the snare of fake work? Are you doling out too much fake work to your team members? Here are a few examples of time-stealers that you and your team may be doing too much of.

  • Organizing and reorganizing. No one works well in a cluttered office, but if you’re shuffling papers when you should be making calls, you’re doing fake work. Safe the organizing for later, or if need be, hire a temp or assign it to an intern.
  • Checking and re-checking the stats. Analytics and metrics are necessary, but they’re not necessary multiple times per day. Take a few minutes to look them over, then put them down and get back to real work.
  • Letting troublesome clients monopolize your time. We all have a few of these, so I won’t elaborate. It’s just too easy to go down the rabbit hole with a picky client who won’t be satisfied even if you spend your whole day addressing their concerns. Politely tell them you’ll get back to them.
  • Team meetings. I know I might be tipping a sacred cow here, but many firms have way too many unnecessary team meetings. You do need the occasional huddle to get everyone on the same page, but having them just because you’re supposed to is actually non-productive. If there’s nothing important to discuss, skip the team meeting and get to work.

Bottom line: If you can’t tie a particular office task to a specific goal for your law firm, then it’s probably fake work. Prioritize your time and tasks, both for yourself and your team. Now is the time to grow your business. The fake work can wait for now.

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