Kim ran a successful professional services firm with a staff of 28 and clients in a dozen states. But when she shared her 2017 goals with me, I saw something that gave me pause. There, under her revenue and profit goals for the year, was this sentence: “Eliminate 12 hours a month of non-revenue work.”
Kim understandably believed that the most valuable work she could do for her business was to churn out more billable hours–to turn some of her activities that don’t earn revenue into those that do. But that’s flawed thinking. Of course billable hours create value, in a sense that couldn’t be easier to quantify; Kim bills at $325 an hour. Yet if all she does is focus on converting non-revenue work into more billable hours, she’ll soon be in for a rude awakening.
The reason why has to do with the all-too-familiar “80/20 rule,” otherwise known as the “Pareto principle,” which states that 80% of your efforts produce only 20% of your results, while the remaining 20% of your efforts drive 80% of your results. It’s not that this isn’t true–in my experience, and in loads of other professionals’ experience, it is–it’s just that it’s too often mistaken for a time management strategy: Find that 20% sweet spot, and just do more of whatever it consists of.