If you’re not familiar with the consultant parable about the “big rocks,” popularized in Stephen Covey’s “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” let me summarize for you. Covey stresses the need to “Put First Things First” as Habit No. 3. One famous story that he recounts to illustrate this point is that of a professor who shares an empty, gallon-sized mason jar with his class and “fills” it to the top with a few large rocks. He asks his students if the jar is full, and they confirm. He then asks them to reconsider that assumption by adding gravel to the jar and repeating the question. “How about now?” Catching on, the students watch as he then adds sand to the seemingly full jar to fill in the gaps, and then does the same with water on top of the sand. Each element represents a different aspect of life that requires our attention, but there’s only one way to be completely fulfilled. Covey goes on to share that many initially think that the point of the exercise is that if you try hard enough, you can always fit more into the jar. But the truth that is demonstrated by the jar lesson is that “if you don’t put the big rocks in first, you’ll never get them in at all.”
I’ve been working with lawyers on their business-development priorities for 13 years, so I get it. You’re busy and have a thousand things competing for your attention, especially as you approach the year’s end. From bonus targets and collections to initiation politics and, you know, actually helping clients, there’s a lot going on in your lives. And that’s just the work stuff.
But if there’s one thing that I’ve learned in the past decade-plus, it’s that the only way to craft an effective and sustainable practice strategy is to organize your time and energy around a few core goals, largely to the deprioritization of everything else.
It works exactly the same way for lawyers in their business-development efforts. So, with apologies to Stephen Covey, let’s think about how to develop and pursue those core goals of yours, which will then serve as the “big rocks” in your 2020 business-development strategy.