2 min read

The hidden cost of busy work - what's your ROI?

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Return on investment is a topic close to everyone's heart in almost every facet of our lives but it's incredibly easy to lose focus on exactly what we are investing, where we are investing it and what the anticipated or actual returns should be. The reason that is simple - we're busy! 

I'm a fervent lover of organisation, structure, to do lists, project management tools, and colour coded files and spreadsheets by which to keep track of the vast volume of just....stuff ....that needs to get done, at work, at home, for the kids and pets. When you take a step back for a few minutes, you realise that the list doesn't ever really seem to shrink, it just changes. 

Depending on who you talk to, productivity is perceived either as a hugely positive mindset or a disease of the corporate environment and it can be usefully argued that these are both valid positions. The difference between them is a thin line which I sometimes define as 'prioritisation'.  

There is a demonstrable difference between merely 'getting things done' and completing tasks that move you (or your company) forward towards key goals. The challenge is sorting out what those should be from the overwhelming lists of things that need to get done. 

Can prioritisation solve the problem? 

Prioritisation can't really help you when several of the items on the list are equally important. On a daily basis, we're making choices that leave some priorities behind while others move forward, juggling all the more important areas of your life. And when you live in this space, it's impossible to do anything other than become 'reactive' to your activities rather than 'proactive'. It's not easy to avoid becoming a firefighter, leaping to each blaze as it arises. 

Regardless of your ability to judge, sort and prioritise the critical tasks on a minute-by-minute basis, competing priorities will clash on the consumption of the only real resources we have - time and energy. The truth is, we don't value these resources enough. If we gave as much time and attention to these as we do to our bank balance, burnout might well be less of a common story in offices all round the globe. 

What's the answer? 

Surprisingly the answer is not what we are often told: work harder. Grinding out more hours trying to surf out ahead of the tsunami waves of what needs to get done next. I don't know any other way other than to do the exact opposite of the standard advice: slow down. 

Many productivity experts will say that every minute of planning saves you at least 10 minutes in the execution and while I had my doubts initially, it has proven to be true. When you set your 'ROI' gaze to the lens of time and energy and investigate the opportunities that technology offers to minimise the time and energy that you dedicate unthinkingly to tasks that could require less investment from you, the impact on both your quality of life and the standard of your work performance. 

Burnout in the legal industry: 

Burnout in the legal industry is an epidemic across all regions and practice areas and while I might be biased, I think the Intellectual Property field has a specific set of risks all its own. The volume of manual workload involved in the routine maintenance of IP portfolios is difficult to understand for those outside the industry. 

As an example, each trademark can take an average of 1.8 hours of manual work to renew, depending on complexity. How many trademarks are in your clients' portfolios? And with the rise in client demands for lowered costs and flat fee arrangements, what return is your firm experiencing on that time investment? 

At Rightly, we've developed an ROI Calculator to help you get some sense of what costs you could save, how many hours of routine grind could be reclaimed for value-adding work and how your revenue might increase from your existing client portfolios. You can access them here!


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