What Not to Do When You’re Not Busy Enough


Thursday, May 9th, 2019
By Gideon Grunfeld


When lawyers and other professionals are used to being busy, it can be especially challenging when they hit a slow patch. Two sub-optimal responses tend to repeat themselves.

1. Overcompensating

You know the feeling. You haven’t worked out for weeks or months. You feel bad about it so you tell yourself that you will get back on track by going to the gym four days a week for the next three months.

How does this usually turn out?

A similar dynamic applies when lawyers and other professionals feel that they have neglected their marketing and networking efforts.  They feel bad about it and they overcompensate.

This is the lawyer who schedules 10 networking events in 30 days when they previously attended five events in the prior six months.

Likewise, this is the impulse that causes five blog posts to be written in the first week or sparks a sudden commitment to launch a podcast.

And how do these typically turn out?

Exactly like most New Years Eve commitments tend to workout. The commitment bursts on the scene like a supernova but fades out fast.

2.  Constructive Avoidance

The second sub-optimal response to having too few clients in the pipeline is to avoid the problem by keeping busy.

This explains the actions of the attorneys who suddenly volunteer for all sorts of projects, such as organizing bar association conferences, or take on work at one half of their normal hourly rate.

Why do smart professionals ignore a problem as important as not having enough good, well-paying clients?

It’s because it’s painful not to be busy and helping people feels good. Moreover, constructive avoidance is especially likely to take place when you lack confidence that your business development efforts will be successful.

The good news is that overcompensation and constructive avoidance are common and fixable. Focusing on growing your business during slow times is a skill you can improve. The first step is to slow yourself down. Recognize that panic and avoidance is kind of like being in a trance.   You can slow things down and get more comfortable with being momentarily uncomfortable.

Successful practices manage ups and downs. They recognize that falling short happens. It’s part of the process of succeeding. You can learn to observe dispassionately the stress you feel about lack of clients. And being able to recognize that it’s natural for flow of incoming clients to vary, will take the sting out of the pressure that comes from feelings that arise when you’re not busy enough. If you visualize the uncomfortable feeling without being overwhelmed by it, you will take an important first step towards avoiding either overcompensating or engaging in constructive avoidance.

And if part of your stress about business development is caused by a sense that what you have tried to do isn’t working or that you don’t know what you should do to attract new clients, that’s where business consultants can be especially helpful.  It’s much easier for us to assess your situation dispassionately than it is for you to self diagnose.


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