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Budget the hours in a day to have enough of them

As 2010 comes to an end, we start thinking about 2011. Or so they say.

More often than not, despite all the celebrations and heraldry of the new year, we’re never quite ready for it to be here. At least I’m not. Throughout January, I will likely continue to date things “2010.”

But there is at least one career-related thing that I will take the time to think about before the turn of the year. Something that I didn’t learn in law school.

I will think about my hours. No, not to lament the fact that there aren’t enough of them. I will plan how I want to spend the ones that the new year will bring me. Budget them, if you will.

No matter what you do, you will have certain blocks of time that you are more or less required to spend on particular things. Think about the non-negotiable things, like billable hour requirements. Think about your extracurricular activities — those you have and those you want to have. And those your firm wants you to have.

How much time do they take? Maybe you want to write an article. Maybe you want to get involved in a pro bono activity. Or a firm committee. And don’t forget about vacations, holidays, kids’ school events, etc. If you want to take two week-long vacations, figure out where you want those to fall and adjust other months accordingly.

As you budget your time for the upcoming year, you’ll start to see where you have holes, excessive commitments, and redundant activities. Tweak your activities. It is, after all, a new year in your career — to get to the next level, you may want to think about joining a board or taking a leadership position in a group you’ve been involved with on a social level.

And write it all down.

And then expect it to change. Say you finish your article in January and still beat your monthly billable hour goal for the month. Because you know where you stand, you know you can take a day off in February or come in a little late or leave a little early without feeling guilty.

At the end of the day, it’s about ownership. With a little planning, you won’t have to wait for someone else to tell you whether you’re on track.