The 64/4 rule

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At a time when so much in life seems out of our control, it can be helpful to have some reliable rules to guide us. Most of you are familiar with Vilfredo Pareto’s famous 80/20 rule, which states that 80 percent of your results come from 20 percent of your efforts. Or to put it in terms of a professional services firm, 80 percent of your profits come from the best 20% of your clients.

Makes sense, right? But, did you ever think about taking this logic to the next level? What’s the one single thing you can do that will have the greatest impact on your life and practice? I know that’s a tough question, but applying the 80/20 rule to the 80/20 rule is a good way to figure that out. That will give you the 64/4 rule (80/20 times 80/20) which tells you that two thirds (64 percent) of your results come from just 4% of your most effective time.

I know you’re good at math. You can apply the 64/4 rule to every aspect of your life, from being a leader, a business owner, a spouse and a parent. What’s the one thing you can do right now to have the biggest impact?

For me, something as simple as getting to bed by 10 p.m. every weeknight has a huge impact on how my next day and week unfolds. By hitting the sack early, I can get up earlier and get my focus work done during that quiet time, early in the morning, before everyone else in my house is awake. When I get my important work done early, I feel better. I’m set for the day. It has a positive cascading impact.

These tiny things — author James Clear calls them “micro habits" — can have a huge positive impact on how you operate. So many high achievers obsess about getting up early. I know it’s macho to brag about how little sleep you get, but the time you get up every morning is driven by when you get to bed. The earlier you get to bed, the earlier you can wake up fully rested without sacrificing essential sleep.

As I’ve mentioned in earlier articles, I’m a card-carrying snack hound, especially at night. I could eat chips and salsa until I black out. In order to stay in decent shape, I’ve got to keep the nighttime snacking under control. That used to take a lot of self-discipline. However, I’ve found through trial and error that brushing my teeth right after dinner keeps the nighttime munchies away. After brushing my teeth, food doesn’t have the same taste. It’s a simple three-minute routine that kills my desire to eat late at night.

Two hours a week to better client relationships

Think about your A-plus clients. You know their cell phone numbers, their kids’ birthdays, you know everything about them. When’s the last time you reached out to them when there wasn’t an emergency or important filing due?

When Golf Digest releases its annual ranking of the Top 10 golf courses every year, print out a copy of the article and send it to your clients who love golf. Maybe scribble a note saying, “How many of these are on your bucket list?” It shouldn’t take you more than five minutes for each client — you can do 12 per hour.

Or for clients who have young grandchildren, you could send them an article about college savings strategies on May 29 (i.e., 5/29 Day). Just mention in your note: “Hey, I was thinking about you. This may be useful. If so, I’m happy to help.”

Clients are dropping hints all the time. Are you noticing?

When clients receive your personal note, they’ll think to themselves: “Hey, they’re really thinking about me.” It shouldn’t take more than an hour a week of your time and look how much value it delivers. Again, just spend five minutes each on 12 of your top clients every week — that’s about 50 per month, which should cover most, if not all, of your A-plus client roster.

Make this exercise a simple repeatable habit and block out 4 percent of your time (1-2 hours per week) to do it. I like to devote one hour per week for our best clients and the other hour to our best prospects and influencers — the people we really want to work with. It’s about building relationships via direct contact. Not many people do this anymore.

When a client refers you, are they making the introduction because their tax returns are accurate? No. They refer you because they know you really “get them” and because you make them feel listened to. If you’re building a successful professional services firm, you should be spending the bulk of your time on things that build personal relationships — everything else can be automated by leveraging technology, systems and procedures. Building relationships in a personal way is something you can’t automate. That’s the part of your business that only you know how to do. That 4 percent-time allotment should be blocked off in your calendar every week — door closed, computer off! If you honestly can’t carve out two hours a week to do this, then get an accountability partner to keep you on task.

It’s easy to make excuses for not doing the relationship building every week, but once you start doing it regularly and making it a habit, it will start to feel uncomfortable not doing it — like forgetting to brush your teeth. What’s your 4 percent? I’d love to hear from you.

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