Walt Hampton: Time Mastery through Self Mastery

In this episode, Steve Fretzin and Walt Hampton discuss:

  • The freedom that comes from discipline.
  • Identifying your personal high-value targets.
  • Enrolling and engaging others.
  • Connecting with the things that make our hearts sing to go the distance.

Key Takeaways:

  • Without a plan, we are in high reactivity mode all day. With a detailed plan for the week, then we have a roadmap to follow.
  • Not everything is an emergency in your life – not everything needs to be handled with high reactivity day in and day out.
  • The problem with a to-do list is that every item on the list appears to have equal importance, which is just not true.
  • Become more active and engaged in your firm’s culture. Balance and time master do add to the bottom line.

“The single most important thing to realize is that while we all want to manage time, we can’t. Time is not amenable to management. We can wrestle it all we want and it will come and go however hard we work at the management of it. We can become better masters of ourselves, and how we show up every single day and, in that way, master that limited time we have on this planet.” —  Walt Hampton

Connect with Walt Hampton:  

Website: Summit-Success.com

Email: Walt@Summit-Success.com

FREE eBook: summitsuccess.lpages.co/the-power-principles-of-time-mastery

LinkedIn: linkedin.com/in/walthampton

Connect with Steve Fretzin:

LinkedIn: Steve Fretzin

Twitter: @stevefretzin

Facebook: Fretzin, Inc.

Website: Fretzin.com

Email: Steve@Fretzin.com

Book: The Ambitious Attorney: Your Guide to Doubling or Even Tripling Your Book of Business and more!

YouTube: Steve Fretzin

Call Steve directly at 847-602-6911



Steve: Hey, everybody, welcome to be that lawyer, as you heard, I’m Steve Fretzin, three-time author. I’m a business development coach for attorneys nationally and today I’ve got just an amazing guest. If you’re concerned about time management, your billable hours, your business development, how do you pull it all together? I’ve got author, adventurer, expert and time mastery and sustainable peak performance managing partner of a law firm for over 30 years, Walt Hampton. How are you doing, Walt?

Walt: Steve I’m so thrilled to be able to spend some time, some time with you! Thank you for having me.

Steve: Yeah, my pleasure. I mean, this is going to be exciting because lawyers really struggle with time management. I spent a good amount of my time helping them with that, and I certainly don’t have all the answers. And I’m hoping you can fill in the blanks. Would you do me a favor? Just give a little bit of a background, because you have one of the most not only interesting backgrounds, but also just the direction you took your life and where you live. And all of that sort of adds up to a very impressive background.

Walt: A legend in my own mind, Steve, haha.

Steve: And mine, too.

Walt: So I came out of Cornell Law School in 1984 and I went the traditional route to the big firm where I was in a litigation department doing commercial litigation. And on the cusp of partnership, I decided I wanted my own gig and created an office in suburban Hartford, Connecticut, where we did corporate and commercial litigation and high-end criminal defense.

I grew that firm over more than a quarter decade and loved it and found that the adversarial process was wearing. And through an interesting set of circumstances, serendipity and luck, I had the opportunity to cross paths with Tony Robbins and was invited into Tony’s world to explore business coaching.

And I was trained as a business coach and began to use my legal background collaboratively as a coach and consultant for lawyers now all around the globe. And by creating a business that is geographically independent, I am able to live and work anywhere in the world.

I’m coming to you from West County Cork, Ireland, because I can. And last winter we spent the Winter and Bariloche, Argentina. And like you, Steve, I’m privileged to be able to support and help our colleagues grow their businesses and have great lives. What I believe is that our profession is one of the greatest professions on the planet, and I am mission driven to see that our colleagues enjoy the work they do and enjoy the rewards of that work. And that means, as you alluded to, not only being great lawyers, but having great lives.

And for me, that’s having a lot of balance and enjoyment and deep satisfaction in every area. My passions are high altitude mountaineering, ultra-distance running, blue water sailing and adventure photography, all of which I pursue vigorously.

Steve: Yeah, that’s amazing. I mean, we’re all sitting here from my home base in Chicago and we’re about to hit the winter and holy mackerel. Everything shutting down. It’s really, really hard. That sounds exciting and I’m a little bit jealous, but I’m trying to keep myself in check with that. As you know and I’ve mentioned, time mastery is something that is so important for lawyers who are billing huge hours that are trying to balance their life between their family, their billable, their business development and everything else that comes up in our lives. You know, there are people working from home that have kids running around them and all this kind of stuff. So, let’s get into the weeds a little bit and maybe start us off with just sharing what the single most important sort of time mastery principle in your experience.

Walt: Well you used the phrase that I use on my book cover, “The power principles of time mastery: Do less, make more, have fun”. And I call it time mastery, not time management, because the single most important thing to realize is that while we all want to manage time, we can’t. Time is not amenable to management. We can wrestle it all we want and it will come and go, however hard we work at the management of it. However, we can become better masters of ourselves and how we show up every single day, and in that way master that limited time we have on this planet.

Steve: That’s really, really interesting. So, you know, I usually say to my clients, did you have the week or did the week? Have you? And I think I think what we need to get into the into the into the weeds about is, is that some of the ideas that you’re sharing that you’ve learned along your path. So what would be that one word that most lawyers don’t use as much as they should, that sort of helps them get through this?

Walt: Well, there are a number of words, my most important word is no, but we’ll come back to that one. I think the one that we ought to lead with is “plan”, because what most lawyers do, and I was like this for many, many years, is – you wake up every single day, grab your smartphone, check your email feed and your email feed would become your agenda for the day.

And without a plan, we’re in full reactivity mode all day long. Never getting to the high value targets and with a concrete plan for a week with a really detailed plan for the week (and we teach a proprietary planning process that makes that a whole lot easier) then we have a roadmap to follow. And of course, I was a trial lawyer. We get thrown off course all of the time. I was a single dad for a dozen years and a managing partner of a law firm. I get the difficulty of balancing it all, but without a roadmap that we ourselves use, it is guided by our high value target as well as the things that we really value in our days and weeks and lives then we’re at the mercy of other people.

Steve: And the arguments to that point is going to be, look, I have clients that have emergencies all the time. I’ve got partners that are throwing work at me that I wasn’t expecting. So basically drinking out of a fire hose. So, their argument is going to be, look, I can have the best plan in the world, but as these things are coming into my space, I have to react to them or I’m going to be in trouble for a variety of reasons.

Walt: One of the things that’s not on my resume is that I’m a wilderness permit and I’m a wilderness paramedic because I spent a lot of time the backcountry. I was trained by one of the most preeminent trauma surgeons in the Northeast in my in my initial training.

And he said, “if you come to the scene of an accident and your patient is still alive, you actually have time, time to make considered decisions, time to be thoughtful because patients who are live die in minutes and hours, not seconds.” This from a trauma surgeon. And Steve, we are not trauma surgeons. We like to pretend we’re trauma surgeons, but we’re not everything is not an emergency in our lives.

I was of, as I said, a litigator. I was a criminal defense lawyer. Very little needs to be handled in full reactivity mode day in and day out.

Think about think about your interactions with your physician, your primary care physician or cardiologist. You put a call in – do you get that doctor on the phone right then? I doubt it. Do you get a call back? Maybe, but you don’t get it back in 30 seconds and you certainly can’t text that person or WhatsApp that person. We are on all of the time and we delude ourselves by always being at the net, we actually reduce our productivity, our focus and our effectiveness so that ultimately we are not serving in the high way that we want to serve.

Steve: Ok, so I’m going to go ahead and agree with what you just said, and it is important is lawyers, and as important is my job is to service my clients, we are not trauma surgeons and we don’t have people on the table about to die. So, what do we have to do then to protect that that that day, protect that week? And how do we balance all that? What’s the tool that you’re helping lawyers with that that gets them out of that mindset of  reactivity?

Walt: So, the best tool comes back to this planning principle and getting a very clear plan for the week that includes your client service time, that includes your personal time, your yoga, Pilates, gym, your date night with your spouse or partner or significant others, your commitment to your kids and grandchildren – getting all of those things on your calendar with discipline comes freedom, having a really clear plan for your day and for your week. That includes what I like to say is white space, the space between things. Because what we tend to do as lawyers is look at things back to back to back to back, and I don’t know about you, but that doesn’t really work out very well.

Steve: Right.

Walt: And then within our days, creating blocks of time in which we work. So, if we’re working on a deal, 60 or 90 minute block of time or we’re just doing that, or if you and I are big into marketing and business development, we actually need to block out time for our work as chief operating officers or chief marketing officers of our firm, 60 to 90 minute blocks for that. 60 to 90 minute blocks for returning phone calls or emails so we’re not ping ponging all day long in and out of our email inboxes. Through block time we are single mindedly and highly focused on the thing that we’re doing. It increases our productivity and effectiveness dramatically. We need to disabuse ourselves of the myth that we can multitask because it’s not possible.

Steve: Right, right. And sorry for interrupting you. The push back again. My job is devil’s advocate in most cases. And so, while I’m teaching this stuff as you are, we need to address what people are thinking right now. They’re going to say this. They’re going to say, look, I block out time for business development every day or every week. Or I’ve tried what you’re saying, Walt and I just get railroaded by the day I get hit up by things that I wasn’t expecting and all the best laid plans of Mice and Men and all of that. So, is this is this about forming habits? Is that it can’t just be about putting it in your calendar and then it’s and then it’s a done deal. There’s got to be other elements to this that make it work.

Walt: Yes. Wonderful question and important. So, it is first and foremost about creating new habits. And what you and I teach, Steve, doesn’t necessarily work for everyone. I know that it works for me. I know that it’s worked for hundreds, if not thousands of lawyers that I’ve worked with from all around the globe.

But it doesn’t work for everyone. And so, I always encourage the people I work with to experiment, take the ideas and experiment with them. So, habits actually – well, the research says 66 days. I think it’s more like 90 days to dial in. So, if you were to experiment, for example, with a planning practice or block time, I would say give it a go for a quarter and see how it works. And I would encourage you to enroll in the people who surround and support you with that experiment as well. So, your legal assistant, your secretary, your associates, your family – enroll them and tell them what you’re experimenting with and have them support you. I was working with a senior litigation partner, a big multinational in Dublin last year. And her pushback was, well, you know, we have this completely glassed in office because I had recommended close your door and work in block time. And she said I of all people always coming by. And I said, we’ll close the door. And I said, God made these little three and sticky notes, put it on your on the front of your door and say, come back in an hour. I’m working on a deal. She came back to me about a week later. She said, you know, that worked. So, if we enroll our teams around us to support us in the concept, it becomes more manageable.

Walt: Yeah, and I don’t think it’s easy to form habits by yourself. For extreme example would be if somebody wants to stop smoking and they tell themselves, I’m going to stop smoking this month, or this week, or whatever. But they didn’t share that with anybody. They didn’t enroll anybody in helping them – there’s no accountability. And it’s so easy to just say, you know what, no one really knew that except myself. I’m just going to break that promise to myself. Again, this is all happening subconsciously and they do, and it’s no big deal, and then they go back to smoking and that’s the end of it, right. And they do that 100 times. And I think we have to enroll people, whether it’s getting in shape, like my wife does this – we do this thing called the whole 30 plug out for them. And where we give up sugar and we give up carbs, we give them all this stuff and we do it together. And it’s like easy for me now because I have that buy in from my partner in doing that. So, I think I think that’s so important that you shared that you have to get your paralegal, your assistant, someone involved in this process so that they can either help you, support you, and make sure that it happens.

Steve: Yeah, I love that and I love that you’re doing that with your wife, my wife is my business partner. And we just before we went live today, we finished our daily yoga practice together. So I love that. And it’s absolutely true. And you mentioned the term accountability. I’m an executive coach, I believe that good coaches have coaches and I’ve had a coach in my life for a dozen years. I think having somebody to show up to and report into is also important because it’s really to have the self-talk that something doesn’t work and walk away from it, as you say.

Steve: Yeah. So I want to go back to something you mentioned earlier. That was a really important word, that it’s hard for people to sometimes get out of their mouth. And that is the word no. Can you speak to that and what you meant when you made that comment earlier?

Walt: No, haha. So, Steve Jobs once said that he was as proud of the thousands of things that he had said no to is the few things that he said yes to.

And the truth is, we only have so much time and we have only so many yes’s to give and we need to actually protect our yes’s. One of the problems with the to do list, which isn’t a bad thing to start with, I mean, it’s actually better than your inbox. But the problem with a two list is that everything seems to be of equal import, and that’s just not true.

Mark Devine, who wrote a wonderful book called “The Way of the SEAL”, he was a SEAL commander, said, you know, the United States Navy SEALs are trained to go after any target in the world, but we only send them out after the really high-value targets. And should spend the time to identify what those high-value targets are for us. And we rarely do that.

And of course, most of our listeners are familiar with the pereto principle of the 80-20 rule – and if you even just start with this rough analysis suggests that 20% of our efforts lead to 80% of our outcomes. 20% of our clients often result in 80% of our revenues, 20% of our clients often cause 80% of our headaches. The pereto principle is a great place to start. And there’s another wonderful book called “The One Thing” by Gary Keller. And Keller suggests that Pareto was generous, that it’s not really 80 a 20 percent that leads to the 80 percent, but perhaps 10 that leads to the 90 or five that leads to the ninety five or perhaps just one thing. There are a precious few things in our business lives and in our personal lives that really turn the dial. And so getting really clear on those, along with the things that we really, really value, Steve, allows us some type of framework then to utter that very difficult word for those of us who are service driven, which is No.

Steve: So, saying no to things that aren’t top priorities, right, that aren’t that aren’t the goal. So, having that plan with the plan focused on what’s that one thing, what’s that 20 percent where you should be investing your time and maybe you’re moving out of other less essential practice’s activities, et cetera?

Walt: Yes, and you used the word priorities, which we all tend to do. The original version of what word was priority, that is the one thing it had no plural in its initial  use. And so theoretically, we can’t have many priorities. It’s one thing is Gary Keller suggests. But I want to share my values matrix with your listeners because it’s also a useful way to think about the word no.

So one of the exercises I would encourage you to do is not if you’re driving, of course, but to have a piece of paper and hold it in landscape and fold it in half. And on the left-hand side write the top five things that you value most in your life. It might be family, it might be health and wellness, whatever it is.

Then on the right-hand side of the piece of paper, write the top five things or places that you spend your time on. In the ideal world, there would be a one-to-one correlation between the lists. And here’s what’s true – neither list is bad, both lists are great. But what usually happens in the workshops that I run is on the left-hand side the list is family, health and wellness, kids, grandchildren, adventure, golf, etcetera. And on the right-hand side, it’s work, work, office work, and work. And all of our stress, all of our overwhelm, all of our dissatisfaction can be grounded in that incongruity between those two lists. And the more that we can get congruity with how we spend our time on what we really value and getting clearer on those values, the more grounded we’re going to be in being able to say that word No.

Steve: So how does someone who – lets take an example of an associate. All right, here’s an associate working at a firm who wants all the things you just mentioned, the family time. They want to play golf. They want to you know, they want to have this these lists balance out and they’re working for someone else. Right? They have a job and they’ve got responsibilities. How does someone in that position work their way towards that type of balance and freedom and happiness?

Walt: So, I love that question, and it’s a question that comes up often because I work with a lot of law students and young associates, and I had a young associate last year from William Fry who wanted to train for his first marathon, and he was a second-year associate and he was working a bazillion hours a week. And he was in one of these glass offices and I said, Sean, how about we create this like two-foot by four-foot poster of your training, your marathon training schedule and hang it in your office and let’s get the people around you, including your senior associates and junior partners enrolled in engaged around your training. And he did. And they loved it and they were really supportive of it.

So, I think coming back to enrolling in engaging others around what you’re doing helps, I think also for lawyers, this was true in my firm for many years, and I think that the tide is shifting somewhat, although we baby boomers are still way too much in charge on this – that the quality of the work matters more than when you show up or where you show up.

For my associates, it was always, I don’t care whether you do the work on Saturday night, so long as the client is happy and the work is well done. The other thing is – become more active and engaged in your firm’s culture. I go into firms all of the time, I was into a big multinational in Boston last year that had me and very executive wellness program. More and more firms are understanding that balance and time mastery actually add to the bottom line. So,  getting involved in your firm’s culture in a way that lifts that culture up and serves the entire culture. So those would be my recommendations.

Steve: Yeah, that’s really terrific. And again, I think, you know, I’m not trying to have anybody jump ship from a firm that they’re with. And you’ve got to play out where you are. But again, if you feel like the people you work for don’t  care about your balance, don’t care about your happiness and the firm’s happiness and the positive culture -it’s just about doing the bidding of the master and knocking out hours at any cost. You know, I don’t know how long people can really last at that.

Walt: It’s all we were talking before with live about the work I’m passionate about, which is sustainable peak performance, your listeners, every single one of your listeners, a part of her or his DNA can wrestle stuff to the ground. It’s how we’re hard wired as lawyers. We get stuff done. That’s who we are. And we could actually go at it for a long time, whether it’s an appellate brief or a big deal. But we can’t sustain it 24/7, 365. We’re not built like that.

I shared with you that I’m a distance runner, I run fifteen hundred mile races and in our training we actually have these things called rest days because rest days are critical for getting stronger. We know it in athletics. We actually know it in entertainment. We know it! We know that it’s true in many areas of our lives, in many areas of the world, but we don’t apply to apply it to ourselves. And that’s to our detriment.

Steve: Yeah, well, let’s wrap this up with a final question that, you know, obviously time mastery is the key element here. And there’s obviously a lot of different moving parts involved in that. But in your opinion, just for anyone listening out there, what’s sort of the key to living a good life? Right. Because that’s really what it’s all about. We only have one shot at this thing. And I’ve lived through a near-death experience. And I promised myself after that I went through it that I was going to live a good life and I wasn’t going to just work myself to death. And you everyone knows the saying thing on your deathbed – you’re not going to say, jeez, I just wish I had worked a few more hours. So, what’s the Walt Hampton key to living a good life in in a minute or less?

Walt: Connect again with what matters most to you. Howard Thurman said, don’t ask what the world needs, ask what the what makes you come alive, because what the world needs are people who are alive. Oliver Wendell Holmes said many people die with their music still in them because they’re always getting ready to live rather than actually living and playing full out.

And we get we do important work in the world. We get to help people in time of greatest needs. We get to solve complicated problems. We get to do justice. We get to change the world. But we can’t do it if we’re simply running ourselves ragged all of the time. And so connecting with those things that light us up again, that make our hearts sing, that’s the key to going the distance.

Steve: That’s amazing. That’s amazing. And I agree. I think we have to we have to write. If we want to write, we have to sing if we want to sing. Whatever it is that you’re passionate about and that’s important to you, you have to bring that to the forefront. And I’m very fortunate that I’ve been able to do that. And I hope that people listening can really take to heart what you’re saying, because it’s it really is true. You know, you only get one shot and it is a short life. I know it seems long sometimes, but, you know, we got one shot at this thing. So we have to really step up and live the life we want to live. And sometimes that means making hard decisions.

Walt: Amen. Amen.

Steve: So I know you had mentioned to me offline that you were willing to give away any book and I’d love for you to promote that. And just how do people get in touch with you? There might be lawyers saying this is the guy I want in my life. I want to work with Walt and have an executive coach like this that has the legal background. How do people reach out to you?

Walt: They’re all saying no, he’s going to make me run! They’re going to they’re going to hold me accountable! Haha. As I said to you off camera, I’m here to be of service to you and to your audience. And I would like to make the book available of “The Power Principles of Time Mastery: Do Less, Make More, Have Fun” is available on Amazon at your favorite bookstores and stuff like that. But I am happy to give away an e-version of it and will drop a note, a link in the show, Steve, so that people can access it. And it has a lot of the templates that we use with our executive coaching clients that will give you the framework for some of the stuff that we’ve talked about today.

Steve: Yeah. So, everybody, if you didn’t hear that, the link to get the book or the information get the e-book will be in the show notes. I’m definitely going to grab a copy. I’ll just go on Amazon and get one there too, because I want to support the master here, the master of time that is.

So listen, I just want to thank you for being on the show, for sharing all these great ideas for everyone listening. Come on. This is this is you got to write some things down. You got to get the e-book. This is easy, easy stuff to take in and then hard to execute. But it’s important. This is your life we’re talking about here. So thanks again, Walt, for being on the show, I really appreciate you, and appreciate what you’re doing for the legal community.

Walt: Thank you so much for having me. Have been such a privilege to be able to spend some time with you.

Steve: Absolutely. My pleasure. And listen, everybody, it’s all about living the best life you can. Look, you chose to be a lawyer. You made that decision. You got to take advantage and make it and own it and make sure that you’re doing all the right things. So, you know, this show’s all about helping you to be that lawyer, someone who’s confident, organized, a skilled rainmaker and a master of time. Thanks, everybody. Be well and stay safe.