Most lawyers attend a time management seminar at some point in their career in an attempt to tame busy schedules and get more done. We use the tools we take home with us for awhile, and then fall back into our old (and bad) habits.
Instead of instituting radical changes, here are 3 easy concepts that can adjust our mindset—no software to install or hardware to learn—just different ways of thinking about how we spend our time. Because as Ben Franklin famously wrote, “lost time is never found again.”
1. “Mine” for Time
Lawyers have a tendency to let others dictate our schedules: Judges determine when we appear in court, client “emergencies” shift our priorities, and we even allow others to take advantage of our time with “quick questions” that turn into hour-long research projects. So we must be bold and take ownership of our time. To do so, we must prioritize items that are meaningful and eliminate those that have less value in the long-run.
What sets worthy items apart are the outcomes associated with the time allocation. For example, if your goal is to maintain good relations with your colleagues, is your time better spent lunching with individuals on a regular basis, or attending a bar association function where many are gathered on a single occasion? While lunches out are enjoyable, it is very time-consuming when done on a regular basis. Rather, making the rounds at a well-attended event could enable you to touch base with many colleagues in a relatively short period of time.
To “find” additional time in your schedule, keep a detailed list of how you spend your time each day for a week. Then review the list and ask yourself whether the time was well spent, whether the outcomes justified the time allocated, and whether there is a more efficient way to obtain the same outcome.
2. Create “Focus Blocks”
We could spend all day listing out the distractions that occur in our offices that wreak havoc on our productivity, from office chit-chat, to ringing phones, to various chimes and alarms coming from our electronic devices. When we operate in stop-and-start mode all day, we lose precious time by needing to repeat tasks and regaining our focus.
We can eliminate this vicious cycle by mapping out periods of time each day that will enable us to focus deeply on important matters and our top priorities. Since we tend to do the things that we have scheduled on our calendars, it is important to physically write the most important priorities on our calendars. And then when the designated time arrives, take one minute to do whatever you need to do protect your focus block: silence your cell phone, log out of your email so that you do not see the alerts that come in, tell your secretary not to interrupt you, and, if need be, obtain your supervisor’s approval.
3. Reframe Tasks
We all spend time procrastinating when we do not know how to undertake a project or simply do not like what it is. Research shows that we are likely to avoid certain tasks when we view them in a negative way and complete them only to avoid a negative consequence—I’ll finish this brief by Friday so that my spouse won’t be mad at me for working on it over the weekend. We can curb procrastination by reframing tasks in a positive light with a larger goal in mind—I’ll finish this brief by Friday so that my client will be impressed with my abilities. See the difference? We changed our mindset from avoiding an angry spouse to obtaining our client’s approval.
BONUS TIP: Another great tip for maximizing your time during the workday is to delegate those adminstrative tasks that take up time without contributing to your bottom line. An on-demind, virtual paralegal assistant can elminiate many of the tedious tasks that can eat up many hours each day.
To learn more about our E-Typist Plus Virtual Paralegal services, visit the information page or call Vivian at (330) 322-1520.