Everyone is looking for an advantage. A time advantage. To get more things done in a day. It seems our to-do lists are getting longer and longer. And we don’t seem to make any headway because as soon as we check one thing off, three more fill its place.
Lawyers are no exception.
Here are five tools to help lawyers be more productive.
1. Invest in a Time Management Tool/Software
First of all, learn how to use your email program (i.e. Outlook) to its full potential. Learn to use the to-do list or flag/task program to remind you of things you need to do like hire a bankruptcy lawyer in phoenix, Arizona. When you’ve completed a task, click the check box and relish the minute feeling of satisfaction at seeing something completed. This task planning will help you prioritize and remember what it was that you needed to do next. You may actually want to use time management software in addition to your calendar program to help you monitor you and your team’s productivity on both billable and non-billable activities. It will help you and your staff see how much time is actually wasted and where improvements can be made to minimize distractions. It will also be easier to notice when activities fall through the cracks, and which clients are monopolizing your time that you may wish to fire or refer out.
2. Other Team Members
One of the best tools at a lawyer’s disposal is other office staff or legal team members. You can’t do everything yourself. One of the most important lessons people need to learn is to ask other people to take on part of the workload. It’s also probably one of the toughest things to learn to do besides saying no. Stop micromanaging. Once you ask someone to take on a project or assignment, let them complete it in the way that makes sense to them. The output should be exactly what you want, but the means of getting it done will all be up to your delegate. If you anticipate a project coming that your office team member would likely need more training for, then arrange for that. Doing this will help that member become a more valuable and versatile part of your team. With some of the smaller and bigger things delegated, you’ll have more energy for dealing with the things that really require your attention.
3. Time off!
Yes. Believe it or not, time off or relaxation time is essential for productivity. We’re not talking about days at a time, but little “brain breaks” and body breaks. More and more research is starting to show that forcing yourself to sit in your chair as long as possible to get as much done as possible will actually hinder your productivity. Forbes magazine says that getting up from your desk and moving around not only heightens your ability to concentrate, but it also enhances your health. So, take a walk, brush your teeth, engage in stretching exercises, play a quick Facebook game, do a crossword or Sudoku, but don’t stay at your desk if you can help it. Find somewhere else to be for a few moments. You’ll be amazed how a walk to the water cooler and a little conversation with someone else may jar a few ideas loose of how to handle a particular situation.
4. Sharepoint or MS Notebook
If you haven’t already heard about and started using these programs, now is a chance to do it. Both these programs allow you to work on a project or document collaboratively with others. It saves sending a gazillion emails or faxes to get feedback or input on a document or project. The file can be securely stored with permissions granted to certain people and they can write their comments directly on the file. It’s a great way to compile a whole bunch of thoughts, resources, research and case studies to help you prepare for court or to meet with a client. Once you have all that information, you can fine tune it into what you want.
5. Smaller, Bite-size Pieces
This may seem contradictory to delegating, where you’re trying to get the small, nuisance things off your plate, but it really isn’t. Breaking big things down into smaller pieces actually helps you see the path you need to take to complete a project, and help you feel like you’re making more progress. It may seem odd to quote a popular children’s program, but the point rings true: “If a problem seems too big to solve, solve a smaller problem first.” If the task in front of you seems overwhelming or has lots of parts to it, break it down even further and address each little piece systematically. You’ll see that as you solve the smaller problems one by one, you’ll come up with a solution to the bigger problems, too, or—and that’s even better—they’ll resolve along the way.
Question from a reader -
One thing that I'm wondering, and figured that I should send before I go to sleep and forget it... For certain kinds of tasks (having discussions about more abstract goal things, writing emails to friends, commenting on LW, etc.) I'm really motivated, and need to be restrained from doing them.
With other tasks, I'm nowhere near as motivated, and have trouble starting them. Since I'm still a student, not doing this kind of work just isn't an option.
In the long term, I'm hoping to just do more of the things I'm motivated for, and fewer of the ones I'm not. I'm willing to buckle down and do work in subjects that I'm less motivated for if I see how it clearly relates to my goals (last year I spent a few hours trying to work out the geometry kinks for a robot part -- it was a mess).
Right now, I'm just reminding myself that its really not hard once I start it, and that it goes quickly if I just do it.
Choosing tasks for the day is somewhat of an overwhelming process. With so many opportunities and so many things we can be doing, how do we make the most of our limited willpower? In this post I'm going to cover some familiar productivity concepts, introduce new concepts, and show you how I'm applying these concepts to make my workday easier.
The concepts: Popular concepts you've either heard to not heard of, but have already been written about:
1. Maker Schedule vs. Manager Schedule - http://paulgraham.com/makersschedule.html
2. Design vs. Marching - http://sebastianmarshall.com/staying-with-it-design-vs-marching-lead-vs-lag-process-vs-outcome-trend-upwards-vs-hohw
3. GTD vs. Deep work - http://calnewport.com/blog/2012/12/21/getting-unremarkable-things-done-the-problem-with-david-allens-universalism/