When you get into the office in the morning, the goal should always be to have a productive and successful day. But we can sometimes get sidetracked with one little task and then the entire day is gone. So how do we avoid or prevent the time-wasting habits in order to reach our goals?
Starting the day reading emails
Sure, responding to emails is important, but starting your day this way puts you into a reactive mode at the outset – dealing with other people’s matters before your own. Consider setting aside the first 30 minutes of your day doing something to advance your own goals such as business development. Otherwise, you may never seem to have time to attend to your own priorities.
Overloading your plate
Lawyers are problem-solvers and tend to want to help anyone who calls with a legal problem, even when there is already a full caseload at the office. Learn to say “no” and refer the matter to another lawyer. For minor matters that can be handled by someone junior in your office, delegate! Practice some “no” phrases so you will be prepared to use them on the fly – phrases. For example, “I’d like to help you with that except my caseload is currently full, but I can refer you to another attorney who I respect and with whom I have worked many times before.”
Keeping a cluttered desk
A cluttered desk is a black hole for documents, and can also make it difficult to focus on one task. Both can be a time-drain. Consider putting all documents for a case in its own file and list the to-do’s for that file on a sticky note to be placed on the top. Then gather all the files into a neat pile with the most pressing matters on top. Then put all but the top file in a certain drawer in your desk designated for tasks to be completed. By focusing on one matter at a time you can save precious billable minutes.
Failing to delegate
Lawyers sometimes feel that they are best-suited to tackle a matter. But in many cases, matters can be satisfactorily delegated, even if it’s likely not going to be done “right.” Learning to leverage help and working less on case files will free you up for business development and other proactive initiatives.
Lawyers are notorious for multi-tasking. It is a common conception that multi-tasking saves time, but often it really doesn’t. When you switch back and forth among tasks there is a transition period. There is time needed to disengage from one task and then time to bring yourself up to speed again on another task. The transition times can vary but they are still time-robbers. Consider sticking to one task and finishing it before starting another.
Failing to set accessibility boundaries
Allowing constant interruptions while working in the office is a bain of practicing law. Things like phone calls, people coming in with a question, emails, etc. can be distracting. Consider scheduling an hour or two each day for your desk work and communicate that rule to everyone in the office, and then stick to it. During the designated time, also ignore incoming emails unless directly associated with the work at hand.
If you take stock of where in your day there are time-drains, and fix them, you will be more successful and efficient in your law practice.