Time is money, especially for lawyers. Being more efficient with your time and efforts will not only benefit your bottom line but will benefit your sanity as well. Any lawyer can implement a few building blocks into their routine to make them more productive and more valuable.
Don’t underestimate the usefulness of a to-do list!
Although it takes time to figure out what you actually need “to do,” the time to prepare is analogous to an investment in your day. Spending 10 minutes to write out what you need to do for the day or for the week is an enormous time-saver in the long run. Ideally, you want to create your to-do list a day in advance. By creating your to-do list the day or days before, you can keep yourself from avoiding certain tasks.
Also, it’s okay to have more than one to-do list. Two lists will work well for most lawyers: a “macro” list and a “micro” list. A macro list will outline your overarching objectives. Next, a “micro” list gets into the weeds and breaks down your daily tasks. To create either list, Evernote is a great app to use to help you prioritize.
Hint: Try batching all small tasks (emails, calls, back to emails again) together. Instead of constant task-switching, you can center your efforts on similarly situated tasks to knock those out faster.
Eat the frog.
No, you really don’t have to eat and digest an actual frog. Mark Twain once said, "if you eat a frog first thing in the morning, the rest of your day will be wonderful." He followed this by saying, “If you have to eat a frog, don't look at it for too long.” Applying these two principles to your practice could help jump start your day. Simply put, tackle your most unpleasant task first. By not allowing yourself to procrastinate, you can overcome what may seem like challenging obstacles and move expeditiously through the rest of your tasks.
Purge all distractions.
Whether it be water cooler talk, social media, or personal phone calls throughout the day, avoid them all! Breaking your focus on legal matters by diverting your attention to irrelevant matters is a waste of time. Lawyers are most productive and deliver the best work when they are able to work in solitude. Blocks of uninterrupted time is essential to making sure your work through your to-do list and more.
If it’s difficult for you to fight temptation, there are a few hacks that may help:
Step back to center yourself.
Whether it be a minute or an entire day, taking time away from your work may be helpful. Even if you can’t take an entire day from work, try not to schedule meetings on a particular day. Detaching yourself from others and your tasks can allow you to concentrate on more important matters.
Remember, work smarter, not harder.