OSB Professional Liability Fund

Back to Basics - Time Management Tips for Busy Lawyers

Simple Time Management for Lawyers
April 11, 2018
by Jennifer Meisberger

Lawyers are busy. You are busy. When you hear expressions like “time management,” you probably think, “I don’t have time for that.” More accurately, you don’t have time for complex technology or complicated strategies that involve extra steps in your workflow. What you need are simple solutions that will help you organize your work and accomplish it without delay. We’re here to help. Here are some straightforward suggestions to help you manage your time and complete your work.

Avoid Multitasking

Multitasking is sometimes touted as a desirable skill. Research has shown, however, that this admiration may be misplaced. As it turns out, we are not really multitasking. In fact, when we think we are doing several tasks at once, we are actually moving back and forth between those tasks. As a result, our attempt to check email, document a file, and listen to voicemail all at once actually leaves us switching from one task to the other. Some research shows we spend on average 20-25 minutes before transitioning back to our original task. This stop and start is not effective and is often a secret strategy for procrastination. The solution? Stop trying to multitask. Prioritize tasks, and then allow yourself to focus on them one at a time, seeing them through to completion.

Prioritize Your MITs

One strategy to prioritize your work is to pinpoint your Most Important Tasks (MITs). Spend five to ten minutes each day planning and identifying the few crucial things you must accomplish that day. Listing the two to three tasks you must complete is simpler than creating a lengthy list of every outstanding task or project, most of which you're unlikely to finish. A short list improves the likelihood that you will accomplish something, despite unplanned client calls, court hearings that run late, or other emergencies.
 
The key to carrying out this system is to limit your list to two to three straightforward MITs. Distinguish between tasks and projects, identifying pieces of work to do each day, rather than a larger assignment that includes many pieces. Identify the components of critical projects, and place the components on your list of MITs. This helps move you forward by completing doable portions of a project until you reach completion, rather than failing to begin an assignment until you can devote a larger chunk of time to accomplishing the entire thing in one sitting.

Reduce Technological Distractions

Our constant connection to technology can mean constant interruptions. Even when you aren’t looking, your smartphone is pushing notifications to you about news, emails, and instant messages. Its flashing lights and chirping tones are unrelenting, pleading with you to take just a small peek at your phone. Before you know it, you’re reading an Internet news article or sharing something via social media. Maybe you’re reading work emails while trying to download a document via your practice management app. Either way, you’ve been diverted from what you were originally working on, and your attention is now focused on your device.
 
To avoid the temptation of your smartphone while working, consider changing the settings of your applications. You can choose to allow an application to alert you with a sound or an LED alert, or to turn off notifications altogether. You can also log out of certain applications so that you only see alerts when you log in, as opposed to every time you glance at your phone. Lastly, you can change your phone’s appearance to combat the colorful appeal of the screen and all its apps. Changing your phone to grayscale can reduce its interest, as well as your inclination to look to it for distraction or entertainment.

Want to Learn More?