Effectively managing the daily work is one of the most difficult skills to master as an attorney. “There are never enough hours in the day” seems to be the phrase we use to justify our inability to improve our time-management. It’s no secret that attorneys aim to maximize the hours they spend at work. Unfortunately, most succumb to the demanding nature of the profession — allowing work to swallow up all of their day — because they haven’t learned how to effectively manage their time.
In reality, an attorney can boost their productivity during the hours they spend at work and bank more time for themselves outside of work by making a few simple changes.
Before you throw in the towel, try integrating these tips to help maximize productivity at work:
1. Eat the Frog
As Mark Twain famously said, “If the first thing you do in the morning is eat a live frog, you can go through the rest of the day knowing the worst is behind you.” For your purpose, if you tackle your most daunting task first, the rest of your day will be more manageable. Even when you cannot predict exactly what may come across your desk any given day, checking off your most difficult known task first thing can increase productivity for the remainder of the day, enabling you to handle whatever pops up.
Determine a hierarchy of importance and handle each project accordingly. You may find it useful to color code based on priority or just make an ordered list. Whichever way you choose to go about it, eliminating tasks in order of importance can alleviate the inevitable stress of managing attorney responsibilities.
3. Utilize your resources and delegate accordingly
Learn how and when to delegate tasks to appropriate coworkers, paralegals, assistants, and secretaries with the bandwidth to help. Understanding how to use resources to your advantage is one simple way to alleviate some workload and manage time more effectively.
4. Categorize emails to maximize efficiency
Let your email organize the influx of messages to your inbox by using email categorization settings. Something that takes just a few minutes to set one day can save you unnecessary searching for an email in the future.
5. Schedule your day the night before
Hit the ground running by planning what you need to accomplish for the next day. Waking up with an organized plan prevents wasted time getting started and can help you more efficiently reach your goals for the day. Set your goals the night before, write them down, and stick to them to increase productivity and accomplish your goals more quickly. The practice of “goal actualization” refers to the reinforcement of a goal by writing it down or speaking it aloud.
6. Try “monotasking” instead of multitasking
Some say focusing on just one task allows people to accomplish projects more effectively and efficiently.
7. Take Breaks Effectively
In general, taking breaks is necessary for optimal performance, even for attorneys. However, many simply regard breaks an improbable luxury. Breaks look different for everyone, but one thing is certain — they are necessary for optimal productivity while working!
8. Leverage technology to increase productivity
Use productivity tools and apps to your advantage. For example, Smokeball, a cloud-based legal practice management software, automatically records your time and activity to help you work more efficiently. Also, make sure to take advantage of tools automatically included in Microsoft Word (Styles, etc.) and email to streamline editing and process documents more quickly.
Learning these simple Microsoft Style tricks is an easy way for attorneys to spend less time formatting documents and redirect their attention to more substantive client needs. Implementing Word Styles is a simple way attorneys can leverage technology to efficiently process documents and improve the overall quality of their billable hours.
Tara Pimentel is a rising 2L at Suffolk University Law School in Boston, MA.
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