Winston Churchill once said “Let our advance worrying become advance thinking and planning.” Never is this saying more true than in the day-to-day practice of law. Lawyers everywhere are besieged by a never-ending supply of voicemails, emails and calendar dates. So what do some of the pros advise you do to help manage your time at the office a little bit better?
Follow the 2 Minute Rule. David Allen, a time management expert, has set this as a cardinal rule of his and for good reason. Basically, he states that if something can be accomplished in two minutes or less, you’re better off just doing it in the moment. By the time you document it as a task, set an alert, go back and try and focus on it, you’ve already lost more than the time it would have taken to get it done in the first place. It makes sense that sometimes it’s best to just get it done.
Stay away from the phone. This may be difficult to do given the amount of daily calls a busy attorney is likely to receive. How should you handle them? Try cluster calling instead. Simple enough to comprehend, cluster calling is basically processing your calls and voicemails in batches at clearly designated times during the day. Perhaps a morning batch and an afternoon batch would work well for you.
Check email less frequently. The average person checks email at least every 20-30 minutes during the workday. Think of how many of those messages can be dispatched without urgency to them at all. Probably most. Instead, like phone calls, begin to think of processing emails in batches at designated times. Try and execute replies in the order that you receive them and when you’ve finished a session, leave your inbox alone until the next.
Identify those daily time wasting activities and prune them. We’re not saying abandon that Monday morning football chat at the water cooler if you’re a big fan. Instead, try and think of time wasters like these as the enemy. Instant messaging-most of us get consumed by it. Unnecessary meetings or short gaps between meetings-make sure you have the ability to focus on your own silo during days where meetings are beyond your control. Interruptions-try your best to avoid them and to let folks know you’ll be with them once you wrap up what you’re currently working on.
Reschedule when needed. Despite contrary opinions, most people do not mind rescheduling as long as you make a concerted effort at notifying them and providing a reason. When all else fails and the importance of another task outweighs that of the meeting, go ahead and reschedule. You’ll breathe a little easier knowing that you’ll have a better chance to focus next time around and will be able to complete the task at hand currently.
In the end, good time management skills are something one can acquire through consistent use of sound practices. Remembering that processing routine calls and emails in batches can help dramatically cut down on lost time and focus. Following the 2 Minute Rule will help you get small items out of the way quickly so that you avoid getting stuck in a trap of tracking, tasking and remembering.