Posted by Billie J. Watkins on Tuesday, October 21, 2014 - 10:00
“Too much to do, too few hours in the day” -- sound familiar? It’s a frequent lament among legal professionals today as we face the challenges of expanding workloads, leaner budgets and the fast pace of our daily schedule. Amidst increasing workplace pressures, optimizing productivity is critical if you hope to successfully manage workload expectations. And mastering time management is a fundamental strategy to achieve enhanced productivity.
During my legal career, I’ve found that planning and controlling my time enables me to accomplish what I want to do, when I want to do it, while still allowing for unanticipated complications, changes or new projects that may come my way.
Here are six tips that can help boost your personal productivity:
1. Plan your work “roadmap” each day. Take a few minutes at the beginning of each week and start of each day to prioritize your work and identify what you want to accomplish and when you plan to do it. Be realistic about how long each work task will take to complete, factoring in any deadlines that may exist. As you chart your work assignments, leave a sufficient block of time open in your schedule to address new projects or changing expectations or unexpected problems that inevitably arise.
2. Decide when you can be most productive. As you plan your work, determine peak periods when you can be most productive and can best focus on complex or critical or time-consuming duties, such as research or drafting briefs.
3. Eliminate distractions. Checking e-mails as they arrive can be one of the most significant and time-consuming interruptions you can experience during the course of the day. Instead, take a disciplined approach to routine but necessary tasks -- schedule specific time slots to review and respond to e-mail messages, social media sites and phone calls so those duties don’t distract you from work that requires your undivided attention.
4. Leverage technology to your advantage. E-filing programs, collaboration platforms, document-storage sites, time-tracking and case management software are just a few of the many legal technologies readily available that can enhance our productivity. Use Microsoft Outlook scheduling software to maintain your schedule, remind you of deadlines and keep you on task. Even utilization of wireless technology can turn typically unproductive time -- waiting in an airport or for an appointment, for example -- into an opportunity to do research, review or draft assignments, participate on conference calls, or accomplish any number of other necessary tasks.
5. Utilize staff effectively. Being able to effectively delegate work is one of the key factors of a successful manager and a significant component of time management. Assign the right tasks to the right people. And if you find yourself frequently doing work that's within the scope of staff members, take time to train them, if needed, to perform those tasks going forward to enhance your productivity in the long-term.
6. Take a break to refresh. What’s the saying we heard when we were young? “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” There’s truth behind those words; and even more concerning, working all the time can trigger stress-related health issues and ultimately burnout. On a daily basis, it’s important to take a break from time to time -- get up from your desk, take a walk around the block, run out for a quick coffee with a colleague. Similarly, plan time into your schedule for a vacation break from your legal job so you can be refreshed and productive when you return.
Now that you’ve taken steps to boost your personal productivity, want to learn about some ways to enhance the productivity and value of your legal team? Check back next week for Part 2 in this series on enhancing productivity among legal professionals.