Saturday, August 23, 2008

Time Management 101

What, the day is over? How about the research you wanted to get to? Or those phone calls you wanted to make? Or that letter that should have gone out? Sometimes it seems that being a lawyer means playing catch up. It does not have to be that way though. A few changes can allow you to squeeze more time out of your day, whether you need it for work, for family or for leisure.
Get a jump on the day. Many attorneys start their day at 9:00 a.m. Why not start at 8:30 or even 8:00? Getting a jump on the day, before the phone starts ringing and others start strolling into the office, is a great way to tackle projects without interruptions. Getting into the office early improves the odds of getting out early.

Keep lists. To avoid wasting time figuring out what to do next, prepare a list which tells you what to do next. In fact prepare two lists, a case list and a “to do” list.

Keep a running list of all your active cases. Scan it every day to determine if you need to do anything new on your cases.
Keep a “to do” list where you list all the projects you have to work on. Delete items as you complete them and add new ones as you think of them. The list lets you see everything you have to do all at once, helping you prioritize what to tackle first.

Develop action plans. Whenever you start working on a new file, develop an action plan. Plan a strategy to win the case and plot out what you need to do to get there. If you develop an action plan and know what you need to do to implement it, you won’t waste time constantly trying to figure out what to do next.

Don’t underestimate the power of thinking over doing. My high school English teacher used to tell me that the real writing occurs when the pen is down. What she meant is that before you start you need to know where you want to end up, whether it’s writing a motion, doing research or attacking a case. If you want to save time, really save time, then expend some time thinking through what you want to accomplish.

Act, Don’t React. As a follow up to thinking things through, learn to make things happen in your cases rather than reacting to what others do. Whether you’re the plaintiff or the defendant, you can set the course of your case, and by doing so, you can create timetables that fit your schedule. You can initiate the court to enter a scheduling order that suits you. You can be the one who sets the key witnesses when you want them set. If you want to be in charge of your calender, don’t let opposing counsel set the agenda.

Become intimately familiar with your calender. Every day, look at your calender and scan through the next month’s appointments and deadlines. This way you can plan ahead and avoid any surprises.

Put yourself on a schedule. Create deadlines for yourself and stick to them. When you give yourself an assignment give yourself a due date to ensure you’re not rushing at the last minute.
Set realistic deadlines. When you set deadlines for yourself, set reasonable ones. You’re not going to be able to finish that motion for summary judgment in two days, especially if you have a deposition to take and interrogatories to answer. When setting deadlines, set them far enough in advance to allow yourself enough time to do what you need to do.

Keep a clean desk. So much of time management is organization. If the research you want is under a huge pile and the phone number you want is under another huge pile, then expect to waste a lot of time. Avoid this by keeping a neat office and a neat desk.

Leverage the staff. Learn what to do yourself and what you can assign to a junior associate, a paralegal or to your secretary. Making the most of your time sometimes means making the most of others’ time. Determine what you can do and what can competently be done by someone else and assign it.

It never seems as though we have enough time to do everything we want to do. You blink and another day has gone by and your “to do” pile gets higher. To take control of your schedule rather than having it control you, take the time to plan ahead, making sure that every step you take takes you a step closer to reaching your objectives.

1 comment:

uk immigration solicitors said...

Practicing good time management skills will allow you to be more productive and reduce stress in your practice.