Lawyers are busy folks! Sometimes, they feel swamped, and they always feel overworked. They just don’t know where they will find another billable hour in the day.
Seriously, lawyers do suffer from stress, often solely related to the management of time. One report shows lawyers suffer depression at twice the rate of the general population. Much of this has to do with anxiety over key legal issues or with the confrontational nature of some legal fields. But, just as exercise and diet can help relieve these stresses, so can better Time Management.
Lawyers starting with big firms have advantages. They are supported by trained staff, and much of their work process is managed by proprietary software applications. Still, they might bring baggage to their office that presents itself as a time pressure.
Lawyers building their own practice lose cases and money because of poor time management – and many never see the connection. In their minds, they are in the law business, and make procedure and organizational issues back-burner stuff.
- Build a rigid prioritization matrix:
- Prepare it over a nutritious breakfast every day.
- List all tasks for that day and roll it out through the calendar quarter.
- Prioritize to do items and trash the least important and least urgent.
- Maintain the matrix on your smart phone, laptop, or PDA.
- Learn to REFUSE!
- Play a trick on multi-tasking by listing exercise, dinner with the family, and a good night’s sleep as tasks.
- Learn to focus and help others around you to do the same. For example, structure all meetings with agendas and minutes.
- Eliminate distractions by delegating correspondence, emails, and phones.
- Learn to say “no” to tangential assignments or social requests.
- Grow past the Facebook and Twitter phase, and you will find more important things to do.
- Remember who you are!
- Don’t lose sight of the values of self-sacrifice and commitment that got you where you are.
- Pick your clients to support those goals, and find a mentor who thinks the same.
- And, while you are at it, talk about what works and does not work for him/her in the Time Management world.
Finally, do not spend too much time on Time Management. Do not let it define the job. Assess your problems as a whole. If you don’t have the staff support, see what you can sub-contract to a paralegal, bookkeeper, or a virtual assistant. In your first days, put teeth in your bite. Chew up the most odious duties first thing in the day and complete them on a “false” deadline until the action becomes second nature.
Time is a law. It is relative. And,it is not manageable. However, you can manage yourself. Start the work there!
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