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Improve work-life balance by improving time management

Tips for increasing your efficiency

This is part two of a three-part series on practice management. Read part one here.

On a daily basis, attorneys are battling to manage competing priorities. Faced with overwhelmingly long to-do lists at both work and home, they often find themselves feeling like they cannot possibly do it all. This three-part series offers practical and useful time management tips that aim to help these attorneys realize they “can do it all” and do it well.

Be efficient. Do you ever wonder how the busiest people you know somehow manage to get the most done? To put it simply, they are efficient. While others are thinking about what needs to get done, they are doing it. While others are noodling over whether to add a word here or change a word there, they are dotting their i’s, crossing their t’s and moving on to the next task. When it is all said and done, they spend only a fraction of the time that others spend on any one particular project, putting them in a position at the end of the day to cross many more items off their to-do lists. Now, please don’t misunderstand. No one is suggesting you compromise the quality of your work for the sake of speed. Indeed, that need never happen. Your work must be done well. But it doesn’t need to be perfect. There will always be one more word you can change or one more comma you can add to make the finished product that much better. But if you get bogged down in that kind of thinking, you will never cross the finish line. We all have the same number of hours in our day; what sets us apart is how we spend them. Spend them efficiently, and you will be very pleased with the outcome.

Be self-motivated. You arrive at work, get yourself a cup of coffee, sit down at your desk, and proceed to surf the web or read the newspaper. You may be thinking that you just need a few minutes to get settled before diving into your work for the day. But, inevitably, a few minutes turns into many more minutes, and you quickly find yourself falling behind. As nice as it would be to spend each morning easing into your workday, on most days you likely don’t have that luxury. So get to it. Start your day off feeling charged up and ready to go. Don’t save for later what you can do right this moment. If you approach each day with this sense of enthusiasm and this kind of take-charge attitude, you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how much more productive your day will be.

Rely on technology. Almost everyone has a smartphone or a tablet these days, or at the very least, a PC or laptop. These devices offer a myriad of time management tools (some that are pre-installed and others that you can purchase at additional cost). But do you use them? And are you using them in a way that maximizes their potential benefit? Let’s take a basic tool like the calendar. Every device has one. Do you use your calendar to set reminders for yourself? If so, consider programming not only visual reminders that pop up on your screen but also alerts (more along the lines of an alarm) to ensure that you don’t inadvertently miss an important deadline or meeting. As far as more advanced tools, have you ever used voice recognition software? It allows you to draft the letter that needs to get out or respond to the email that has been burning a hole in your inbox, even while sitting miles away from your computer. And did you know there are tools that allow you to store large files on your work computer and then access them seamlessly from your computer at home without having to compress them and send them via e-mail?

For those that own iPhones or iPads, there are also a world of apps at your fingertips that can help you stay organized and save time. For example, if you travel often, there are apps that allow you to keep all of your travel reservations, itineraries, etc. in one place so that you don't waste a moment tracking this information down when you need it. And there are apps that allow you remotely to edit documents by hand and then scan and e-mail them to someone who can implement those changes without delay. Whether these tools would serve your needs or whether others might better fit the bill, the bottom line is this—time management is not an easy task, and there is no need for you to tackle it alone. Take advantage of the support that the technological world can offer you. You will be surprised at what a difference it makes.

Contributing Author

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Jillian Hirsch

Jillian B. Hirsch is counsel at Day Pitney LLP in Boston.  She is a member of the Probate Litigation/Probate Controversies practice group. She is also...

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