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.
1. Minimize distractions. You are in the midst of drafting a brief that is due by the end of the day, and the phone rings. Do you answer it? You are editing a letter that needs to get out the door in the next hour, and a new e-mail message pops up in your inbox. Do you read it? Better yet, do you respond? Each day, there are a countless number of distractions that shift our focus from whatever it is we were working on to something entirely unrelated. When we return to our original task, inevitably it takes time to get back up to speed, to get our head back into the game. This is valuable time wasted. Do your best on a daily basis to minimize those distractions. Just because your phone rings doesn’t mean you need to answer it. Just because you received an email doesn’t mean you need to respond right away. Set aside a time each day when you can return missed calls and respond to emails. It will save you time in the long run.
2. Spend less time staying in the know. Staying up to speed on the latest developments and hot topics in your area of expertise is an important part of every attorney’s practice. This means that you likely spend (or at least try to spend) some time each day reading the myriad of legal publications that come across your desk or your inbox. But then there are the days when you just don’t get around to it, and the stack of unread newspapers, magazines and journals begins to pile up. Reduce the time that you spend staying abreast of legal happenings. A great place to start is the December 2012 issue of the ABA Journal, which published a list of the top 100 legal blogs. The authors of these blogs (and others like them) spend hours upon hours reading about, studying and staying on top of recent developments in the law. They filter out the less important and less interesting information and publish only what they believe will be of most interest and greatest value to their followers. Let these bloggers do the legwork for you, and enjoy staying in the know while spending less time doing so.
3. Take care of yourself. You may wonder what taking care of yourself has to do with managing your time. It has everything to do with it. You may have mastered the skills of organizing, delegating and prioritizing, but if your energy levels are low, or your head is not clear or you are just not feeling your best, those skills will do you little good. Get a good night’s sleep. Eat a healthy breakfast. Don’t skip lunch. Exercise. Take breaks. (And I don’t mean by checking Facebook or Twitter or LinkedIn. Get out of your element for even just a few minutes. Take a walk around the block. Get some fresh air.) Take a vacation. Making time to focus on your health and well-being may be just about the most important time management skill you can master. Go ahead, give it a try. No doubt you’ll be glad that you did.