Time is money. We have all heard this phrase a million times. Since the backbone of the legal industry is billable hours, this statement is especially true for attorneys.
This common saying also resonates on a deeper level. Since time is the one thing we don’t get more of, it’s the most valuable resource we have. So, the question becomes how can we maximize the time we spend working so we can have more time to spend with our family and friends?
Here are a few ideas of how to maximize your time at work, so you can maximize the time you spend away from it.
1. Eliminate Distractions
Technology has improved our lives in unimaginable ways, and has made marketing our law firms so much easier. At the same time, by allowing us to be constantly connected, our gadgets have filled our lives with distraction. How many times have you focused on a project and heard the “ping” from your phone indicating that someone just posted a comment on one of your social media accounts? The ping is Pavlovian for many of us. We stop working, reach for our phone and check to see who “liked” our Facebook post. Or does this sound familiar: you blocked off a few hours to do some important work only to have your email notification ding every two minutes. You check your email to see what it is, and immediately respond to an email that could have waited.
This sort of distraction wastes time in two ways. First off, the time you spent looking at Facebook while at work is gone, never to return. Secondly, it takes your brain a few minutes to focus back on the task you have at hand. Then once you have settled in and get into a good flow, the ping goes off again!
How do we combat this? I recommend turning off the email notifications and any other pings on your computer and phone. Set aside some specific time each day to check and respond to email, maybe twice in the morning and twice in the afternoon, depending on your job.
When are good times to do this? This brings us to number 2.
2. Work Your Rhythm
I’ll tell you a secret: I nap every day. That’s right, every day at around 3pm I close my eyes for about fifteen minutes. Afterwards, I wake up refreshed and ready to go. You know why I do that? Because I need to. I’m most productive early in the morning and later in the afternoon. I schedule my work day around those times. I call this Working my Rhythm. I encourage my clients to do the same thing. Are you a morning person? A night owl? What are the times of the day you think most clearly and are the most productive? Use that time to schedule the work that requires the most brain power. Then you can spend your natural downtime doing things that require slightly less focus but keep you active like returning phone calls, checking email and organizing your office.
3. Remove Clutter
Did you know that lawyers can spend an average of 20 minutes a day looking for files? Multiply that by five days and that’s an hour and forty minutes a week. Multiple that by fifty weeks and that is significant, valuable time you have wasted. Instead of wasting all that time, develop a system to make your files easy to find. Remove the clutter from your desk and office. Block fifteen to thirty minutes per week just to declutter, organize and clean your workspace. Get your assistance involved. I promise she would appreciate you being more organized. A clean work space naturally reduces distractions.
4. Keep a To Do List
This time-tested organizational method has been around forever for a very good reason – it works. Lawyers are often very busy people, with lots of projects happening at or around the same time. There is a temptation to get overwhelmed and feel like you must accomplish everything today. Before you get started on your work day, take ten minutes to make a to-do list. Look at your schedule and block time to do the critical items on your list first. Plan time to complete the other items and be realistic about how much you can get done in one workday. My rule of thumb is to limit your daily to-do list to five items. If you have more than five, you are leaving little time for the inevitable project that pops up throughout the day. Methodically marking tasks off your list throughout the day gives you a sense of accomplishment, keeps you focused and enables you to be more productive.
Do you have any strategies for eliminating distractions at work? I’d love to hear them. Feel free to leave a comment below.
Until next time!