Ten steps to help lawyers conquer their day

by NZ Lawyer02 Apr 2014
Complete the following sentence: “I wish I had more time for ...” Following that, complete this sentence: “I know I sometimes waste time on ...”

The answer to the latter could be one of the following:
  • Telephone interruptions
  • Visitors and meetings
  • Procrastination and indecision
  • Inadequate technical knowledge
  • Acting with incomplete information
  • Crisis management
  • Unclear communications
  • Stress and fatigue
  • The inability to say no
  • Desk management and personal disorganisation
Peter Heinrich, MD of the The National Finance Institute, has come up with the following solutions to help professionals only spend their time on what is really important:
Stay in control, take an attitude check and leave your problems at the door: Act like you like it and allow time for interruptions (plan 50% of your time for interruptions). Schedule routine tasks when you expect to be interrupted.
Set goals: Smart goals are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timely. Optimum goals cause you to ‘stretch’ but not ‘break’ as you strive for achievement. Goals give creative people a much-needed sense of direction.
Plan your work and work your plan: Daily, weekly, monthly, annual and career. Schedule time for emails, phone calls, quiet time, time to get rid of ‘e-clutter’. Schedule time to create and update a good file system and monthly maintenance. Schedule time for CPD and professional development.
Practice “intelligent neglect”: Ignore things that don’t matter. Eliminate distractions, trivial tasks and tasks which have no long-term consequences. Take 10 minutes a day to clean up. Handle it once, which means either: Do it, put it onto ‘to do list’, file it or trash it.
Prioritise: Use the 80/20 rule, 80% of the reward comes from 20% of your efforts. We must isolate and identify 20%. Prioritise time to concentrate your work on those with the greatest reward.
Use a ‘to do’ list: The last things not completed from the previous day and the urgent things for today. Running the ‘to do’ list means concentrating on the most important things on that list. This could be the ‘if I do nothing else today’ list.
 Use your biorhythms’ ‘prime time’: People understand their prime time during the day. Some people are morning while others are afternoon or night people. Schedule the prime time for priorities.
If it’s urgent, do it now: However, we have to take care that we are not creating the urgent issues. Urgent tasks have short-term consequences so we must work towards reducing urgent things. Important tasks have long-term, goal-oriented implications. Flagging items on a ‘to do’ list may help keeping important things from becoming urgent ones.
 Avoid being a perfectionist: Perfectionism is paying unnecessary attention to detail, and can be a form of procrastination.
Learn to say “no”: Sometimes this is very difficult for junior lawyers in particular. Your priorities are important so say “no” to the unimportant. It prevents you from over-promising and under-delivering.
Reward yourself – for even small successes: Celebrate any achievement of a goal. Promise yourself a reward for completing each task or finishing a total job, then keep your promise to yourself and indulge in your reward.