We’ve written about Time Management before. Our Improving Your Invoicing Practices and Managing Resources … and How to Add Them blog posts addressed this topic in implicit and overarching ways. Better invoicing practices save you time in the long term, and managing resources effectively distributes work and energy.
What we haven’t talked about is time management in the context of how individual choices impact our productivity. We all make choices that can stall our productivity and use up our time in ineffective ways that are not beneficial. What are some of those choices, and how can we better manage our time to do more for clients?
Building and Maintaining a Work Routine
Time management is first and foremost about managing the consistent use of time. As we’ve cited before, a 2006 Duke University study, Habit--A Repeat Performance, underscores the value of habits and routines in order to be productive.
Time is best used when days are organized in a consistent manner, as much as possible. For example: answering emails from 8-9 am, meetings and phone calls from 9-11 am, research and writing from noon-2:30 pm, and so on. This consistent basis trains your brain to complete certain tasks within certain time frames at certain times a day. Of course, things happen throughout the day that require changes to the set schedule, but it’s a good place to start.
Transitioning Seamlessly from Task to Task
In our opinion, moving from one task to another is the hardest part of time management. Even more so if the next task is dull, demanding, or exhausting.
But your transitions from one task to another are essential to staying on schedule. Three YouTube videos later and you’ve already used up a quarter of the hour. Soon enough, you’re working later than you’d like or packing more into the next day’s already packed schedule. What can you do to seamlessly transition from one task to another?
- Keep Your Eye On The Prize: Sometimes, taking a longer view is helpful. And focusing on the benefit of efficiency truly helps in those moments where we are challenged. So, if your child has a game you want to attend, or you are hoping to see friends at the end of the day, keep that in mind. Or maybe it’s more about growing your firm. Becoming more efficient gives you more time to help more clients. Whatever the goal, keep that in mind.
- Dedicate Separate Time to Prepare for Tasks: When we begin a new task, the first minutes we spend on it are preparatory. We gather materials, refresh our memories for essential information, and check emails for updates. While we can never transplant all task preparation time (we’re always going to need to refresh our memories and check for updates in our inboxes), dedicating time to prepare for future tasks can save some time. For example, having all the materials and resources compiled for an afternoon of legal writing is invaluable to the writing process.
Documenting Tasks and Time Spent
In our Improving Your Invoicing Practices blog, we shared our Date, Task, Time, and Description method for tracking tasks for invoices. Since attorneys primarily track time and tasks for invoicing purposes, this method fulfills that obligation excellently, if we do say so ourselves.
The heart of this method rings true for the larger purposes of time management as well. Making full use of your legal technology platform’s Notes or Journal feature is invaluable. With it, you can cultivate a detailed, day-by-day record of your work overtime. By carefully tracking what tasks you are doing, when you are doing them, and whether they are billable, you are able to evaluate how you are using your time over time. This makes it more possible for you to alter routines and practices to become more efficient.
Checking in with Your Tech
There are few things more irritating than slow WiFi. And computers that take forever to startup because they may be old, or just don't have enough power for what you need. Technology issues can cause serious work delays. To an extent, though, they can be avoided. Taking the time to monitor your technology can save you even more time going through the hurdles to resolve technology delays and serious snafus later on. Here are some tips:
- Routinely Reset Your Passwords: Number 1 on almost any list of technology best practices is privacy and password security. Passwords should be reset routinely to maximize your information’s safety and security. This can take time, given that you have many, many accounts connected with your practice. But it is a worthwhile practice in the long term. It is even worth applying two-factor authorization to some accounts to add a second layer of protection.
- Updating Technology: Updates can take time. The longer you wait to update software, the longer it can sometimes take to update it. Additionally, if you delay updates for too long, you risk slowing down your tech altogether because your computer is simply not optimized. By regularly attending to technology updates, you’ll also increase your security, since many of the updates address potential breaches.
- Expanding Your Technology Knowledge: Taking time to learn more about the technology you’re using is key too. You may be using only the tip of the iceberg, so to say. Take a few moments and watch the tutorial. Or book some time with the developer.
How you use your time informs what you can accomplish in that time, which makes time management challenging. It isn’t just about filling your schedule to stay busy. It’s about making it possible to do the most in that time frame. What other approaches have you taken to manage your time? Let us know @ Hello@SimpleLaw.com.