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Best Time Management Tips

by Jamie Jackson Spannhake, Esq.

As lawyers, we’re all busy. Some lawyers are able to accomplish more than others. How is that? Effective time management. I have spoken to many lawyers about how they manage their competing obligations to learn their secrets to successfully handling their busy lives. Here are five of their best tips. 

  1. Plan everything and put it on the calendar. Plan on a yearly, weekly, daily, and by project basis. Keep one calendar with everything on it – work deadlines and appointments, family obligations, and personal items (like exercise) – and sync it to all devices. Then follow the calendar. When things don’t go the way you planned, recalibrate, and review at the end of each day.
  2. “Chunk” your work into manageable timeframes and take breaks. It’s easier to keep focused in smaller “chunks” of time, so try to work in 45-90 minute increments. Then take a break or switch to something else. If you must keep working, switch to a separate project or to a new task within the same project, for example switching from writing a brief to reviewing documents or responding to client email. If you can take a short break, go for a walk, do five minutes of stretching, or engage in a meditation mini-session. When you have a longer break, try exercise for rejuvenation and increased focus.
  3. Use your time creatively and multitask wisely. Find snippets of “extra” time. An early weekend morning before the family wakes up, or in the evening after everyone else goes to bed, can provide more time for work or personal tasks. If you have more control over your schedule, you can work hours that work for you. For example, not working after the kids get home from school until after they go to bed; then heading back to the office, or into your home office, for evening hours. Also get creative with multitasking. Despite research on the negative impact of multitasking on productivity, you can multitask wisely by combining an intellectual task with a mindless task. Some examples? Dictating a blog post or presentation or email response using Dragon Dictation on your smartphone while walking to work (then convert it to text and email it to yourself). Or dictating a “to do” list and client updates into a small digital recorder while driving between court appearances.  
  4. Use your technology, except when it doesn’t help you. Use your smartphone, tablet, laptop, apps, and whatever other great technology you have to keep up-to-date with important communications and relevant business news, to create a paperless office, and to allow you to work on-the-go, wherever you are. But remember that sometimes “old school” can be more efficient: for example, reading the paper (meaning, the actual paper) can be more efficient than reading it on your iPad because you may be better able to scan the headlines and stories more quickly.
  5. Surround yourself with supportive people. People do not succeed alone. They receive help from a spouse or partner or friends, and from colleagues and support staff. The people that are most helpful to you are those who can anticipate issues and handle them independently. Delegate to them, ask them for help, and then let them help you.

And remember: part of effective time management is knowing when you need a break. Downtime to rejuvenate can be one of the most effective ways to regain the focus and energy you need to handle your busy professional and personal lives. 

A version of this post first appeared at Attorney at Work, and is reprinted here with permission.

Jamie Jackson Spannhake is a lawyer and certified coach helping busy lawyers create more integrated and happy lives with time for career, family, and personal endeavors. Her work is based on the principles in her book, The Lawyer, the Lion, & the Laundry: Three Hours to Finding Your  Calm in the Chaos, available at JamieSpannhake.com. Connect with her on LinkedIn and Facebook @LawyerLionLaundry.