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Coffee Talk

5 Intentional Organization Tips to Save Lawyers Time

Good organization and time management doesn't happen by accident.

By Andrea Cannavina

In previous “Coffee Talk” articles, we’ve covered taming the chaos in your office, organizing your workspace, and cleaning and decluttering your gadgets and gizmos. Now let’s talk about ways good time management and organization habits can save lawyers time.

Every lawyer and legal professional needs to:

  1. Be organized, with your office decluttered and set up so that you can properly — in the physical sense — process the work you are paid to do.
  2. Use the correct products (equipment and licensed applications) for the work you do.
  3. Follow the most efficient processes to get the work done.

But none of this happens by accident.

Get Intentional and You’ll Waste Less Time

Intentional organization means you recognize that being disorganized is a real problem, and you want to change for the better. For instance, one of the biggest time-wasters for attorneys is the time spent simply looking for things — information, documents, files … that one little thing you know you put somewhere, but you can’t remember where. This is why getting organized is the No. 1 way you can be more efficient and less stressed. Once you organize your workspace, you eliminate the time wasted looking for things — and this frees up a lot more time than you realize.

Here are the most important things you need to know to begin your journey toward intentional organization.

1. It’s an ongoing process, not a one-time fix

While you can put in “fixes” for problems with workflows, you can’t be a total slob and unorganized person without paying someone to take over those responsibilities for you physically. You must be intentional about your everyday habits — from how you organize your email to closing out of your computer each day. (Related: “Six Quick Tips to Get Your Law Practice Organized.”)

2. You need dedicated office space

Ideally, with a door. If you can’t dedicate a room for your home-based office, you need to position your main work area very artfully. You must have the proper physical items necessary to process your day-to-day work and know exactly where things are stored if they aren’t nearby. More importantly, you need to have the appropriate space physically so that you can do the work mentally.

3. You must write things down. On paper. With a pen/cil

Not digital. Writing things down is one of the most important things I can share about getting organized. When you stop with the Post-its and scraps all over the place and corral your notes into one spot — a notebook or journal — you will immediately realize the gains I speak of. You will waste less time looking for things, and spend less time being stressed about forgetting something. Now you don’t forget things: You write everything down in your journal, and can easily transfer anything that needs to be digital (with a huge checkmark next to it in your journal, so you know that it was done). (Related: “How to Get Organized Despite the Chaos.”)

4. Balance is bullshit

Stop trying to be all places, all things, at all times. Instead, use your organizational powers to start to control the flow — this is something that you CAN do. Plan forward using the right processes, so your calendar isn’t overstuffed or, worse, continually missing important deadlines. Plan for the work you need to do, for the time you need off, and for the time you need to get organized. When you plan for it and then commit that plan to paper, you are truly already halfway there!

5. Start today with three things

Try this. Use your newfound skill of writing things down to make a list of to-dos every morning. Write down just three things you want to accomplish — like a task to complete, a person to contact, or any open item. Be realistic. This is not the place for everything you need to do. It’s the place for everything you need to do today to keep things moving.

Always Wake to a Fresh New Day

You will never be 100% organized 100% of the time. That’s life. When you wake to a fresh new day, you stay positive and can fully understand that the journey begins with one little step, and each day affords you the opportunity to take it. So, wake to a fresh new day, grab your journal and jot down those three things you want to cross off your list today so tomorrow you can, once again, wake to a fresh new day!

Now go read the rest of my Attorney at Work articles  and absorb all you can. If that isn’t enough and you want to find me, head over to www.andreacannavina.com and set up a call. The first one is always on me.

Illustration ©iStockPhoto.com

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Andrea Cannavina Andrea Cannavina

Andrea Cannavina is a personal productivity coach, LegalTypist CEO and Director of the Virtual Bar Association. She specializes in helping stressed-out professionals run organized and efficient offices. From clearing the clutter to working the web, Andrea understands the realities of running a business in the digitally driven world.  She is a trusted resource and ally to attorneys looking for help upgrading their office processes and the products they use to get work done.

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