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5 Productivity Tips That Helped Me Get My Head Back Above Water

By Jay Harrington

A few months back, I was drowning in work. Every available space on my calendar seemed to be filled with other people’s priorities.

While it’s good to be busy, it’s not when you get to the point where things start slipping through the cracks. So I started focusing intently on finding ways to improve my productivity.

What Worked? 5 Attorney Productivity Tips

I experimented with all kinds of productivity “hacks” and most were more trouble than they were worth. However, five really moved the needle in a positive direction. Here they are, in case you’re looking for a productivity boost, too.

1. Time Blocks for Email

Instead of checking and responding to every new email notification — which is how I used to deal with email — I started creating two 30- or 45-minute blocks of time every day to process email.

Ideally, these are the only times I’m going in my inbox.

By creating time blocks, I have time set aside to work on nothing but email. This allows me to do more and better deep work during the rest of the day.

And I don’t think my clients notice any difference. After all, they want a timely response back from me — almost never an instantaneous one. Plus I think they prefer me spending more time concentrating on creating good work product for them versus immediately responding to emails.

2. No Meetings on Mondays

Everyone has heard that it’s best to get your most important and challenging work done first thing in the morning when your mind is fresh.

I started taking that one step further by reserving all day on Mondays for deep work like writing and strategy — which means having no meetings on Monday.

Many times it feels like I get more work done on Mondays than the rest of the week combined.

This helps build momentum that carries me through the rest of the week.

3. Batching Calls on Fridays

While I try to start off the week with a deep-work bang, my creative energy to dive into a project is often sapped by the time Friday rolls around. So that’s the day I try to batch as many back-to-back calls as possible.

Variety may be the spice of life, but it’s a productivity killer. So when I’m writing, I want to write. And if I’m connecting with people on calls, I want to connect. Switching back and forth (while sometimes inevitable) can be a big distraction.

4. Checking in With My Future Self

While my current self may feel stressed and tired, I have a tendency to believe that my future self (me two months from now) will have lots of capacity and boundless energy. As a result, I sometimes have a tendency to say yes to commitments in the future that I would say no to if they were happening tomorrow.

To correct for this, I committed to not saying yes to any new commitment until after a 24-hour period has passed. This gives me a chance to check in with my future self and make an honest assessment if I want to say yes to a future request on my time. The answer has been “no way” more often, which has been a relief to my current and future self!

5. Implementing a Shutdown Routine

A productive day is enabled by a good morning routine, which is enabled by a good night of sleep, which is enabled by detaching from the stress of the workday.

And detaching from the stress of the workday is enabled by a good shutdown routine at the end of the day.

Since the boundary between work and life is blurrier than ever, a shutdown routine is more important than ever. Every day, leaving my I office, I devote 15 to 20 minutes during which I do this:

  • Tie up loose ends.
  • Do one last review of email.
  • Note priorities for tomorrow.
  • Set an intention for the evening.
  • Close the laptop and step away from my desk.

This routine — like a checklist for a pilot — helps me walk away from work feeling squared away.

I’m less stressed, more present for others and sleep better. As a result, I’m more productive the next day.

No, my routine isn’t perfect — and yours probably won’t be either. Yes, it’s sometimes necessary to jump back on the computer at night to respond to messages. But don’t let the pursuit of perfection get in the way of progress. Establish boundaries to the best of your ability.

Now Go Be More Productive (and Less Stressed in the Process)

That’s what’s working for me these days — five simple tips to make you more efficient and productive.

I hope this is helpful if you’re looking for a boost in productivity, too.

More Attorney Productivity Tips to Try

There’s no bigger contributor to unhappiness and stress than the sense you’ve lost control. Here are more attorney productivity tips to help you get the most out of your day.

60-Minute Mentoring for Lawyers and Law Students Book Cover

60-Minute Mentoring

FOR LAWYERS AND LAW STUDENTS

This quick-read, how-to book explains how 60-minute mentoring works — ideas, instructions, and inspiration. Includes sample questions for both mentees and mentors, plus a special section on how to set up a program in your firm or bar association.

 

Illustration ©iStockPhoto.com

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Jay Harrington

Jay Harrington is the owner of Harrington Communications, a leading thought-leadership PR and marketing agency that specializes in helping law firms and lawyers build awareness, influence and new business. Jay is the author of three books for lawyers on issues related to business and professional development, including “The Productivity Pivot,” “The Essential Associate” and “One of a Kind: A Proven Path to a Profitable Practice.” He podcasts at The Thought Leadership Project. Previously, he practiced law at Skadden Arps and Foley & Lardner. Follow him @harringj75.

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