How to Get Organized Despite the CHAOS
share TWEET PIN IT share share 0

Coffee Talk

How to Get Organized Despite the CHAOS

By Andrea Cannavina

Research for my upcoming book on modern-day office management revealed stat after stat on the deluge of data and constant ringing, dinging and what-not that goes on in everyone’s daily life. Once you jump into the digital pool, there is no way to stop it from becoming an ocean of data and distractions.

In dealing with the realities of life in a law firm — the stresses, messes and pain points of going digital — over and over I meet unhappy and overwhelmed professionals. Sadly, the feeling of being stressed about “the office” is a common complaint shared by almost everyone who is electronically connected to their business.

I call it the CHAOS of office life — “Complete Havoc and Overwhelming Stress” simply because you work in an office.

From piles of paper everywhere, to the inbox with hundreds (or thousands) of messages, to the apps and pieces of equipment you need to master so you can process both paying and administrative work, the demands never end!

So how, in the whirlwind of office life, the client commitments and court dates, the digital demands and overwhelming data, do you ditch the CHAOS?

Time to Get Organized: Five Pillars of Success

1. It’s a choice. Plain and simple. You have to choose to do something about the chaos that is your office. Simply continuing to do what you have always done will result in the same frustrations, stresses and negatives that already exist. As the world flings even more data and to-do’s at you, the problem will only get worse.

It will be hard, but you will have to decide that something needs to be done and make yourself change — to stop ignoring the problems with your office and its workflow and instead take action to overcome the chaos.

Leading to …

2. Knowing what you need to get done is half the battle. Assess. You can’t know where to make corrections if you don’t know where the problems lie.

So the second step to getting organized is what I call a “brain dump.” This is where you grab a new pad of paper and a decent writing utensil, take yourself away from your normal “work” spots, and start making a list.

An initial brain dump is a list of everything you need to get done “at the office” — everything YOU have to do, or take care of, for the office.  And not just today. Anything related to a task or matter required of you goes on the list. Beware: Most people seriously underestimate the number of tasks they have to do.

This list serves as a framework to help you move forward with streamlining, automating and delegating as much as possible to make your personal workflow as efficient as it can be.

Once you have cleared your mind of all the open-ended loops and made decisions about how to handle those items on your list going forward, it’s time to learn how to focus.

Bringing us to …

3. The Rule of Three. I  have no stats to back this, but it is my position that three items (of value) are the most that any professional can concentrate on each day. How to make sure you concentrate on them leads to …

4. Writing stuff down. While I’m a digital warrior, I’m also a huge believer in writing things down, by hand, on paper. Something about writing helps ingrain the information into the brain unlike anything else — especially typing. When you’ve been typing as long as I have, you tend to channel what you are typing rather than absorb it.

Taking your hands off the keyboard or screen and writing on a piece of paper makes that item more memorable. But that’s not the only reason I write things down: There’s an intention when you commit something to paper.

So, to commit to my three items of value each day, I write them down in my Bullet Journal. After flipping to a new page each morning, I write the date and list 1, 2, 3 in the upper right of the page. This could be for the initials of a person I want to connect with or a few words about the item I need to get done.

In creating this daily list of three, I not only commit to them, I also:

  • Have a visual reminder of what I need to get done.
  • Give myself a way to feel good by crossing off items as completed.
  • Create a record of what I have done (or not) — all with just a couple of initials or words.

Not bad, for one little pillar!  That said, I truly believe the most important pillar is No. 5:

5. Wake to a fresh new day. Once you get your office’s processes and systems, technology and workflow organized, you will feel tremendous gratification. It won’t last.

I’m not saying the habits you create won’t last, but even the most organized person will have really disorganized days. Sometimes weeks. Sometimes you will look at your desk and think, is it even under there?

That’s OK when it happens. Just remember this last pillar so tomorrow you wake to a fresh new day, pull out a pad of paper and start your next brain dump.

Illustration ©

Subscribe to Attorney at Work

Get really good ideas every day for your law practice: Subscribe to the Daily Dispatch (it’s free). Follow us on Twitter @attnyatwork.

Categories: Lawyer Productivity, Lawyer Time Management
Originally published January 11, 2019
Last updated September 27, 2022
share TWEET PIN IT share share
Andrea Cannavina Andrea Cannavina

Andrea Cannavina (@AndreaCan) began her career working at some of the largest firms in and around New York City. In 2001, she transitioned to a 100% virtual by creating the world’s premiere legal virtual assistant service, LegalTypist. In her two decades as a Master Virtual Assistant, Andrea has worked with attorneys from all sizes of firms to create happy offices, stress-less workflows and websites that work. Wonder if Andrea could improve your office, workflow or website? Schedule a private consult:

More Posts By This Author

Welcome to Attorney at Work!

Sign up for our free newsletter.


All fields are required. By signing up, you are opting in to Attorney at Work's free practice tips newsletter and occasional emails with news and offers. By using this service, you indicate that you agree to our Terms and Conditions and have read and understand our Privacy Policy.