We rang up our friends Dan Pinnington and Reid Trautz, co-authors of the ABA book The Busy Lawyer’s Guide to Success: Essential Tips to Power Your Practice, and asked for some time management tips. Here are five of their favorites.
1. Handle more tasks with just one touch. Do as much of your work as you can the first time you touch it. Respond to the letter or e-mail, file the response, or delegate the task immediately if the entire assignment can be completed within several minutes. For tasks that take longer, prioritize quickly, then handle later when you have more time.
2. Delegate one task. Learn to delegate (but not abdicate) one of the tasks on your plate. Train and empower your staff to perform this task, then monitor them periodically to ensure that your staff is doing the job that needs to be done. After one task, delegate another, then another.…
3. Document unbillable time. Write down all the time you work for a client even if it is not billed to the client. Burnout often occurs when individuals do not realize how hard they are working. Then take time at the end of each month to evaluate the efficiency of performing these tasks. Can this work be done a better way or by another person?
4. Plan your day. When starting your day, resist opening your email or perusing your social networks. After reviewing your scheduled meetings and appointments, take a few minutes to build a list of tasks that you need to complete that day. Next—and most importantly—prioritize them. It is important that you determine your priorities before other people impose theirs. Revisit your task list at the end of the day and flag items to be added to your list for the next day.
5. Impose a quitting time. Staying late in the office night after night is counterproductive. The level of human productivity often drops to the level of diminishing returns after eight hours in the office. Impose a quitting time and, whenever possible, stick to it. You’ll find that when you have a set time to leave the office, you will use your time more wisely all day long. Plus, nobody on their deathbed says,”I wish I’d spent more time at the office!”
Dan Pinnington is Vice President, Claims Prevention & Stakeholder Relations at the Lawyers’ Professional Indemnity Company (LAWPRO), where he helps lawyers avoid malpractice claims. He is a Fellow of the College of Law Practice Management and a prolific writer, speaker and blogger on risk management, legal technology and law practice management issues. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Reid Trautz is a lawyer and the Director of AILA’s Practice & Professionalism Center, where he provides practice management information and consulting services to members. He is a nationally known speaker on important issues facing lawyers in the business of law, including workflow management, client communications and risk avoidance. Reid can be reached via email at email@example.com.