How Attorneys Get More Done in Less Time

Time-Management-Universally, attorneys have a challenge judging how long projects will take. We underestimate nearly all of the time and don’t get as much done as we would like. Does that sound familiar to you? If so, I totally get it.

We all want to fit more in our day, typically with less than successful results which leads to frustration and guilt. Ugh.

The damage to your psyche, confidence, and wellbeing is real when you try to squish in too much client or CEO work into your day. I know you know!

As an everyday visual representing this challenge, my husband just tried to carry multiple toiletry products up the stairs at the same time. I heard a crash and yelling. As I look up from my laptop, I see a bottle of mouthwash flying through the air, hitting railings on the way down, throwing sticky liquid all over the main stairs and living room. Of course, Pippa the puppy leaped to lick up the evidence. #GoodTimes

Scheduling Projects

Here’s what’s been working for my clients:

  1. Block out your morning and afternoon in two 90-minute blocks with an hour for lunch and 30 minutes in between each block. I use 90-minutes because that’s the length of time most people can truly focus on a project in “The Zone.” More on that in a moment.
  2. When you’re allocating time to a project such as writing a brief or legal research, mark off the project in your 90-minute time blocks.
  3. Then, give yourself another 90-minute block for that project.
  4. If you have multiple small projects, group like projects together. This is called “batching.” Batching keeps your focus instead of switching back and forth to different projects and losing 15-20 minutes of time to get focused with each switch.

Set the Scene

Here’s what’s works:

  1. Before you start into your 90-minute block, get prepared: use the restroom, grab a beverage, turn off email notifications and news alerts, turn off the ringer on your phone, take the dog out, and have a policy that there are no interruptions from your team and family (unless there’s an emergency and be sure to definite “emergency” for each group of peeps).
  2. Take a moment to get into The Zone just like professional athletes do. When you’re ready to begin, close your eyes, take three deep breaths, and visualize yourself steadily completing the task with insight and flow. Then dive in.
  3. If you get distracted during your session, be kind to yourself. You are operating within a human body with a human brain. Just repeat step two immediately above. In only a few seconds, you’ll get you back into The Zone.
  4. Don’t worry whether you’re in “The Zone” or not because that worry will pull you out. If that thought arises, simply take your three deep, slow breaths and see yourself completing the project awesomely :)
  5. Acknowledge your successes when you’re finished with each 90-minute block. You’ll notice that ideas flow more easily and you’ll have moments when you feel brilliant :) Time will fly and the quality of your work and how fast you get it done will be better than your typical approach.

Bonus Time

This works:

  1. If you find yourself with extra time in your 90-minute block, that’s a good thing. Celebrate!
  2. Grab a couple of small projects from a list of small projects to complete during that time, talk a walk, stretch, or reach out to a friend.

Sample Blocking

Tweak as you like*:

8:00 – 8:30 Get your coffee of tea, review your plans for the day, get yourself comfy, check your email or read something inspirational.
8:30 – 10:00 Session 1 Kick ass.
10:00 – 10:30 Break* – Bio break, refill your jug of water, stretch, walk around, pat yourself on the back.
10:30 – noon Session 2 Kick ass.
noon – lunch break; join your family or pull out that self-development book or just eat – do not watch the news.
1:00 – 2:30 Session 3 Kick ass.
2:30 – 3:00 Break* – Bio break, refill your jug of water, stretch, walk around, pat yourself on the back.
3:00 – 4:30 Session 4 Kick ass.
4:30 to 5:00 return client communications
5:00 – bedtime – be good to yourself and your loved ones so you have a high-quality life and can do it all over again the next day

*You need breaks to refresh your body and noggin. Do not skip these or your next sessions will not be as strong as they could be. Breaks prevent your focus from failing.

**Tweak to match the times your brain functions best. If you want to start at 10 am that’s totally fine. I do!

Additional Benefits

Fun results:

1. As you get into The Zone using this block system, you will feel happier. I suggest you keep track of your happiness metric. Note throughout the month how you feel and jot it down using a scale of 1 to 10. Use this metric tracking system, you’ll observe your happiness level increasing month over month.

2. You will get so much done with this system that you can block out Fridays.

The first and third Fridays of the month are FREE days. Have fun and do what you want so long as that means you’re not working. Read fiction, sleep in, surf, binge Netflix, paint watercolors, ride your horse, design your dream house, go for a day trip. You pick!

On the second and fourth Fridays of the month, use the day to work on the business of your firm. Use the same 90-minute block method. Take off your lawyer hat and put on your CEO hat. This is when you review your numbers, develop your marketing plan, coach team members, conduct goal setting, and dream BIG.

It’s so simple, yet so effective!

Have fun with this system and let me know what works for you. You’ll get better and better at it this process of getting into The Zone becomes a habit.

All opinions, advice, and experiences of guest bloggers/columnists are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions, practices or experiences of Solo Practice University®.

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