Most lawyers I know (and certainly I was one of them!) work shockingly long hours often-times working under very stressful conditions, dealing with very tight deadlines and demanding clients.
Most times, time management considerations are thrown out the window as one gets snowed under and buried down with just trying to move from one matter to another. Rarely, if ever, do lawyers take the time to take a step back, and take a helicopter view of how effectively they are working and whether they could be working smarter, better and indeed managing their time more productively and effectively.
When I speak to clients, they generally grumble that they don’t have the time nor the luxury to take ‘time-out’ and assess what is working and what is not in terms of the management of their practices and their time. Ironically, failing to do so, leaves them with even less time – meaning they work less productively and efficiently.
So how best to tackle your ‘time-poor’, ‘stress-rich’ existence?
By taking the time to sit down with a coach and analyse and redesign your current working practices – this is not only time well spent but will in the long term also prove beneficial to you, your practice and your clients.
Do how can a coach help?
- Setting clear goals
By creating clear goals and actions, a coach will help you identify which activities you need to focus on that will be the most beneficial to you and the success of your practice.
Then focus on these activities and ditch everything else.
- Prioritising wisely
Stephen Covey, co-author of ‘First Things First’ (Simon and Schuster, 1994), provides a useful ‘matter / task identifier’ to help assess and classify the importance of a matter and therefore what you should be prioritising and focusing your time and energy on:
“Important and urgent — Tasks that must be done. Do them right away.
Important but not urgent — Tasks that appear important, but upon closer examination aren’t. Decide when to do them.
Urgent but not important — Tasks that make the most “noise,” but when accomplished, have little or no lasting value. Delegate these if possible.
Not urgent and not important — Low-priority stuff that offer the illusion of “being busy.” Do them later.”
Working with a coach to identify and prioritise the order of importance of matters, you will more effectively and productively utilise your time.
- Learn the power of ‘no’
Unless a matter is urgent or you are required to be at a particular meeting, learn the power of ‘no’. Working with a coach can assist you in developing the skill of respectfully but firmly saying ‘no’ when and where appropriate and required – thereby avoiding unnecessary time-wasting meetings and activities.
- Plan ahead
Taking a few minutes at the end of each day to plan ahead and work out a plan and ‘to do’ list for the next day’s work is far less time-consuming and more productive than jumping into the next day with no clear idea of what your goals are, what you wish to achieve for the day. The result? You end up wasting more time focusing on the wrong things.
Of course, sometimes the best laid plans go awry and unexpected urgent matters may arise. However, by doing this simple task, even if unexpected issues do crop up, you will be better able to manage the unexpected and to more efficiently refocus and pick up where you left off.
- Remove, avoid distractions
Become aware of how often you look at your smartphone, monitor your inbox or answer any and all calls that come through to you. How often are you interrupted by people ‘popping in’ to your office or by your line reports demanding facetime with you – just when you were getting into the heart of an important matter?
A coach will help you become more aware of these ‘self-sabotaging’ behaviours and help you work out a clear plan and ‘schedule’ for checking your inbox, sitting down with your line reports to discuss the matters they are working on, returning calls, engaging with colleagues – so that you when you are working on a matter, you will be more attentive and focused and better able to tackle it more effectively – which ultimately means you will have to spend less time on it!
- Don’t hesitate to delegate
I see far too often clients being unwilling to ‘let go’ of work and delegate activities and work load to their line reports and junior associates. Adopting such an approach is ultimately self-sabotaging and foolhardy.
As a coach, I help clients shift their perspectives and sometimes misguided beliefs around delegating work and help them to better utilise and engage with their line reports – allowing them to spend their time more fruitfully on dealing with the more complex, revenue-generating matters.
- Practice self-care
However, while you may put in place all the best time management practices, unless you are supporting your physical, mental and emotional health and wellbeing, you will not be able to function optimally.
Working with a coach, to create and develop a ‘self-care’ plan, will help ensure that you function at your most ‘high-performing’, effective, and as a result less time-wasting manner.