Q: I can’t seem to get anything done these days. There’s simply too little time and too many workplace interruptions. Any advice for improving my productivity?
A: Legal jobs are notoriously demanding. Add constant meetings and client emergencies to the mix, and it’s little wonder you feel pulled in too many directions. Since you can’t really change your workload, colleagues or clients, you should focus on the aspects you can control. Here are some tips for boosting your productivity:
1. Take charge of your calendar. Poor time management is perhaps the greatest enemy of workplace productivity. To get a better handle on your schedule, plan ahead. Make a daily or weekly to-do list. Reserve space in your calendar for intensive tasks like strategizing litigation, and protect that block of time by not accepting any meeting invitations for those hours.
2. Dare to delegate. When there’s too much for one person to do, that’s a sign you need to hand off certain tasks. It’s always good advice to master the art of delegation. If you’re a project leader, entrust others to do the legal jobs they were hired to do. And if the workload is still too heavy, ask your boss to bring in project-based professionals or to outsource tasks like eDiscovery.
3. Limit multitasking. The human brain can’t really focus on more than one thing at a time. When we multitask, what we’re actually doing is interrupting ourselves, which eats up valuable time and mental energy. So get into the habit of finishing one task before starting another. Similarly, when you’re in a meeting, don’t check email or plan your next task. Be fully present.
4. Maximize technology. Manual processes are time consuming and prone to error. A better way is to embrace advances such as e-billing, electronic case management and online legal research tools. The more you can automate, the more time you’ll save. This is also good legal career advice because today’s law firms seek tech-savvy employees.
5. Take occasional breaks. Sometimes the best way to improve productivity is to leave your desk. Take a brisk walk during the day. Go out to lunch with a work friend. Do some stretches when you feel an afternoon slump coming on. And to really recharge, take a relaxing vacation.
There’s no magical legal career advice for boosting productivity. Rather, it’s a matter of analyzing your tendencies and seeing where you can work smarter — one day, one process and one step at a time.