The legal field is demanding. In fact, a 12-hour day is usual for attorneys. This is because the constant needs of clients and demands of partners often have lawyers working around the clock. While hard work is admirable, making sure you are working smart is just as important. This is an area in which likely anyone can improve. A study released in Legal Trends Report analyzed more than 40,000 lawyers’ work habits, finding that they spent only 2.2 hours of their time on billable work. That equates to less than 30% of an eight-hour workday. Losing three-quarters of your billable time is a death trap. Below are some tips on how to better manage your time while practicing law.
Basic Time Management
While there is no one-size-fits-all approach to better productivity, there are general techniques that can be used to make better use of your time. At the onset, record how you spend your days for one workweek, making sure to jot down any patterns. This can be used as your baseline on which to improve. Second, get organized. A messy desk is a messy mind. Being disorganized stifles efficiency. Knowing what needs to be done and how to find things will streamline your work. Third, make to-do lists. As part of this, figure out the best schedule for you (i.e., early morning or late nights) and coordinate your schedule around that. Schedule busy time periods during the part of the day in which you will be most efficient. Fourth, use the tools that will help you. That may include using an app on your smartphone, or software on your computer, or good old fashioned pen and paper. Fifth, fight multitasking. While lawyers are busy and have many things to juggle, you should do your best to focus on one thing at a time in an effort to minimize task-switching and completing projects on time.
One useful method to help keep your work streamlined is to use a timer. Not just useful for tracking your billable hours, these can also help you save time on those non-billable tasks. It forces you to focus on one task at a time – avoiding task switching – and also allows you to take mental breaks frequently. First, pick a task and set a timer for it – 10, 15, 20, 25 minutes, or any other time frame that you think you need to complete that task. Then, focus on the task at hand, and only that task, while the timer is going. Take a few minutes break when the timer goes off and repeat as needed.
Better Time Management Means Better At Work
Do not forget about the 80-20 rule when reorganizing yourself for optimal efficiency. Studies show that about 20% of your work will create 80% of the value. When applying this rule to time management, make sure to give more attention to your billable work. When prioritizing, put billable work on the top of your list. When you can, delegate administrative tasks to your staff. If you are a solo practitioner, try to seek out an affordable way to outsource the tasks that will not generate revenue. Remember, as a lawyer your most valuable resource is your time.