Updated: Sep 25, 2019
Do you need some help with organization and time management? Then come fly with me today as we navigate through the steps it takes to get you through the day.
Let me start by saying you can begin by putting your seat in the relaxed position, take note of all exists, and enjoy your drink as we fly through your day.
Having great time management skills is one of the major keys to job security with any law firm. If you're feeling overwhelmed and disorganized, then you may want to look at what is causing these feelings. Today, we'll watch for turbulences and learn to steer the course to good time management. You're the pilot tomorrow!
Step 1 - Be On Time
Arrive no later than 5 to 10 minutes early each day to give yourself time for morning rituals - coffee, hello's, booting up your computer, etc. This step is self-explanatory - simply give yourself time for coffee and chit chat that doesn't cut into your billable hours. Like I tell my volleyball players, if you arrive to practice 10 minutes early, then you're on time. If you arrive on time, you're actually 10 minutes late. Volleyball players have their rituals too.
Step 2 - Keep To-Do Lists (plural)
I keep two lists - written and typed. All of my tasks are in Asana, but I also keep a notepad. This is because I need to be ready at any time to take notes because of a phone call, or an attorney walks by, or I hear "MISTY" from down the hall. The notepad will come in handy at the end of your day, which we'll talk about later in this article.
It is important to keep digital to-do lists just as much as written to-do lists. They both serve our needs and create diversified action cues for our day-to-day processes. There are studies that show writing helps you remember. Great! My memory needs all the help it can get. Digital lists are great because the platforms have the ability to email you reminders (an action cue), and serve as a list of work we've completed. The reports that can be generated from a digital to-do list, like Asana, are great for the billing Paralegal because you can cut/paste your time from the reports to your billable software.
Step 3 - Check you Email and you Calendar
Things are bound to happen overnight. It's inevitable. If you are not receiving your emails on your phone, this step is VERY important for you. If you are receiving your emails on your phone, then here's what I do ……. I flag emails that need responding and incorporate responding to them in my to-do list. If you're a Paralegal not receiving your emails on your phone (LUCKY), then you'll do the same process, but just at your desktop computer. Go through all of your emails and flag the emails that need responding, and incorporate it into your to-do list. If you read and respond to every email that came in overnight, you'll easily lose track of your time and lose control of your time management.
Check your calendar or the shared calendar to make sure nothing has come up on your calendar overnight that might lead to a revisions on your to-do list. If so, make sure to work in the modifications to your daily task list, if needed.
Bonus Tip - Print or Email your weekly calendars to your Team so that you can stay ahead to make sure all cases, court calls, depositions, etc. are covered. Every Monday morning, I email out the revised calendar for that week and the next week. Everybody knows what is expected of them for the next two weeks.
Step 4 - Prioritize Your List
When prioritizing your list, you must look at three key factors and divide your tasks accordingly:
Urgent (Must Do Today)
Priority (Should Be Done Today)
It Can Wait (No Eminent Deadlines)
You know your attorneys and cases, which means you should know how to prioritize your to-do lists according to this model. Be sure to stick to your priority list and execute it with precision to stay ahead and remain as worry free as possible.
Step 5 - Get Organized
A messy desk usually leads to being overwhelmed and feeling disorganized. When there are so many things on your desk, it's difficult to know where to start. Go through each piece of paper that somehow made its way to your desk overnight. Now organize it, scan/save it, and throw or file it away. Great organization skills lead to awesome file and case management skills.
Clutter = Chaos
Bad Time Management
If your desk and office is cluttered and disorganized, then you are spending way too much time looking for case file notes, stacks of case filing, or trying to remember how old that "URGENT" sticky note is and whether or not you did the "URGENT" sticky note task.
Check out this video to learn how to create case maps using free software already on your computer and link all documents on your network to your case maps.
Step 6 - Fly Through Your Priority List
Remember - You're The Pilot
You've divided your to-do list for the day into the three categories and now it's time to navigate your way through your priority list, and hope for a smooth day's flight. Beware of turbulences. Return all emails, make all calls from the list you prioritized. Start working on tackling all to-do list items. However, be sure to stay the course and let your list guide you to being your most productive self.
Step 7 - Take Time for Yourself
Make sure you take at least 30 minutes for yourself every work day. Put your headphones on, take a walk, go eat lunch, go to your car, or meditate. Regardless of how you choose to take time for yourself, simply unplug from work, walk away, and re-center your focus. If you don't, burn out could be just around the corner. It only takes 30-minutes of YOU time to re-energize and get ready to tackle the rest of your work day.
If possible, take a 15-minute break two hours before it's time for you to leave, which can really get you through the last stretch of the day. If you've run into turbulences that have steered you from the day's course, take this time for a breather. Then get back to it with fresh eyes, a fresh mind, and clarity.
Step 8 - Repeat Steps 2 & 5
Before you leave, take a look at your notepad and digital to-do list. Incorporate anything from your notepad into your digital list. I also write down the major task list items that MUST be accomplished the next day. I use this as a visual cue each morning to help prioritize my list.
Declutter your desk from any chaos the ensued throughout your work day so that you return to your office tomorrow with a clutter-free desk (theoretically). BONUS Tip: If you find that too much disorganized paperwork, etc. is somehow finding its way to your desk overnight, consider incorporating an in-box for people to put filing, assignments, etc.
Your time management is one of the only things you, as a Paralegal, can control at your law firm. So have a plan, execute your plan with precision, and be sure to always set aside time for YOU. Now it's time to come in for a smooth landing. Go home, drink a glass of wine (or 2), relax, and prepare yourself to do it all over again tomorrow. Remember, you're the pilot.
Now ..... Ready | Set | Fly
Join the Paralegal Boss Club network and connect with fellow Paralegals.
Become an Arrow Member to receive exclusive invitations, announcements, , products, and events.
Join our community every Wednesday for some Wednesday Wisdom with Misty Murray.
Check out this video regarding the tips discussed in this article.
Misty Murray, Founder
Paralegal Career & Freelance Coach
Follow Me On Instagram @ParalegalCoach_Misty