Have you ever felt, “My work’s never complete! There’s never enough time in the day!”
You’re a lawyer; of course you have. How many times do you rush to a meeting, realize you forgot something on your daily to-do list, then you get an important email right when you’re entering the meeting?
Last year, I wanted to end this stress, so I started researching methods of saving time and increasing productivity.
I thoroughly explored every technique I discovered, found the most reliable ones, and have now cut at least 12 hours out of my week! In doing so, I have lost zero money. In fact, I’ve made more income.
Although I’m not a lawyer, I’m a business owner, and therefore there are never enough hours in the day for me either.
Over the last year, I’ve figured out how to get more accomplished without working more.
As cliché as it is, you have to work smarter, not harder.
Here is a quick list of 12 simple tips how you can do more work, have more time; and as a result, make more money.
#1 GET IT OVER WITH!
My first tip seems so daunting on paper because you’re not going to like the sound of it, but this action is quite simple: Take the one task you like the least, and do it first.
This way, the exact thing you dreaded most is done; you got it over with!
Checking your most detested assignment off your “To Do List” gives you an enormously satisfying feeling that is psychologically rewarding.
This emotional state gives you the perfect launching pad to start knocking off the rest of your “To Do List”.
You’ve got the momentum now, fantastic job!
(Note: If you’re REALLY dreading that first task, use my cheap tactic to gain momentum…..when making your “To Do List”, have the #1 thing be WRITE A LIST. Bam! You just did, check that off & get the least-liked one over with.)
#2 THE 2-MINUTE RULE…IT WORKS.
You’ll love the sound of this: Take your quickest and easiest-to-complete tasks….and do them immediately.
It’s as elementary as it sounds. First determine what these uncomplicated chores are – returning calls and emails, giving your assistant/receptionist daily assignments, setting meetings, etc. – then complete them.
This concept is called “The 2-Minute Rule” because each duty should take no more than 2 minutes to finish.
Obviously, not everything on your plate can be achieved in 2 minutes, but every goal can be started in 2 minutes.
The beauty of this is if you just get started, productivity will happen.
Most people, when confronted with a lengthy list of jobs, waste at least a half hour deciding which ones to do first.
Well, you’ve already got the worst out of the way; and now you’ll have a nice group of chores done in a short amount of time.
People will call you “Butter,” because you’re on a roll!
#3 GET A FREE APP THAT HELPS YOU STAY PRODUCTIVE
Every human on the planet can use a little help staying on task.
Even the most dogged workaholic faces temptation, hard-to-break habits, and most likely sleep-deprivation.
Here’s where modern technology serves as the perfect aid.
There are many free apps you can download on your phone that will immensely improve your productivity!
Check this out….
If you work with a team, Slack is perfect!
This saves you SO MUCH time on email.
Slack is the communication tool of choice for our entire team.
All your messages, files, images, PDFs, documents and spreadsheets can be easily dropped into this app and shared with whomever you choose.
Make whatever notes you wish to any document and instantly search it.
If you utilize any service such as Google Drive, Dropbox or Box, paste the link and that document is immediately in sync and searchable as well.
Arguably the most impressive of all the time-saving apps, Rescue Time helps you find your ultimate work-life balance.
The more you’re aware of exactly how you spend your time, the more you can accomplish.
The Rescue Time app gives you this power.
This is not only a time-saving machine; this thing is a life coach.
It tracks all the movement on your computer and categories and color-codes everything in order of productivity.
If you see a lot of red, you’re doing more social networking than research.
If you see more blue, you’re doing more work than skyping your significant other.
Rescue Time also logs your daily completed tasks and ranks your weekly score, which makes it a game.
And because you’re an attorney, I know you’re competitive.
Therefore, you’re going to consistently try and improve your score. As a result, you’ll improve your quality of work!
If it’s organization you seek, Trello is your Holy Grail.
Internally, we use Trello for task management – it even integrates directly with Slack!
This app allows you to organize your life into skillfully accessible cards that you can just as easily share.
Whether it’s a client meeting, deposition, mediation, closing argument, will, research document, evidence file or settlement; you can utilize Trello to help you organize anything you need.
No matter what the task, you’ll receive an email reminder that will keep you on track.
Constantly knowing what you need to do significantly enhances your productivity.
Dubious? Then try it.
The Secret Weapon
First, I’d like to say that I couldn’t run my business without this system.
Here’s the deal = your brain is the best place to create ideas, but the worst to constantly store them.
Transferring these ideas from your head to a secure system is vital – because regardless of how impeccable a person’s memory may be; at some point, they will forget to tackle an important assignment on time.
Imagine if you could see everything you need to do at any given moment.
That would create a sense of calm that would make your work environment much easier, wouldn’t it?
The Secret Weapon combines every tracking system we already use (email reminders, lists, notes we write ourselves, etc.).
You can group items together from more than one context simultaneously.
You can combine your ideas, to-dos & new commitments from the moment they enter your brain into a system that will be there later when you review it.
And this system is available and up-to-date, regardless of your location or device.
Evernote is the program that organizes any possible thing you need to remember; this combines with your current email client to form The Secret Weapon.
If you need to manage a plethora of clients and projects, you need The Secret Weapon.
The Hemingway App is a proofreading tool.
Any attorney has to proofread their work, and this app saves you HOURS.
Hemingway is an automatic editor that highlights spelling mistakes, complex words/phrases, run-on sentences, excessive adverbs, overuse of passive voice, etc.
Now you can edit what you actually need to.
And you don’t have to repeatedly read your own document more times than a coked-up man with OCD.
#4 No Meeting Days
Designate one day of the work week as your “No Meetings Day.”
Whether it’s in person, skype or via phone, no meetings are allowed.
This method actually started as an experiment by Facebook to boost productivity, and it worked amazingly! Their technological advancements, the number of active users and worth sky-rocketed.
Though they are a necessity in your occupation, meetings often cause people to waste a lot of time with unnecessary chit-chat and stressing about upcoming meetings; they often accomplish less than intended.
Just give this method a chance and notice the results.
#5 Change Your Workstation
Because you get the majority of your work done from your desk, you probably think that’s the absolute best place to be constructive.
Well, guess what?
Behavioral studies have repeatedly proven working from the exact same location time and time again can actually stifle your productivity and creativity.
After doing extensive research on this topic, workplace psychologists reported to The Wall Street Journal that they suggest changing your work location or the people you work next to.
This usually results in quicker concentration and innovation.
In this particular study, the average person who moved their workstation at the beginning of the week ended up saving 5 hours off their entire work week!
I understand you have to get things done in your office and in meeting rooms with your associates; however, are there times you can reposition yourself?
Can you occasionally work from a remote location, like a restaurant or coffee shop?
When you are at home – instead of sitting at the same desk over and over, try putting your computer on your lap and sit on your couch, or in your kitchen.
Even that subtle change can produce quicker and more effective results.
Some attorneys I’ve worked with even tried switching offices for a day and found it to be a welcome relief; both parties accomplished even more!
I personally will try to work outside on my patio for a few hours per week, and I’ve found it helps increase my productivity.
#6 THE 20% RULE
This is easy, any person can pull it off, and it only takes 90 minutes.
Here’s the deal: 20% of an 8-hour working day is 90 minutes.
In an hour and a half, you can get a lot done.
Reserve 90 minutes a day for 5 days a week, and you have 8 hours of solid, uninterrupted work.
Just think how many goals you would attain with 8 consecutively productive hours.
Go ahead and block out that 90-minute chunk of your day; now you can take more breaks without feeling guilty.
And here’s a quick, fun fact to remove even more guilt: Studies show taking more breaks during a busy work day increases productivity.
How is this even possible?
The integration of breaks maximizes energy, stimulates creativity and promotes a sense of achievement.
Try it out: For every 90-minute block of work, go on break for 20 minutes.
You can reward yourself by checking your email, Facebook, or your fantasy football team! Enjoy!
#7 FLOW STATE ACTIVITY
Do a specific activity that causes you to experience “flow.”
This is a positive psychology term defined as “the mental state of operation in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity.”
You’ve been in this state – you become invigorated as you prepare your closing argument, you finish and meet your deadline…then suddenly you realize 2 hours have just flown by?
That’s “flow,” A.K.A. “in the zone.”
Being in flow is huge time-saver because you work at a rapid pace and produce high-quality results.
The question is, how do you get there?
How To Get In the Zone
Perform a task that isn’t the most difficult on your list, but it must be challenging enough to make you consistently work hard. Let’s say you have a complicated case in which you’re defending someone accused of something they didn’t do, but it’s difficult to prove otherwise. Start with what you CAN prove and list every good quality of your client. Research, compile a list, and you can jump into a flow state fairly quickly. The next thing you know, you’ll be proving your client is more innocent than Mother Theresa.
#8 ISOLATION BREEDS PRODUCTIVITY
Isolate yourself as much as possible to be as productive as possible.
Relax, you don’t have to be Howard Hughes.
But you can definitely reduce your interaction with others to focus more on your work.
Learn from Mr. Bryan Guido Hassin, University Professor/Entrepreneur.
After noticing he achieved much more while traveling on airplanes, he added an “Airplane Day” to his week.
Even when he wasn’t on planes.
He closed himself off from the world in his favorite workstation and turned off his phone, disabled his WiFi and was officially “out of the office” to any non-emergency.
He removed himself from being interrupted by anything that can wait. He got EVEN MORE done.
In the legal world, you may not always have the luxury of giving yourself an Airplane Day.
However, you can take similar steps to distance yourself from unnecessary disturbances.
Turn your cell phone off; anyone that important can reach you at work.
Just check your email 3 times a day; again, you’ll be notified of any emergency with a call to your office.
When you respond to email, keep it incredibly short, get straight to the point, and let them know you’re busy. “Yes, let’s meet at 2pm next Tuesday. Thank you.”
Exercise is crucial for health….and focus.
You don’t have to do something in particular, as long as your working some muscles and elevating your heart rate.
Find the most convenient time to exercise in your schedule and stick to it.
Many CEOs and some of the most powerful people in the world firmly believe exercising first thing in the morning makes them more productive.
Richard Branson says doing this always gives him 8 hours more focus on days when he DID NOT exercise.
#10 LEARN TO SAY “NO”
As a lawyer, you have to be socially skilled, and you like to help people.
You’re also a workaholic who loves to take on extra hours to convenience others.
The problem is, you only inconvenience yourself by sacrificing your own productivity.
Channel your inner Nancy Reagan and “Just Say No.”
Image Source: Flickr
There’s a lot of power in turning down work.
People respect someone who respects themselves and their time.
And oddly enough, turning down work can actually lead to more future work.
Remember this: Say “I don’t” instead of “I can’t.”
Tons of research shows individuals who say “I don’t” stick to their guns almost twice as much than those who say “I can’t.”
The difference is “I don’t” is psychologically empowering; “I can’t” is psychologically draining.
This applies to your business – “I can’t do it, sorry” is not nearly as confident and assertive as “I don’t have time for that.”
I could keep rambling on about this, but I can’t. I mean, I DON’T WANT TO!
“Time is free but it’s priceless. You can’t own it but you can use it. You can’t keep it but you can spend it. Once you’ve lost it, you can never get it back.” – Harvey Mackay
“If you love life, don’t waste time, for time is what life is made of.” – Bruce Lee
“Only time will tell if we stand the test of time.” – Sammy Hagar (In Van Halen’s “Why Can’t This Be Love?”)
Well, not every Time quote can be a pearl of wisdom; but damn, that’s a good song!
I followed these steps religiously and instantly reaped the benefits.
I know if you apply the same tools, you will as well.
And when you win that multi-million-dollar case, feel free to take me out to lunch!