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Even when you organize and optimize your time to the maximum level, you still only have so much of it. Time is a limited commodity. Its finite nature makes it precious.

This means you need to set boundaries to protect your most precious commodity. You need to become more selective about your commitments and more protective of your time.

Clients and colleagues have certain expectations about your availability. When you set effective boundaries and manage those expectations, you can satisfy their needs while still retaining precious time for your own objectives.

The Dangerous Power of Interruptions

Most of us experience interruptions all day long. Co-workers stop us to ask questions. Clients call for information. Alerts on our screens tell us when we have a new message. We even interrupt ourselves to check email and other communications.

Every time we stop what we’re doing because of an interruption, we lose money. Our concentration is broken. We lose time trying to regain our focus. We frequently end up omitting or repeating steps. It takes longer to accomplish tasks, and we feel more stressed during the process. When you learn to establish boundaries, you can minimize or even eliminate disruptive interruptions.

Establish Do Not Disturb Time

Start by scheduling some blocks of Do Not Disturb (DND) time on a regular basis. When you are in DND mode, you turn off alerts on your phone and computer. You close your door. You close email programs and any communication programs that could tempt you to focus on something other than the task you have scheduled for that block of time. If you need to, unplug the phone and put out a “Do Not Disturb” sign.  

It will take time to train your mind to focus, and you may find that you are your own worst enemy, interrupting your own progress, until you get used to the practice. That is okay. The result, the focused productivity you enjoy during your DND block, will be worth the effort.

Preventing Client and Colleague Interruptions

Some clients and colleagues will naturally be respectful of your time, and others will think you should always be at their beck and call. All of them have the potential to cause costly interruptions if you do not set the appropriate boundaries. Some tips for avoiding client interruptions include:

  • Scheduling all phone calls
  • Explaining at the beginning of each call how much time you have available
  • Answering emails at set times of the day
  • Designating a staff member to screen “emergency” calls
  • Explaining communication policies up front and refusing to make exceptions unless your staff indicates that it is truly an emergency

Client choice can also play a big role in minimizing potential interruptions. Developing a rigorous process for screening clients and cases can help ensure that you do not end up working with clients who will fail to respect your boundaries.

Managing interruptions from staff and colleagues can sometimes present a more delicate challenge.  Proactive and direct communication is key here. Expressing the specific impact of their interruption – on you and on them – is the first step.  Of couse, as with all the Eight Keys, this interpersonal skill of boundary setting takes courage and practice.

Practice the Healthy “No”

We want to help others, so it is against our nature to say “no” when we are asked to do something. But remember that when you say “yes” to one thing, you automatically say “no” to something else. The clock keeps ticking.

Say “no” to too many meetings. Say “no” to fixing other people’s mistakes. Say “no” to doing someone else’s job for them. But you don’t have to be mean about it. Simply say that the request is not something you are able to accommodate right now. Then provide a solution. You might offer to assist with the issue at a later date or suggest another resource.

Contact Lawyer Time Management Today

If you struggle to establish boundaries, contact us online to learn how to make setting your limits second nature.