Our Eight Keys to Powerful Productivity Will Increase Your Efficiency and Effectiveness
The challenges of managing a busy legal practice are well known: high stakes for clients, almost constant pressure, tech issues galore, statutory and regulatory changes in the law, administrative demands, staffing headaches, the increasingly competitive marketplace for legal services, email overload and always-on communication channels. You know the life. You probably also know the feeling when you start to worry that you’re letting key tasks slip behind schedule. And then the worry becomes even more draining. At some point, you may wonder if your approach to managing it all could be improved.
Or maybe you’re in a supervisory or leadership role, and while you’ve succeeded in creating an enjoyable and sustainable personal practice, you’re aware that some of your colleagues struggle to get there for themselves.
For most attorneys, the answer to whether meaningful improvement is possible is definitively YES. Most lawyers CAN learn to work differently and more effectively. And yes, making the effort to assess your current operational state and increase your effectiveness requires an investment of time and energy which, alas, many attorneys refuse to allocate. But for those who are willing to learn and practice the Eight Keys to Powerful Productivity, the rewards they bring are hard to come by any other way.
At Lawyer Time Management, we can teach you and your team how to be more productive — and more satisfied — lawyers. We show attorneys how to get more of the right things done in less time using a practical, proven framework that generates sustainably higher performance. (Learn more about our Lawyer Time Management Training.) This increase in law firm efficiency leads to greater profitability and professional (as well as personal) satisfaction.
When you and your people have the knowledge, resources, and skills to use your days more effectively, you can spend more time serving existing clients and landing new clients. As you help your team flourish, you’ll gain more time to devote to your own work—and to life outside work. Our Eight Keys to Powerful Productivity will put you and your team squarely on that path.
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Key #1 - Mindset
It all starts with understanding the psychological principles that make time management so challenging. At its core, time management isn’t really about time – after all, there are an immutable number of hours in each day and week, and we can’t change that. Time management, then, boils down to an understanding and embrace of self-management and choice-management. If you don’t control your time, someone else or a series of events will. So what do you actually believe, consciously and unconsciously, about becoming more effective in how you work? There are mindset principles that when learned and cultivated, will smooth out your productivity and give you greater peace of mind.
Key #2 - Task Management
There are literally hundreds of apps, systems, and philosophies designed to make “to-do lists” manageable. Ranging from the simple to the complex, they all begin with the premise that you’ve got to get your to-do’s out of your head and into written form. And that’s for good reason: no matter how mentally sharp we think we are, the bandwidth it takes to organize, prioritize, and focus ourselves throughout the day is reduced in proportion to the volume of commitments, deadlines, good ideas, assignments, and projects we try to keep in our minds. But what tools should you use? How should categorize and group different types of tasks for greatest efficiency? How can you balance the time it takes to maintain your to-do list to greatest effect with actually executing the items on your list? Designing a reliable system and using it consistently is the second Key to your increased productivity.
Key #3 - Planning & Scheduling
Planning & Scheduling
We all know planning is important. But there’s a big difference between “giving it some thought” on your way to the office and carefully thinking through, in a disciplined way, what you want — and need — to devote time to each day. The right planning techniques allow you to dramatically improve the likelihood that your days and weeks will unfold the way you want them to, rather than spending much of your day in reactive mode, being pulled along by other people’s requests and interruptions — or jumping from one thing to another as they flash across your mind.
Key #4 - Team Effectiveness
Law firms frequently put substantial effort into building a team with solid credentials and stellar work ethic, but then they fail to maximize the abilities of team members both individually and collectively. You can leverage the man/womanpower at your law firm to build greater efficiency through synergized teamwork.
Members of the team look to the leaders for clarity and direction. When that is lacking, motivation takes an immediate dive, and productivity soon follows. The right training allows for delegation of greater responsibilities, fostering a surge in motivation and production. Implementing key strategies helps develop a self-managed team that no longer has a need to seek guidance to solve routine problems, allowing team leaders to focus on legal strategy, client service, and growing their practice.
Key #5 - Systems Optimization
Law firm productivity uses specific workflow processes regularly, so optimizing the systems that make up each process leads to increased productivity throughout the firm. These can include something as simple as the conventions for naming and organizing files and folders. Law firms can benefit from implementing time-saving apps such as auto-time capture and password managers and then showing team members how to use existing software with greater efficiency.
These can introduce techniques for optimizing less technical processes as well. For instance, to help your attorneys manage phone time productively, consider outlining the subjects of a call in advance, and keeping a running list of call notes for each client or colleague communicated with on a regular basis. Workflow visualization techniques help identify process bottlenecks so that you can develop solutions to increase productivity.
Key #6 - Email Management
Information overload is one of the biggest problems facing every law firm in the country. Staff quickly become overwhelmed with so much coming at them.
One step to becoming a more productive lawyer is to confront the centrality of email and other information overload. Efficient handling of email and communication channels does not always mean that everyone needs to dash out an immediate detailed answer to every message. Often you save time in the long run by acknowledging a request but promising to research the question and provide an answer within a certain timeframe. This minimizes the disruptions and allows time to formulate an effective answer.
Key #7 - Boundaries
Interruptions are the biggest thief of productivity in most industries, but especially legal. Messages arriving via email, project management platforms, and other communication tools provide constant interruptions throughout the day, taking time and focus away from essential tasks and often requiring herculean efforts to get back on track.
Lawyers can learn how to increase their efficiency by setting workable boundaries. For instance, this includes creating realistic expectations about the availability for real-time collaboration (in person or online) and setting regular “do-not-disturb” periods where notifications are turned off and phone calls are sent directly to another team member or voicemail. As another example, if you inform clients or collaborative colleagues about dates that you will communicate with them about a particular issue or case, they are less likely to interrupt with calls or messages to check on progress.
Key #8 - Personal Well-Being
Attorneys can learn how to embrace core concepts and master techniques to synergize the mind-body connection, fusing healthy mental, emotional, and physical habits into a lifestyle that promotes confidence and efficiency.
To be more productive and purposeful as a lawyer, attorneys need to take care of themselves as people first and foremost. Too many attorneys have bought into the myth that to be outstanding in their profession they must live in a perpetual state of unhealthy stress. Nothing could be further from the truth.
To learn how to be a more productive lawyer, you must become aware of your own needs and how to best meet those needs to maintain your overall well-being. It can be done, we see it time and time again. You don’t have to be a ball of stress, moving at 100 mph to be a successful lawyer. We would argue the most successful lawyers operate at their own speed, relying on processes, healthy habits, and technology to limit the stress in their work life.
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A More Productive Lawyer
For over 20 years, we have been solving time management challenges for law firms and training attorneys and staff in techniques to increase productivity. We have honed our processes to produce substantial results, and we have the satisfied clients to prove it.
As the practice of law continues to become more complex, fragmented, and stressful, and as legal fields become increasingly specialized and technological change accelerates at a breakneck pace, the need for effective time management strategies becomes ever more apparent.