Effective task management is the art of reliably keeping track of the things you need and want to accomplish in an easily accessible way. By reliable, we mean capturing the right level of detail and organizing your to-do’s such that you come to trust the system you’re using and the accuracy of the information it contains. By easily accessible, we’re talking about using tools that allow the capture and review process to be as frictionless as possible, whenever, wherever, and however you’re working.
Not surprisingly, there’s no out-of-the-box system that works perfectly for everyone. (Actually, there’s no out-of-the-box system that works perfectly for anyone.) So while we’ll make the case that digital platforms offer some important capabilities (such as anywhere-accessibility and redundant backups), we also know that some of the most efficient and effective attorneys use handwritten lists in notebooks or on legal pads.
So we’re essentially agnostic when it comes to the hundreds of apps and systems that promise to make to-do lists manageable.
There are, however, several principles and practices you can adopt that will significantly improve how you manage your tasks.
Task Management Principles and Practices
- Get your do-to’s out of your head and into the written word
- Place each item in one of a handful of categories to keep them organized by main task type
- Start each item with a verb
- Distinguish between tasks that pertain to regular time-bound workflow (such as case work, time & billing, bizdev meeting prep, etc) and big-picture ideas, possible projects, etc with no inherent time sensitivities
- Put these non-time-bound items in a completely separate list
- Devote regular time to reviewing and maintaining your list/s on a daily and weekly basis
Taking Advantage of Technology
From comprehensive practice management platforms with built-in task list functions to stand-alone task list apps, the choices are almost endless (though depending on the size of your firm and its approach to IT security, your choices may be limited). And beyond the list-making tools themselves, there are many add-ons and accessory apps that make capturing your to-do’s easier. For example, one of our favorites is MeMail, which lets you dictate an email on your phone to send to yourself (or you and your assistant) with a single button press.
Indeed, advances in AI have finally made reliable voice dictation a reality not only on our phones, but on our desktops (for example, within Office365).
Build an Effective Task List
Once you know your tasks and the steps for each task, you should classify them by type. We suggest a Six Bucket System:
- Delegated Production
- Business Development
- Future Projects
- Personal-Non-work Related
You will have a separate list for each bucket.
Start each item on each list with a verb. Each item represents an action. Then assign due dates to every task. Keep the due dates realistic, or you will soon find yourself ignoring them, and they will lose their effectiveness.
Your job does not end when your lists are complete. Add new tasks as you think of them. Then you need to review and update those lists once a week.
Make Your Lists Work for You
Getting the jumbled lists out of your head is the first step to effective task management. Make your lists, organize those lists, and keep them up-to-date. Weed out inefficiency, and then you can stop worrying that you’re letting important tasks fall by the wayside.
Contact Our Coaches for Lawyer Time Management Now
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