“Time is really the only capital that any human being has, and the only thing he can't afford to lose.” - Thomas Edison
Certainly a bright notion from Edison, but how can you untangle intersecting work demands and use your time wisely? The demanding practice of litigation often leaves attorneys, paralegals, and administrators saying, “If only I had more time in a day.” Often the time is actually there, merely mismanaged. You may use your precious hours more efficiently if you incorporate the following tips to identify and remove time-wasting obstacles and boost productivity.
Common time management obstacles include cell phones, texting, the internet, gossip, social media, endless emails, co-workers dropping by or talking in the hallway, and impromptu meetings.
Work flow obstacles such as giant to-do lists, cluttered email or physical inbox, messy work space, lack of routine, and multi-tasking may keep us from reaching our full productivity potential.
Look at your work day and target which of these obstacles absorb most of your time. Identifying the issue will allow you to focus on a solution.
Work from your calendar and not your to-do list.
To do lists are often long and lack structure leaving us overwhelmed and without direction. Instead, try placing the tasks on your calendar according to the due date and throw that other list away. By working from your calendar you complete the tasks in need of immediate attention and you are not overwhelmed by future items.
If it takes less than 5 minutes, do it now.
Rather than cluttering your calendar with a task that takes no more than 5 minutes, or pushing a paper to the side where it may be forgotten, take care of it now. This frees you to work on larger tasks and not be weighed down by the small stuff.
Batch your work together with reoccurring themes.
By grouping like tasks together, you decrease the number of times you switch focus, thus improving productivity.
Build time into your calendar to catch up.
Fight the urge to schedule back to back meetings. Allow time after a meeting to complete your notes or to calendar new action items.
Control your email and physical inbox.
Resist the compulsion to respond immediately to every email ‘ding’ or rustling paper in your inbox. Schedule a few specific times a day to check and respond to things in your inboxes. When focusing on a task, shut off your email notifications and use the Do Not Disturb feature. Put a sign on your door to let others know you are not available – and remember always include a start and end time.
Savor your best working time.
We all have a different time of day when we perform at a higher level of efficiency. If you are a morning person, block that time as ‘unavailable’ on your calendar. Use this time to work on projects that require greater focus.
Clear concise communication.
Keep your communication clear and to the point. Avoid sending long, drawn-out emails or letters that cover too many topics at one time. By keeping to the point, you save yourself time writing, your recipient time reading, and you increase the chances of receiving a relevant response.
While none of us can turn back the clock and create extra hours in the day, we can strive to achieve the same results by removing obstacles and implementing efficient time management and work flow techniques.
(End of blog. Author turns on email notifications, removes sign from door and steps out to attend meeting on calendar.)