Time Management Tips Tuesdays Productivity: Getting the Best out of Time on Task
We at LAWPRO and practicePRO love checklists. When they include the key pieces, they work. They’ve been used to get people to the moon and back, for flying airplanes, for safe surgeries and for manufacturing processes. For a deeper dive about how checklists help people manage complex tasks, we love Atul Gawande’s The Checklist Manifesto.
Checklists work in the legal services sphere. Checklists:
- Are the legal services road map. They help us get from A to B with less hassle.
- Reduce our stress by ensuring that we already know what steps need to be taken and reduce the risk of us missing key steps along the way.
- Free up our brain power to focus less on what needs to be done, and on the higher value strategic work about how it will be done.
- Enhance pro-active practices which bake regular client updates and diarizing of key deadlines into day to day legal practice.
- Can be shared across legal departments and with clients to help collaboration and a shared understanding of the legal project plan.
See practicePRO for sample checklists you can adapt to your practice needs.
Avoid Multitasking – Single-task!
The evidence is clear – multitasking is simply not an effective use of time. In Company of One: Why Staying Small is the Next Big Thing for Business, author and entrepreneur Paul Jarvis cites a Microsoft research study that found that multitasking reduced productivity by as much as 40%. Multitasking increases anxiety and prevents you from focusing on one thing. It also takes away some of the joy of work, including your ability to find your work flow, where you are contentedly immersed in your work.
Avoid Interruptions (Where Possible)
Interruptions happen. But minimizing them where possible helps enhance workflow and productivity. Jarvis cites a University of California study it takes over 20 minutes on average, to get back to a task when we’re interrupted. For a lawyer considering strategies and options for a client, engaged in detailed legal drafting, or otherwise in deep dive work, this interruption not only interrupts good work flow, but often ends it. It’s difficult to find your flow.
To avoid interruptions, set yourself up for success by turning off notifications, single tasking, and following more tips below.
Protect Your Calendar: Block Time to Get Tasks Done
Block time in your calendar to do key tasks. Set your calendar as busy. Protect your time to get key tasks done.
Overestimate Time on Task
Time management is a balancing act – it’s better to err on the side of caution and budget more time rather than less when trying to complete a task. A “beat the clock” session may add pressure but can cause avoidable anxiety and contribute to errors caused by rushing. Give yourself the time to do tasks right.
Try Batch Work
Try batching work where there are similar routine tasks. For example, check your emails at a particular time of day so that you’re not hopping off of one thing to another. Or perhaps you can schedule a day that’s just focused on drafting or only meetings so you free up the rest of your calendar.
Schedule focused work time, with breaks
When you dive deep into work, you also need to come back up for air. Breaks rejuvenate us and help us be more productive. There are different techniques to find a rhythm that enables you to maximize focus, and then take a break to recharge.
The Pomodoro Technique: 25 minutes on task five minutes off task. Repeat 4 times (2 hours total). Then take a longer (15-20 minute) break. Begin again.
The 52/17 Rule: 52 minutes on task, 17 minute break.
Using these approaches enables us to focus on our work and take down time. Explore these approaches to see what works for you.