In this week’s edition of Things I Wish I Knew, Joleena Louis discusses her favorite time management methods for solo attorneys and how each has benefited her practice.
As a solo attorney I have a lot on my plate and typically have a million things going on at once.
It can sometimes be difficult to practice law, run my practice, network, and maintain some semblance of a personal life. I often find one thing colliding with another if I neglect managing each part of my practice.
Since starting my practice, I have tried many ways to manage my time, and these are the methods that have worked best for me.
1. GTD/Weekly Review
One of the biggest improvements to my time management system was applying aspects of David Allen’s Getting Things Done method.
Stephen Furnari gave me the book for Christmas and it has been very helpful in keeping me organized. The method is basically to capture, process, organize, do, and then review.
I set aside two hours a week to do this, usually on Friday afternoon so I know what I need to do the following week. I go through my physical and digital inbox, review my calendar and do a “mind dump” and write everything I need to do for the week on a master list.
I also keep a client list handy because seeing the names reminds me of things I need to do in relation to that particular client.
2. 1-3-5 Rule
Next I break down my master to-do list into a mini list for each day using the 1-3-5 rule.
Everyday I choose 1 big thing, 2 medium things and 3 small things. In the beginning it was really hard for me to limit my list. There is always so much to do, so I had very long and unrealistic daily to do lists and many small tasks just never got done.
By keeping my list to 9 things, with varying priorities, it’s easier to get my entire list done every day.
3. Time Blocking
Time blocking is assigning specific tasks to specific blocks of time. Most people put their appointments and court appearances on their calendars, but I also find it helpful to put my to-do list.
Since my days can change on short notice, I usually do this the night before.
Not only does this force me to review my to do list, it also forces me to put a time limit on each task. My day is more structured because I know what I need to do and when, and I can see if I can realistically accomplish what I planned to do. In the beginning you will have to guess how long things will take, but you will quickly be able to determine actual times.
I’m not the greatest at tracking my billable time, so this comes in handy if I forget to record something. It also helps to keep me focused; if I know I only have two hours to work on a motion I’ll be less likely to get distracted.
This has by far been the best time management method for my practice. I get more work done in less time. I can easily get what would normally take me 60 hours to do in a week down to 40 hours. Occasionally, things come up and I can’t stick to the schedule, but I can easily move that blocked item to another day.Using #timeblocking helps @JoleenaLouisLaw get more work done in less time. Click To Tweet
I use this technique on days that I have a lot of writing and very little focus.
The pomodoro technique is when you set a timer and work until it goes off, then you get a timed break. I’ll usually do 25 minutes with a 5 minute break, and after 4 cycles give myself a longer 10-15 minute break.
It’s easy to focus during the 25 minutes because I know I have a break coming up. So when my phone pings it’s easier to ignore it.
These time management hacks have helped make my practice more efficient and helps me get everything done. I’m not perfect and there are weeks when I don’t do these things, and those are the weeks I’m overwhelmed and off track. These techniques keep me organized and sane.