In this week’s edition of Things I Wish I Knew, New York lawyer Joleena Louis shares her top tips for overcoming procrastination in her solo practice.
Solo’s are busy people, so it’s easy to put things off when you don’t have the time, energy or desire to work on them. But procrastination can lead to attorney burnout and put your practice at risk for malpractice.
I consider myself to be somewhat of a time management ninja, but there are certain tasks and files that I always seem to put off until the last possible moment. This causes unnecessary stress and anxiety that could have been easily avoided if I dealt with the task appropriately in the first place.
Over time I’ve found a few techniques to limit my procrastination. While not foolproof, it’s certainly made me better at completing things that I don’t really want to do in a timely manner.
I hate doing certain administrative tasks, so I’ll delegate those to a virtual assistant. I’ve even hired law students (with my client’s permission) to help organize extensive discovery for trial. I know it can be difficult for solos to pay for things they feel they can easily do themselves but sometimes it’s worth it, but if nothing else it will free up your time for more important tasks.
Break Down The Task
Often it’s hard to get started on a project because it feels so overwhelming. So you keep putting it off instead of getting started. But if you break it down into smaller tasks, it will be much easier to make progress. Instead of putting “prepare for hearing” on your to-do list, break down exactly what you need to do. Then you can work on a little each day and not be overwhelmed.
After breaking down the task, create mini-deadlines for each thing you need to get done. Again, you can work on it in small steps and still stay on track for the final deadline. This will also help you to feel more productive. The simple act of crossing a task off your list will encourage you and highlight your progress.
Block Out Time
Another great way to get focused on a task you keep putting off is to block off some time and just do it. About once a month, I schedule a three-hour meeting with just myself and work on the things I’ve been avoiding. I turn off the phone, shut off the wi-fi and get it done.
Get Rid of the File
Lastly, if there is a certain file you dread working on, figure out how to get off the case. You are not helping your client if you hate working on the case, so it may be better for you both to part ways. This can also lead to a good opportunity to send a colleague a referral.
The most effective thing you can do is to figure out why you are procrastinating. Is it a time issue? Do you hate the case? Do you hate your job? Figuring out the root of the problem will help you find the best technique to combat it.