Your morning can set the productive tone for the rest of the work day. To help make sure you seize the day, here are the morning routines of five successful home-based solo lawyers.
Being a solo attorney comes with its own set of challenges, especially if you typically work in a home-based office.
One of the most important parts of any home-based lawyer’s day is the morning. It sets the tone for the rest of the workday. A productive morning will likely lead to a productive day, whereas an unproductive morning can lead to the opposite.
To help make sure you are getting off the best start possible, we asked five different successful home-based solo lawyers how they start their mornings.
Follow along to learn how these lawyers separate work and leisure in their home offices and use some of their strategies in your own daily routine.
Getting down to work is indeed challenging. It seems that with working at home, work can seep into every moment of the day.
I have found it very helpful at the beginning of the week, to designate certain periods, either whole days or part days as “workdays”, or “work mornings”, or “work 1:00 – 4:00 time”, etc. (I don’t intend to be working full-time).
I love my early morning alone time, and it is a constant struggle to stop reading the NYTimes and doing the crossword puzzle while eating a leisurely breakfast, and get down to work – especially as the week goes on and the NYT crossword gets progressively more difficult each day.
So on a “work” morning, I’ll set the timer on my cell phone for 45 minutes, and once the timer goes off, I stop and go up to my office. Of course, I sometimes beg (myself) for five minutes more, and five minutes more – but I limit it absolutely to one hour- so much so that I’ll force myself to stop in the middle of a page! If I didn’t dress before breakfast, I don’t even allow myself time to dress. I’ll do that instead on a break.
I do the same if I decide to do some gardening in the morning after breakfast, before legal work. I decide on a time, say 30 minutes, and again set the timer. Again, it is an absolute limit.
I don’t know what I would do without the timer on my cell phone!
I’m semi-embarrassed to say I am probably the worst example of a lawyer with a morning routine (being that I don’t actually have one).
Between the fact that I am a night owl (I think it’s a habit from when my kids were little; when they went to bed was the only time I had peace and quiet and “me” time) and my MS (one of my biggest challenges is the fatigue, so if I don’t get to bed at a decent time, I certainly don’t get up a decent time), I tend to be late to bed and late to rise. One of the things I have been working on this year (semi-successfully) is getting to bed by midnight on weekdays.
When I do get up, I struggle to start working right away unless I have an appointment or phone call scheduled or some other sort of external deadline. Sadly, I work well on deadlines (sadly, because I certainly don’t enjoy doing it), which results in more than a few very late nights (even by my standards).
But that’s one of the reasons my crazy mixed up world works for me – my time is flexible and one way or another the work gets done. I fully realize that as my practice picks up, I will need to become much more vigilant of how I handle and schedule my time.
I am a strong believer in to-do lists. I try to prepare lists during the week and check off items as assignments are completed. I also use Amicus Online to manage client files and try to keep track of client events that way.
If I am not in court or in a meeting with a client, I like to spend the morning returning phone calls and drafting correspondence and motions. I keep motivated by remembering the power of my choice to work for myself.
I don’t have a particular set routine for each morning. One thing I like to do is workout, I find that it wakes me up each day.
In also use a software tool called ToodleDo. ToodleDo is a task program and a great organization tool. I use it to organize both my thoughts and my ever-changing to-do list, which can help in the morning. But it is best for more broad-based tasks, not specific case-to-case tasks, for that I have other legal software. I like to use both exercise and various tools to help me get the day started, but they are not essential.
I’m not a morning person, so I’m usually angry when I hear my alarm go off. I’ve recently started meditating for 10 minutes as soon as I wake up, and it’s helped immensely. After meditating, I’ll go work out for 45 minutes.
After my workout, I’ll get dressed for the day, even if I’ll be working from home all day. It really gets me in the right mindset. Before checking email or social media, I review my to-do list and plug my tasks into my calendar.
*A pseudonym was used for this article.