What we say: There’s never enough hours in the day.
What we mean: I’m really poor at managing my time.
Time management is one of the pillars of creating and sustaining a profitable law practice, but controlling the work clock isn’t an innate human skill. Babies and toddlers and young children have no sense of time, and that’s true of millions and millions of adults, too.
Distractions are everywhere. The phone, the computer, the shiny thing over in the corner. Our days are filled with distractions, and we often find ourselves switching from one distraction to another while what we should be focusing on is ignored.
Here at Atticus we know how hard it can be to stay on task, but there are things you can do to make you a better time manager.
When you get into the office each morning, make it a point to get your email inbox to zero. Think of it as triage and use the “Four D” approach: do, delay, delegate or delete. If it’s something that needs to be done today, do it. If time isn’t of the essence, delay it. If someone else can do it, delegate it. And if it’s an offer for the latest gadget you don’t want or need, delete it.
Getting your inbox to zero is a great way to reset your day. Once it’s at zero, turn off the sound so you don’t hear the new email chime and be tempted to be distracted.
When that is done, go over your daily focuser, a one-page checklist that helps keep important tasks at the top of your mind:
- Meet with key assistants. Keep everyone on point.
- Identify the three most important tasks of the day, and describe what three actions you’ll take when those jobs are done.
- Ask for a referral. Always, always, always.
- Prepare tomorrow’s daily focuser.
There you go. Your day has direction and purpose. To take advantage of your marching orders, create and use a power hour.
Eliminate all distractions and give orders that you’re not to be disturbed. The power hour is your time to work on those three tasks, and if you’re not interrupted it’s easier to get into the zone, or flow state, where you lose all track of time while you work.
First, shut your door. An open door is seen as an invitation for interruptions. Move the guest chair away from your desk, which discourages interrupters from sitting down and talking, talking, talking.
Distractions aren’t just annoying, they cost you money. A Fast Company study found that it takes an interrupted worker 23 minutes and 15 seconds to get back on task. The only acceptable interruption is the fire marshal telling you to clear out of the office — or there is an emergency with your spouse or partner.
Your staff must buy in and manage “emergencies” that aren’t really emergencies at all. It might take a little time to get everyone on the same page, but fixing your time management can make your day better — and your bottom line bigger.