How would you rate your time management? Are you on top of your deadlines, or do you constantly procrastinate and ask for extensions?
Whatever situation you find yourself in, improving your time management will enable you to become a more organised, productive, and less stressed lawyer!
In this blog, we explain how you can master your time management at work.
Step 1: Undertake a self-assessment
The best way to improve your time management is for you to sit down and figure out what aspects of time management you need the most help with.
Below is a self-assessment you can complete by answering either Yes, No, or Sometimes to the following questions:
- I always write a to-do list.
- I am good at prioritising tasks and dealing with interruptions.
- I always stay on top of my deadlines.
- I know how to delegate.
- I do not multitask.
- I do not have to work on weekends to catch up.
- I do not procrastinate.
If you answered Yes to at least five of the questions above, then it is likely that you have exemplary time management skills. If you did not, read on to learn more about how to manage your time more effectively.
Step 2: Take control of your emails
When you have an avalanche of unread emails, you tend to feel overwhelmed. It probably troubles you that so many people have taken the time to send you emails, and you have not responded.
This could also have a negative impact on your career as many clients will associate how responsive and available a lawyer is with how capable they are.
Here’s how you can stop your inbox from owning you. When you receive an email, do one of the following:
- Take action. If you can fulfil what the sender is asking for quickly (i.e. in one to ten minutes), do it immediately.
- Delegate it. This will help you focus on where you can add value as a lawyer. For instance, if a client is asking for a copy of an invoice receipt, pass the email on to your accounts department.
- Park it. This will only apply if you cannot delegate or action the email within a short time. Email the sender back and say that you will respond to their email within 28 to 48 hours.
Whatever option you may choose, it's important to then save the email into the file to which it relates. If you're a Smokeball user, you will already know that our email management feature allows you to automatically save emails and their attachments back to their applicable matter.
Step 3: Learn to delegate where appropriate
To be an effective lawyer, it is critical to understand what tasks you should delegate and which ones you need to handle. The reality is that there are only 24 hours in the day, and you cannot accomplish everything yourself.
To determine which tasks you can pass on to others, consider which ones are repetitive and administrative. They are perfect for you to delegate.
Some examples of tasks you may be able to delegate include:
- Collating and indexing pleadings and documents.
- Scheduling appointments.
- Handling accounts.
- Filing court documents.
- Drafting basic letters.
- Drafting marketing materials.
By passing these tasks on to a colleague, you can focus your attention on the tasks that require your legal acumen. You can even leverage Smokeball's Tasks & Workflows feature to assign tasks to anyone in the office and manage their progress.
Step 4: Track your time
Not accounting for your time because you are “too busy” may cause your time management and performance to be called into question.
Smokeball’s automatic time and activity tracking feature, AutoTime, can help you accurately track your time with ease. It removes the need to manually record your time for any work that you complete within Smokeball, as all this time is recorded and applied to the relevant matter automatically.
AutoTime also means that you can go back and review what tasks are taking up the most time and consider what measures you can put in place to tackle them more productively.
Step 5: Automate legal document creation
Do you find that you spend a significant amount of time manually completing the front pages of documents with basic information about your clients, which you cannot charge for on your timesheets?
Enter document automation. Smokeball comes with an in-built legal document drafting feature, so you can produce legal documents in seconds. Both simple and complex documents smartly use the matter information and data in your practice management software to save time and eliminate errors from inaccurate drafting. If firms have existing precedents that they have already created, it is possible to upload them to Smokeball and automate fields too.
Step 6: Don’t take on too much
Lawyers who have trouble managing their time often overcommit and accept matters that they do not have time for, which can lead to burnout.
If this is you - before accepting a new matter - consider the amount of free time you have and how much time your existing matters require. If taking on something else is going to make you miss a deadline, do not take on the matter, or alternatively ask for help.
In order to be the best lawyer you can be, you need to boost your time management at work.
Doing so will make you more effective, keep your health in check and set you up for professional success.