Five Time Management Tips for Young Lawyers

Sep

13

Five Time Management Tips for Young Lawyers

With e-mails, phone calls, text messages, news alerts, and social media, there are more ways than ever to be distracted from completing the task at hand. These interruptions are incessant, with each vying for your immediate attention on any number of issues. Here are some tips to help you power through your day so you can make the most of your time away from the office:

  • Minimize interruptions. One of the most effective ways to make your time on the clock count is to reduce the number of interruptions that break your focus and slow you down. Instead of checking your e-mails continuously throughout the day, check your e-mails at set intervals, such as every half hour or every hour. While it may seem like it will take longer to answer the pile of e-mails you have accumulated, it will actually save you time throughout the day and will not disrupt your concentration by reading a new message every few minutes. In addition, silence your phone and avoid checking social media or the news, except at specific intervals.
  • Manage your calendar. At a set time each week, sit down with a printed copy of your calendar and look at all of the deadlines coming up over the next two weeks. Having a visual reminder of all of the tasks you need to complete will help you identify and prioritize the most pressing deadlines, estimate how long it will take you to work through each assignment, and avoid surprises. While there will always be true emergencies, planning and working ahead will help you to handle emergencies without neglecting other deadlines. Whenever possible, build in more time to complete the task than you think will be necessary. This not only gives you time to deal with truly urgent matters, but it gives your client or supervising attorney a little extra time to review your work product.
  • Block out time and adhere to your own schedule. Some of the most effective lawyers, even those who have been practicing for 30 years, set appointments to focus on a particular case. These attorneys actually block out time on their calendars to work on a specific assignment. They treat these appointments just as they would any other meeting or court appearance and are unavailable to take phone calls, answer e-mails, or receive visitors. When intense concentration is especially critical, it may be helpful to relocate to a conference room to avoid any additional distractions.
  • Manage expectations. This can be difficult for young lawyers, particularly if they are just starting a new job. However, it is also critically important if you want to keep your supervising attorney and clients happy. When given a new assignment, briefly discuss a realistic deadline for completing the project. It may be uncomfortable to tell the supervising attorney that you have other deadlines that must be addressed first, but you will be grateful that you had that conversation before starting the assignment. Otherwise you will risk dealing with a supervising attorney who thinks you are ignoring his or her work.
  • Start your day with the most demanding task. It is easy to put off the most demanding, difficult, or annoying task. You are not particularly excited about doing the work, and it may be a time-consuming exercise. In reality, starting (and completing) the most difficult task at the beginning of your day will give you a boost and a sense of accomplishment, and all of the other tasks for the rest of the day won’t be as difficult. Get in the habit of prioritizing the thing you are least excited about doing, and you will start to see progress with your to do list.

Maria Vigilante is an elected representative from the 20th Judicial Circuit. She is an associate with the law firm of Cheffy Passidomo, P.A. in Naples and practices in the area of commercial litigation.

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