Find out how to manage productivity obstacles in your law practice so your time doesn’t slip away unnoticed.

Mastering productivity is critical to the quality of your work and life – and it can be a serious challenge. This post is the second in a 3-part series designed to guide you through the fundamentals. The first part offered 5 Steps to Organize Projects and Increase Productivity in Your Law Practice. The final part covers how to manage others to cultivate productivity.

When you feel like you need at least 25 hours in every day, sleep has become an elusive concept, and you’re missing important deadlines; it’s time to stop fighting with chaos over control of your time. After all, you own it and chaos is stealing it from you.

Time management is the process of repeatedly answering the question: How do I divide and use my time to attain my goals? At its core, it is about making choices and prioritizing tasks to attain the most important goals first. Decision-making is difficult when you are forced to consider whether to eliminate an unnecessary task that serves as an emotional crutch, like double-checking the work of colleagues, who have demonstrated their trustworthiness or give priority status to an unpleasant or burdensome task. Priority status should be given to projects and tasks that are important for you to attain your vision or success and related goals.

Your colleagues and clients will judge your competence on the basis of what they observe and how you manage your time has myriad observable components. Time management, in the eyes of your colleagues and clients, is the optics of how you prioritize your tasks and follow through on your promises. People tend to make decisions about your character and competency as a lawyer based on what they notice, which is whether you do what you promise, when you promise, and in a manner that appears as though you are well-rested, relaxed, and confident. Whether your deliver what you promised, when you promised and whether you appears calm or frazzled, people will draw conclusions about your character and personal brand by those actions. It’s one way that people decide whether you are a trusted advisor, which should be your aim.

If you can identify your time management obstacles and address them, you will be well on your way to becoming a trusted advisor in the minds of your colleagues and clients. Time management obstacles are often invisible because they seem to be about something other than how we use our time. They tend to be about fundamental preferences about how we live our lives without thinking.

Note these 8 common obstacles to time management:

  1. Preferring not to plan in advance and to keep options open;
  2. Adopting an overly rigid stance and feeling uncomfortable changing a written-time-management schedule when change will best support you in achieving your goals;
  3. Failing to plan for time to relax or to do the activities that are an expression of your identity so that you recharge and are able to focus effectively on work-related challenges;
  4. Failing to accurately identify and address urgent interruptions by over-identifying or under-identifying them. How frequently are you checking email? How much time lapses before you respond to a client? How often much time do you allow to lapse before checking in on a client that is quiet?
  5. Striving for perfection when unnecessary;
  6. Not clearly identifying goals and tasks on an annual, monthly, weekly, and daily basis;
  7. Not scheduling time for time management; and
  8. Putting too much on your “to do” lists.

Use the questions below to identify and plan to address your time management challenges.

  1. What are your biggest time management challenges?
  2. How does this affect your ability to live the life you want to live?
  3. How do these challenges affect your ability to build business or lead effectively?
  4. What one thing can you to right now to address your biggest time management challenge?

Years of coaching teams and individuals has convinced me that assigning goals and tasks to due dates on a month, weekly, and daily basis is helpful and easy to do using any calendar function, like Outlook, Apple’s Calendar, or a paper calendar. A daily “To Do” list helps most people keep track of and complete tasks. Ultimately, good time management translates with a daily “to do” list that changes everyday. A good test of whether you have included appropriate time management into any project management plan is to fill in the blanks of the following sentence: If it is (insert date), then I will (insert action). If you know what you should be doing everyday to complete your projects on time, then you have included appropriate time management planning.