Your ability to get and stay organized is critical to being an effective and productive lawyer. Time management is nothing more than a disciplined approach to planning and executing what you need to accomplish. It’s all about doing things right and doing the right things. If you don’t have good time management skills, your days will be reactive – that is, responding to phone calls and emails as they come in, looking for files and other documents, and working last minute to complete projects. Your time management process should include organizational skills, technology that keeps you on track, and planning tools that help you prioritize and determine what you should be doing at any point in time.

Here’s What a Time Management Process Should Include...

  • Responding to Phone Calls

    If you respond to phone calls as they come in, your day will be largely reactive and unstructured. Set aside times during the day to respond to phone calls and group your calls into high and low priority calls - schedule your high priority calls twice in the morning and twice in the afternoon. Make your low priority calls during your low energy periods during the day or when you have a few minutes before lunch or a meeting. Try to make unpleasant calls first thing in the morning – otherwise, you will delay making them and you will be distracted from what you should be working on.

  • Juggling the Influx of e-Mails

    You need a process to deal with e-mails. Otherwise, you’ll respond to emails as you receive them and your day will be consumed with emails. For example: delete junk e-mails first; second, review and deal with e-mails that take less than 30 seconds; third, forward emails to someone who can handle them for you; and fourth, defer dealing with e-mails that require thought and analysis until you have time to address them. Instead of keeping your e-mails in your inbox, use folders to organize them by client, topic or projects.

  • Managing the Paper Flow

    You need a system to deal with each piece of paper that comes into your office. Otherwise your desk will be piled with papers and you’ll waste time looking for things you need. Review each document as it comes into your office and determine what action you need to take with it, if any. Decide where to store the document until you need to work on it. Clean off your desk each day to keep yourself organized and focused on your paper handling system.