Tips for Effective Time Management

  • February 15, 2018
  • Zainub Ishaq

Between the long hours at the office, dealing with the stress of interacting with clients, all the while juggling the responsibilities of a personal life, apart from work, lawyers are some of the most industrious workers in this day and age. With all of that responsibility, every minute counts. Here are some simple tips to help you manage your minutes.

Early Bird Catches the Worm

We’re all familiar with the disheartening feeling of waking up to face a grueling day or even those easy days that bear the same, monotonous routine; making the commute to work, working and then arriving home, just for it to repeat all over again. But then, every five days, the glory of the weekends is upon us, with its late nights with even later mornings.

But, the burdens of life aren’t going to lessen from the bed. Waking up early, fresh and rejuvenated, is the best way to start your day. Studies have shown that early-risers have reduced stress levels, improved mental fitness and are more productive throughout the day. Getting up early is also a great way to fit in a little morning workout, to get you pumped for the day. If exercising isn’t your thing, heading to work early, and getting a head start on your day, isn’t such a bad idea either.

One-Touch Email

Jeremy Martin of Cassels Brock & Blackwell LLP suggests what he likes to call a ‘one-touch’ email: lawyers get a truckload of emails on a daily basis - emails they'd like to think a bit about before responding. Maybe too much. Jeremy suggests that once you open an email, deal with it as soon as you can. That way time isn’t wasted thinking about it, and re-reading it multiple times.

Just Do It

Mark Twain famously said, “If it's your job to eat a frog, it's best to do it first thing in the morning. And if it's your job to eat two frogs, it's best to eat the biggest one first.” This quote forms the basis of Brian Tracy’s book, ‘Eat that Frog! 21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time’. Start everyday by completing the one task you despise the most. By finishing the most distasteful, tiring or boring job first, you not only get it out of the way, but you also get the best emotional launch pad for knocking off the rest of your to-do list.

Take a Break

Sometimes we immerse ourselves in our work so much that we lose sight of what’s really important. Life isn’t just all about work and it’s important to set aside time to do things you love, whether it be to curl up with a good book and some coffee, or watch ‘Frozen” for the nth time with your kids.

Taking a break is essential for your mental health. Breaks are scientifically proven to help you focus, make connections and retain information. But that’s not to say that you should skip out on work just so you can fit in another ten-minute break. Breaks should be modest periods of times between regular work intervals where you can take a brisk walk or look at cute cat photos. Something to help you relax.

Planning Ahead

It may be an overstatement to say that planning ahead is the holy grail of time management, but planning ahead is the holy grail of time management. Outlining your plan for the day the night before, making reasonable to-do lists and then following through make all the difference in your productivity. Jumping from task to task really doesn’t work in your favor. It takes your brain roughly 20 minutes to adapt to changes in your work environment. Group your work together based on the similarity of the tasks, which will help cut back on time wasted.

Another way to plan ahead was suggested by Crown lawyer Robin Flumerfelt. Lawyers are confronted with dozens of issues daily.  A key to organization and time management is to immediately “process” each issue in one of four ways:

  • If it can be disposed of in a minute or two, do it immediately. 
  • If it needs to be done at (or by) a specific date, enter it in your calendar (with a reminder). 
  • If it doesn’t have a specific date but needs to be done at some point, add it to your “to-do” list. 
  • And last but not least, if it should be delegated, delegate it!   

Do Not Disturb

Ever find yourself working super hard, getting things done, until you hear a Ping! on your phone, and lo and behold, hours have gone by with your neck having been bent over your phone, drooling over the latest iProduct and not doing what you’re supposed to?

Your phone is your biggest distraction. And when you’re trying to get work done, it should be gone; turned off and put away. You shouldn’t even be able to see it. Like they say, out of sight, out of mind. For some in-depth advice on how to minimize the distractions of your phone and some insight on the effects of multitasking on stress be sure to check out our CPD program on “Technology and its Distractions: Reducing Digital Overload” here.

Hard work is a recognizable badge of honor that comes with being a good lawyer, but that doesn’t mean every moment must be one of hair-wrenching anxiety. Learning to effectively manage your time while juggling life’s responsibilities is a skill required to achieve success. 

About the author

Zainub Ishaq is a marketing intern at the Ontario Bar Association.