The Five Biggest Time Sucks and How Lawyers Can Avoid Them – SL@P.
When it’s time to get to work, naturally, the first thing I do is to sit down at my desk. Then, I get my computer started up, organize my desk and work on opening all the documents and programs that I need to function. Simultaneously I’m checking voicemails and brewing coffee. Finally, 20 or 30 minutes later, I’m ready to really sit down at my desk and get started on my work. The next thing I know it’s 11:30 a.m. and I feel like I’ve barely accomplished anything. I’ve certainly been busy since I walked through the doors of my office, but my to-do list is just as long, or longer, as it was when I started. Does this happen to you, too?
Perhaps you are falling victim to the five biggest time wasters. Know them, recognize them, and save that valuable time for the important stuff, like getting out of the office at a decent hour!
I’d be willing to wager that your desk currently looks like it was hit by a tornado or some other equally devastating natural disaster. It must be some sort of flaw inherent to lawyers, because it seems like we’re all guilty of having a cluttered desk. This is a tough one to tackle because we often need to keep files close-by because we’re working on several cases simultaneously. If you’re spending a few minutes just tracking down each file (and all of its contents) each time there’s something that needs to be handled, then it may be time for a new approach. What about a cabinet dedicated just to matters that need to be addressed that week? Or perhaps a small organizer on your desk to hold the files that contain your week’s work? Admittedly, staying organized takes time, but once you have a process in place, you won’t constantly waste time attempting to unearth the things that you need to get your work done.
Fielding Phone Calls.
No, you can’t avoid all of your phone calls, but if you really need to, say, finish those interrogatories or draft that brief, then you cannot spend all of your time picking up the phone. It is not only disruptive to the project that you’re working on, but sometimes creates new problems that need your immediate attention, further distracting you from your original task. If you have an assistant, have your calls held and set aside time to make phone calls, unless it is an absolute emergency. If you don’t, set up a custom voicemail message that you are in the office but unavailable at the moment and that you will be returning calls later in the day. Be sure to set aside some time once you’re done with the task at hand to return the calls you missed. Not only will you be able to complete your original project faster without the distraction of phone calls, but you’ll also be able to give your full attention to the clients on the phone.
You knew it was coming. We’re all guilty of spending a few minutes here and there checking Facebook, Twitter or other social media sites. You can keep telling yourself that it’s for the news, but we all know that we’re not only reading the news but catching up with friends, looking at photos or playing games. While it’s not a problem to sparingly use social media during your workday (sparingly, I said!), you may find yourself mindlessly opening a site each time you have a lull in your day and wasting a few minutes here and there a few times an hour. These minutes add up and can lead to a lot of lost work time. If you find yourself spending too much time during the workday using social media, try to limit social media use to lunch or break times only. If you truly cannot control yourself from checking certain social media sites, then block them from your computer and wait until you get home to catch up on the day’s social media events.
Shooting the Breeze.
It is awesome when you are able to connect with other folks in your office on a personal level. Not only does it make your work environment more enjoyable, but it builds a collegial workplace that’s good for employees and clients alike. However, you may find yourself chatting about sports, politics or celebrity gossip to the detriment of your work. I’m not suggesting going full-on hermit, but try to limit non-work-related conversation to lunch or break times. Put in your headphones or close your office door so you won’t be tempted. Not only is over-socializing with a coworker a time waste for you, it is a time waste for them, and it leads to a less productive office as a whole.
How convenient is email? Type up your question, send it off to someone else, and wait for their reply. Yes, sometimes interoffice email can save time. But what about when the response you receive is not what you were expecting, or just leads to more questions? Or how about when you really need the information you’ve requested so that you can include it in whatever you’re working on and you end up waiting for hours or even a day (gasp!) for a response? Sometimes a quick phone call or short meeting saves more time than crafting an email and waiting for a response. If you need to have a written record that a meeting or conversation took place, it’s simple to send a recap email as a follow-up.
In the legal profession, it often seems like we never have a moment to spare. By recognizing the biggest time wasters, you can stay ahead of your workload and run a more productive office.
Jared Pierce hung his own shingle right out of law school and has spent every minute since then discovering the joys and difficulties of chasing success. Anyone who has ever met Jared will tell you h