|Time to get to the point |
Nine steps to taking control of your day
By Martin Probst, Director at PROfound Coaching
Are you busy right now? Have you already fallen behind your schedule for today? Are you hoping this will be a short blog, so you can return to catching up on things? All right, let me get to the point…
We need to stop time from managing us. We need to manage time or should I correctly say, manage ourselves better? Let’s face it – we all have 24 hours per day, whether we like it or not.
Are you Guilty?
The most obvious time management stumbling blocks for lawyers are:
Being reactive rather than proactive
Studies show only 20 per cent of time is spent on the important activities, 80 per cent is spent on things that get very low or no results. For example, many lawyers (and other professionals) are guilty of producing documents in lieu of action.
Rereading the same information again and again without taking action,
Many people keep and file away information, only to toss it out 6 months later.
Having an “open door” policy.
Somebody interrupting anyone else any time they want is a sure way of wasting everybody’s time and energy.
They tempt us to do the least important (or easiest) things first.
No daily planning
A good plan tells us what to do every day, week and month; it defines our course of action and avoids duplication of labour. Another time waster in this category are meetings that occur without an established objective.
If you’re constantly busy and feel stressed by sentences like: “I have no time”, “I ran out of time” or “I need more time” - stop trying to do everything RIGHT NOW, and take a step back.
The following quote from Harvey MacKay might be appropriate: “Time is free, but it’s priceless. You can’t own it, but you can use it. You can’t keep it, but you can spend it. Once you’ve lost it you can never get it back.”
Time to Act!
How well you use your 24 hours per day mainly depends on your skills, planning, strategies, evaluation and self-control. There is really only one secret to time management: discipline and organisation. Here are my nine top tips:
Write down your to-do-list as per usual, but then select the 6 most important things you need to do today. Those things that will need to get done, no matter what. The important and urgent stuff.
2. Stop Procrastinating
Mark Twain once said that if the first thing you do each morning is to eat a live frog, you can go through the day with the satisfaction of knowing that this is probably the worst thing that is going to happen to you all day long. Your “frog” is your biggest, most important task, the one you are most likely to procrastinate on if you don’t do something about it.
3. Say No
It is a simple fact that you can never be productive if you take on too many commitments. You simply spread yourself too thin and won’t get anything done on time – or at all. As a lawyer, you constantly get requests for your time; via phone, email or in person. If you want to stay productive and minimize stress, you need to learn the art of saying no .
4. Make Quick and Smart Decisions
I agree that for very critical, strategic decisions with high stakes or financial impact, you should indeed take more time and know your facts thoroughly. For the average day-to-day issue of a successful lawyer, however, you need to make relatively quick decisions once you have gathered the critical information. Slow decision-making can murder your momentum, especially during developing opportunities and crisis situations. The famous quote by Andy Andrews: “Successful people make their decisions quickly and change their minds slowly. Failures make their decisions slowly and change their minds quickly.”
5. No to Perfectionism
Perfection is impossible to achieve and can therefore not be measured. It is however amazing how many people spend an incredible amount of time and effort to be perfect. There is and will always be a better, quicker way to do things. Just think of all the gadgets that have developed in businesses over time. And even if you think something is perfect, that’s just your opinion. I am certain that somebody else could argue differently.
6. Delegate If You Can
Not all tasks can be delegated, but do not mistake delegation for weakness. If the task is repetitive for example, or a mistake or wrong decision can be reversed quickly and easily, by all means delegate. Delegation is a very good method of giving practical training to staff, and gives us more time to concentrate on more important issues .
7. Touch it once
Research shows that re-reading the same information wastes six weeks per year. Every time you touch something, do something with it. Either finish it, leverage/delegate it, create a file, move it to the next step or throw it away.
8. Stay focussed & motivated
Sticking to your list will help you stay focused. Create in-baskets and communication forms to use instead of being continually interrupted, or put a STOP sign on your office door or back of chair. To stay motivated, never keep doing the same task for too long, try to make your work environment more attractive (maybe with your favourite cartoon or motivational quote), make a list of unpleasant tasks that you have completed and pin them up, or reward yourself once you have done a job well.
9. Stop talking
Steer clear of chatterboxes, and keep phone conversation brief and to the point. How much time do you spend chatting to people each day? Meetings can be a time where people ramble on about issues that could in fact be resolved in 10 minutes. Each meeting, even a weekly catch up, should have established objectives and an agenda.
Be aware that not everything we do truly matters. Too many little tasks that are blaring at us every single day appear to be urgent but are in fact unimportant and distract us from what is more important. Therefore we must learn to prioritise, let go of things that we can’t control and invest that time in the things we can control. As singer John Lennon said, “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.”