We are absolutely baffled by how much attorneys accomplish in the office and in the courtroom. When they take a 30-minute meeting with us, we are amazed that they even have time to think about their marketing strategy on top of all of their cases and all of their other stressors. But when we’ve talked to our most successful clients about how they run their office, we have learned that the difference between having time for a marketing plan and not having time for a marketing plan is often in the detail: how a lawyer tracks his or her time, or what a lawyer does during his or her commute.
How can you improve your approach to each day? Below, we’ve listed ten productivity hacks for attorneys that we’ve learned from working with lawyers over the years.
- Turn off your instant notifications and alerts. You might think that getting email notifications while you work and having your smartphone perched next to your desk makes you a better worker. But you are very wrong. Each time you receive an email notification and each time your phone buzzes, your brain is jarred out of its flow state. For busy attorneys, this can mean that you can’t go more than a minute or two without being interrupted. Yes, it’s important to be responsive and up-to-date. But that doesn’t mean you should be connected to the constant stream of emails entering your inbox 24 hours a day. When you need to focus on a project for a designated block of time, shut off the stream.
- Keep track of your time, even if it is not billable. Many attorneys are great at keeping track of their billable hours, but they never think to keep track of what they are doing at the office for the rest of the time. Doing so even for a few days or a week can be extremely illuminating. There are tons of great timekeeping apps especially useful for lawyers, such as iTimeKeep and Time Master + Billing. Try one out and see where your non-billable hours are disappearing to each day.
- Exercise. It may at first seem like exercise takes time away from your day, but you couldn’t be more wrong. Exercise, especially first thing in the morning, makes you more productive and energized throughout the day. It also improves your mood – almost immediately. You should also know that you don’t have to train for a marathon in order to garner the benefits of exercise. Even low-impact or moderate exercise like walking can help you be more productive, healthier, and happier in the office.
- Streamline Your Meetings. Attention attorneys: stop scheduling one-hour meetings. Instead, embrace the world of the 20- or 30-minute meeting. Experts have found that meetings will basically take the shape of their container: if you schedule an hour, it will last an hour. If you schedule 15 minutes, it will last 15 minutes – all with the same result. If you need to cover a lot of items during a meeting, just be sure to send out an email outlining each important point before everyone gathers or break the meeting into multiple shorter sessions.
- Use a productivity app. We’ve already talked about downloading an app to help you keep track of your time (billable and otherwise). However, there are also hundreds of apps that can keep you organized in other ways. Check out apps that help you keep to-do lists (like Things or Evernote) or apps that help you organize your thoughts (like Pocket or Dropbox). Harness the technology that is available to you to push yourself further and get more done.
- Find your peak brain time – and guard it. At this point in your life, you know when you are at your best. Perhaps you are a morning person who is ready to go as soon as you brush your teeth. Or perhaps you are most productive at night after the office or house is finally quiet and still. Either way, you should be sure to guard the time when you are most productive. This is the time to close your door, turn off your email alerts, hide your phone, and shut down your Internet browser. Use your peak brain time each day to tackle your biggest, most challenging, or most urgent task – and don’t let anyone get in the way of it.
- Utilize your commute. The average commute time in the United States is almost 25 minutes – one way. That’s an average of 50 minutes a day that you may not be putting to best use. This time is a perfect chance to take a short meeting (see above), think critically about a case, or streamline your to-do list for the day. Even listening to meaningful music or a book on tape will boost your productivity for the day.
- Say No to Perfectionism. Here’s a problem that many attorneys have in common: they are perfectionists. Although this can be an advantage in many circumstances, it can also be a huge blow to productivity when misused. Studies have shown that perfectionism is a roadblock to productivity. Simply put, 90 percent perfect is absolutely perfect enough and the last ten percent of perfection is often meaningless to others. In fact, perfectionism often totally stops us from completing goals and accomplishing what we’ve set out to do.
- Take advantage of “background processing.” Tackling a hard task all at once can be physically and mentally exhausting, and your productivity will go down precipitously if you work on something for too long. Take advice from the experts and switch between challenging projects and lighter tasks. Not only will the lighter tasks give you a breather, it will also allow your brain to work on the most challenging aspects of your hard projects in the background while you answer emails, file papers, or make calls. When you return to your challenging task, you will feel refreshed and your brain might have solved a few nagging problems for you while it was processing in the background.
- Put aside real time off, every day. It might sound counterintuitive, but research has proven the point again and again: taking time completely away from your work – including away from your smartphone – increases your overall productivity. How is that possible? Scientists believe that taking daily time away from work each day, as well as annual vacations, make you healthier, happier, and more rested — three things that prevent illness and burnout. So, plan a summer vacation and make time to hang out with your family each day without laptops or phones. It’s not just good for the body and soul, it is also good for productivity and business.
Here’s productivity hack #11: If you don’t have time to take control of your marketing plan, let us help. Call our team today to learn about how we can help you find your ideal client, through smart marketing — on and off of the web.