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The Secret Productivity Hacks of Successful Legal Professionals

  • December 24, 2019

As a legal professional, do you often find yourself derailed at work – from the frequent requests for client meetings to email messages, or seemingly endless caseloads and calls on your time?

It can sometimes feel like you’re being pulled in all directions the second you step into the office. So, focusing on using your time and energy effectively should be paramount to ensuring the success of your law firm, as well as your sanity.

In this article, I will share the secret productivity hacks top legal professionals use to make the most of their working day – they’ll work for you too!

1. Eat the Frog

Firstly, let’s start with one of the main time-consuming issues – that vast amount of paperwork you need to plough through. It may be a report you need to complete or a case you have to prepare; whatever it is, it looks daunting, and you, therefore, spend time ignoring it rather than tackling it head-on.

It was Mark Twain who coined the phrase ‘Eat the Frog’. The basic premise is that if you have a significant but slightly overwhelming task to complete, (i.e. your ‘frog’) – do it first thing in the morning.

Not only is it more likely your productivity levels will be higher earlier in the day, but it will mean you can get it off your desk and concentrate on other work without it looming at the back of your mind.

If you find it challenging to tackle substantial tasks in one sitting, try breaking them down into smaller chunks. Then eliminate all other distractions and make a stat. Sometimes once you’ve started, the rest comes easy. This is because of the dopamine rush we get when we feel productive, and you can harness this to get the job done.

2. Control Your Calendar

Online calendars are a useful tool when planning your time allocation – but be sure use them consistently. Leaving spaces where you have plans will indicate to others that you are available.

So, block out the time you need to tackle critical tasks – and (top tip) if you feel you need thinking time block that out as well. That way, you won’t be thwarted by an unexpected meeting request from a colleague.

3. Plan in Advance

As well as ensuring you have all your needed time blocked off on your calendar, planning is key to managing your productivity. Creating a smart to-do list will help you focus, and save time trying to juggle multiple tasks at the same time (spoiler: this never turns out well).

Getting into a habit is crucial – so, every evening, list five essential tasks you want to accomplish the next day. Doing this means you will already have your agenda when you arrive at the office in the morning.

Rank the tasks in order of importance (remember – Eat the Frog), so you are in control of what is essential, rather than what is pressing (or what sounds easy to tick off the list).

4. Manage the Ping

We are increasingly are overwhelmed with distractions from various connected devices, and legal professionals are no exception. With smartphone and tablet use increasing at a rapid rate, we now spend the equivalent of an entire day every week online.

Harvard Business Review reports that this reliance on our technology is stopping us focusing. And Stanford psychologist Emma Seppälä says: “By constantly engaging our stress response [when we check our phones], we ironically are impairing the very cognitive abilities — like memory and attention — that we so desperately need.”

Being in a perpetually hyperconnected state doesn’t allow us the opportunity to process, recharge and refocus our thoughts and energy. So, set aside specific times to check your phone messages, email and other digital distractions. For example, you could check incoming mail at 8 am, 2 pm and 5 pm.

And don’t forget to put your devices on silent.

5. Cut Meeting Time

Are you inviting just the essential people to your meetings? If not, you should be!

Countless studies, including this 2015 HBR research, have shown the benefits of smaller teams.

Focus and responsibility are more challenging to coordinate with a big group. And if you invite colleagues who are not critical to discussions, you will end up with half of the group staring silently at their laptops for the duration of the meeting.

Additionally, it’s worth considering stand up meetings – they are not for everyone, but they certainly cut down on time. If you can’t face the thought of a stand-up meeting, consider quick ten minutes catch-ups over coffee. That way, everyone doesn’t get settled in for the long haul in the boardroom, where scope creep can flourish.

6. Know When it’s Good Enough

Many legal professionals are just that – professional.

But sometimes it’s easy to slip into wanting to make everything perfect. And while I’m not suggesting you should cut corners, sometimes good really is good enough.

For example, if you’ve spent days working on a report and you know it’s finely crafted, ask yourself -will it make any difference if you send it to your senior partner now, or wait another night to tweak it even further? Is it good to go?

7. Don’t Forget to Delegate

Failure to delegate can result in overwhelm.

You don’t have to take on everything yourself. Your competent and professional legal team are there to help!

So, delegate work where you can. Not only will it free you up to concentrate on the critical cases, but it will also allow your paralegals to prove that they can be trusted to do a good job.

8. Remember to Take Time Out

It’s essential to allow yourself frequent breaks. Taking time away from your desk provides the opportunity to reflect, de-stress and recharge, leading to better levels of productivity.

Additionally, it’s critical to keep learning new things to expand your knowledge and creative thought. So, invest in lifelong learning – from training on how to use the new computer data programme in your law firm, to reading up on the latest legal cases and news in the Law Gazette.

Next Steps

I hope these hacks have provided you with some useful tips on managing productivity better to get the most out of your day.

If you’re reading this article because you are looking to develop your legal career, call one of the Clayton Legal team on 01772 259 121 and let’s have a conversation to explore your options.

About Clayton Legal

Clayton Legal has been partnering with law firms across the country since 1999 and during that time has built up an enviable reputation for trust and reliability. We have made over 5,000 placements from Partners to Legal Executives, Solicitors to Paralegals and Legal IT Personnel to Practice Managers.

If you are building your legal team or looking for your next career move, we can help. Call us on 01772 259 121 or email us here.

If you would like to know more about recruiting trends in the legal sector this year, download our latest guide here.

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