The phrase “work smarter, not harder” is famous for a good reason. Putting the adage into practice has the power to transform how lawyers can get more done and capture higher than the average of 2.8 billable hours in a workday. To increase profits, keep your sanity, and put out more work, use these tips to improve your productivity—because sometimes list-making and caffeine just aren’t enough.
1. Automate as much as possible
You know all those administrative tasks that somehow always manage to take up more time than you thought they would? Those are the tasks that can be handled through automation and technology. Rather than spending valuable time manually sending invoices one by one or looking through the system to see which invoices are overdue so you can send a reminder, invest in the right tools to do it for you.
The money you’ll spend can quickly be recovered with all the extra hours you have available to do true legal work, now that you’re no longer spending all your time on the day-to-day of running a practice.
When you feel like you’re the one best suited to handle a certain task, it can make it hard to give it to someone else to do. But the only way to truly grow and give your best energy to priority tasks is to delegate where you can. Even though you may be able to get something done in half the time as someone else, it doesn’t always mean it’s the best use of your time.
Consider what you could be making in that time if you were instead working on billable hours or how much more refreshed and ready to tackle your workload you’d feel if you weren’t devoting so much time to every moving part.
3. Schedule to eliminate distractions
Emails, phone calls, random office pop-ins—all of these distractions can make it difficult to get much done. Some of the most productive people in the world attribute their ability to accomplish so much to having designated, focused time to work only on specific tasks. Some lawyers do this by blocking off time on their calendar so their team knows not to schedule meetings or to disturb them. Others simply close their door or use a sign to let others know not to interrupt.
So turn off your ringer, shut down your email, and get to work. All of those notifications will be waiting for you when you’re finished but the difference is that when you address them, you’ll have already completed key billable tasks.
4. Work when you’re at your best
Nobody knows you better than yourself. We often hear we’re supposed to not be working at 11 pm or that first thing in the morning is meant for answering emails and fielding calls. But the truth is that you’ll get more done if you do it when you’re at your best.
Even if you have specific hours you need to be in the office, you can schedule your day to the best of your ability so you can work when you’re at your prime. For example, if you’re a morning person, try to schedule meetings and calls for the afternoon and keep the earlier hours reserved for critical-thinking projects.
5. Set priorities
The key to getting done what you need to do is to set priorities and filter out the rest. Before you wrap up for the day, try to create a list of critical items that have to be completed for the next day. Keep this list separate from all of the small “to-do” tasks that will inevitably arise and make sure you focus on getting these list items done the following day.
By having the list already created, you’ll be headed into the office knowing what your most important goals are, giving you a focus to keep coming back to no matter how many times other projects, questions, and client requests arise.
Eliminating distractions, focusing on key tasks, and delegating work where possible will leave you getting significantly more work done in less time. As a lawyer, there’s always going to be unexpected scenarios that arise that mean you can’t always work on what you had planned. Having the plan will mean you have a concrete foundation to keep going back to and with time, these productivity boosters will become part of your daily habits, showing you don’t necessarily have to work more hours to get more done.
Want to get your firm ready to keep up with your new heightened productivity? Check out 7 Steps to Jumpstart Your Law Practice in 2019.