Productivity Round-Up 2021: Apps and Hacks for Lawyers

Legal Apps and Hacks 2021

As we head further into 2021, we’re all excited about things (slowly) opening back up again. The promise of a new, new normal comes with a massive sigh of relief—and a whole lot of distractions when it’s time to get work done when working from home.

Last year, a lot of focus went into the essential tools that make remote work possible. This year, as most lawyers will likely continue some level of remote work, the focus is more on how to maximize productivity from the home office.

We’ve put together a list of a few apps and hacks to help you through.

CloudApp

CloudApp records your screen and webcam into a single video, providing the context of your facial expressions and voice inflections as you talk through what’s on your screen. (Think of how when you minimize Zoom or do a screen share, the person speaking still appears in a small box in the corner.)

CloudApp allows you to make a video of yourself talking about what’s on your screen, including marking it up and then sending the video as a URL. Or just a video of you talking. Or a GIF.

If you’ve ever stressed over the wording of an email you didn’t want to have come off in the wrong way or spent way too much time writing out detailed steps in a message, CloudApp is for you. It lets your intention come through in your tone and facial expressions—decreasing the stressors of miscommunication—and it saves valuable time for both the writer and the reader of long, intensely-detailed emails.

And as the name suggests, CloudApp doesn’t involve tedious uploads. In fact, it doesn’t involve any uploads. Instead, it saves directly to the cloud, so you’re only sending a link. CloudApp does offer a free version, though video recordings are limited to 90 seconds, and the video quality is standard, not high-def.

Solutions App

If you’re using a modern practice management system, it likely comes with a solutions app. Definitely take full advantage of this feature for organizational hacks like keeping track of emails, quickly finding unbilled items, and an integrated calendar.

Also, look for your practice management system’s solutions app to cover your time tracking. If your system is cloud-based, it should sync across devices, allowing for on-the-go time tracking from your phone, too.

The bottom line is that your practice management system—and its accompanying app—should function as an office assistant by helping you keep everything organized.

Pomodoro Technique

It’s also worth recognizing that sometimes the barrier to greater productivity is, well, us.

In the sweep of evolutionary history, it’s only very, very recently that reading documents and working at a computer has become part of the average human day. So our brains have spent thousands of years emphasizing the importance of noticing a flicker of movement off to the side or planning the next meal—and not, say, reading documents.

This is to say that focus struggles are real and biological—and not some moral failing. So along with a healthy dose of self-forgiveness, it helps to make use of hacks that can trick your mind into staying focused.

The Pomodoro Technique is one such popular option. How it works:

  • Work for 25 minutes.
  • Take a 5-minute break where you stand up and walk away from your desk.
  • Then work for another 25 minutes.
  • After 4 cycles (each cycle being 25 minutes of work, followed by a 5-minute break), take an extended break of 15-30 minutes.

The trick to making it work is to actually enforce the time limits. Stop at twenty-five minutes, even if you’re halfway through a sentence. It sounds counterintuitive, but after a couple of rounds of having to stop midway through, you’ll find yourself working hard during those twenty-five minutes.

Likewise, you need to respect your short breaks. It’s important to actually get up and walk away from your desk (not stay seated, scanning the news or social media). Grab some water, step outside, stretch your arms over your head. Breaks are body-focused time.

The Pomodoro Technique is intended for when you have long stretches of self-directed work. It obviously won’t work for the morning when you have a bunch of Zoom calls scheduled. But if you have a few hours where you’ll be working in front of your computer solo—reviewing a contract, researching, responding to emails—then it can be immensely helpful in letting you work with your biology to get the most out of your time.

There are a plethora of Pomodoro-specific timers out there. Or you can use your phone.

Identify your needs

Ultimately, more productive working will come at least in part from recognizing where you’re least efficient in your workflow—part of the argument as to why you should be using a time tracker, even for non-billable tasks.

But most lawyers stand to benefit from apps like CloudApp and from fully utilizing their practice management system’s solutions app. And don’t be afraid to experiment with the Pomodoro Technique. It’s free!

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