I have a confession: My first draft of this column was submitted very late (as in “just in time to make the layout” late). I realize the irony of my statement, given that this issue of Law Practice is devoted to time management. As someone who typically manages his time pretty well, I am the first to admit that we can all use a little help when it comes to making the best use of the time we have.
Let’s face it: As lawyers, the demands on our attention seem to be increasing these days at an alarming rate. And it’s not just work that is taking up our time; family, friends and our extracurricular activities all want to claim a little piece of our schedule. Figuring out how to make all the pieces fit together in a way that allows us to operate an efficient law practice while also keeping our sanity can certainly be a challenge.
One of the purposes of time management is to help you to be a more productive worker, and the articles in this issue have more than their fair share of tips that can help increase your productivity. But time management also affects you and your practice in other ways. Bad time management can lead to burnout or a loss of passion for your chosen career, or it can even result in a malpractice claim. By providing you with practical strategies that you can start using today, we hope to help you become not only a better manager of your time but also a better provider of legal services to your clients. Who knows—once you put some of these principles into action, you might find you enjoy practicing law just a little bit more than you did before you picked up this magazine.
For my challenge to you this issue, I am going to offer a time management/productivity tip of my own that you can start using now: how I get to “inbox zero” every day. Here’s how it works: Pick one time of your workday—either first thing in the morning or at the end of the day—and start plowing through the messages in your inbox. Use a “triage” approach to each message: Read and delete all messages that you can immediately. If an email will take you two minutes or less to address, do so immediately and get all of those messages out of the way. Now you should be left with two kinds of messages. File the messages you need to save for future reference in the appropriate folder outside of your inbox. The rest of the emails should deal with tasks you need to complete or actions you need to take; create a “to do” or “follow up” folder, and move all those messages there. Now you can use that folder to create your task list for the day (or the next day), and you can deal with the messages in that folder as you work through your tasks. If you follow these triage steps, you should end up every day with an inbox that is empty—or pretty darn close.
To me, this issue of Law Practice truly demonstrates the value of the ABA LPM Section and law practice management education in general. Where else are you going to find an entire magazine devoted to helping lawyers manage their time? It’s a really important topic that you won’t find with groups that provide education on substantive law areas. It’s yet another example of how the LPM Section excels above all others in providing resources to help lawyers better manage their practices—and save time doing it.