50 Ways to Do More in Less Time

Vol. 39 No. 5

By

1. Most things that take less than five minutes should be done right away.

2. Something you DREAD doing? Do it first. Compel yourself. Your day will be much nicer when it’s over.

 

3. Get up and walk around. Do not be manacled to the keyboard. Do some yoga. Walk down the hall to ask a colleague a question rather than e-mailing. Get some sun. We have too large a population of pasty-faced technophiles with lousy posture, bad backs, and a body mass index that makes their doctors cry.

4. Find a way of managing tasks that works for you and stick to it. Reminders are critical. You can do this simply by using the Tasks feature of Outlook and setting reminders. A good trick, as you go through your reminders each morning, is to leave up the six most important things to get done that day. It is psychologically gratifying to see them disappear.

5. Do not let ALL blog posts, news items, etc. come into your inbox. They will distract you. Create a rule in Outlook to file them in a “to be read” file. You can read them after you’ve finished the tasks you’ve been putting off.

6. Another way to keep unnecessary mail out of your e-mail—subscribe to RSS feeds and send everything to Shrook Reader for Mac or NewzCrawler for Windows. Visit once or twice a day to keep yourself abreast.

7. Can’t find a document you know is on your machine? Use Google Desktop (http://desk
top.google.com
) to search—free and easy.

 

Save Money

 

8. Learn how to spend as little as possible when you have to spend—leverage free Internet pricing engines like Pricegrabber.com or Shopper.com.

9. Free phone service, including long-distance and international calls to Canada, Mexico, and several European countries with free conferencing? You bet, with Skype.com.

10.  If you’re all about “free,” check open-source software at www.sourceforge.net.

11. Check out legal product reviews on www.technolawyer.com—often a good source of deals as well.

12. The ABA’s Legal Technology Resource Center (www.abanet.org/tech/ltrc/home.html) is the Consumer Reports of legal tech. They have “no dog in the hunt” and their annual survey of how lawyers use legal tech will let you know where you stand. They also have terrific feature/price comparison charts for many kinds of legal software.

 

Finding Jobs

 

13. Yes, they’re scarce. FindLaw provides resources to find a job and manage your career (careers.findlaw.com).

14. Don’t be a slave to geography. If times aren’t good where you are, perhaps you need to find your fortune elsewhere.

15. Perfect your elevator speech, a 15- to 30-second rendition of who you are and what you do. Create a version for e-mail too.

16. Get up to speed on social networking. Increasingly, leads to job and actual job postings can be found this way.

17. Don’t post anything on social media you don’t want Mom to read, the New York Times to publish, or your potential employer to find.

 

Managing Your E-mail

 

18. You can do this. You must do this. Otherwise, your work product and your life will be a disorganized mess. Having hundreds or thousands of e-mails in your inbox does not constitute a system.

19. Get in the habit of emptying your inbox (or nearly emptying it) every day. Have an appropriate, well-categorized folder structure (and use it).

20. For speed and efficiency in filing, if you’re using Outlook, purchase our favorite utility for e-mail management, SimplyFile. It can be downloaded for a free 30-day trial here: http://download.cnet.com/SimplyFile/3000-2094_4-10862680.html. For $39.95 a year, it’s a steal. With more than 95 percent accuracy, it will guess which folder your e-mail belongs in. And there is a QuickPick list that almost always contains the right folder. One caution: It takes a while to index and “learn” your files—start the indexing when you’re going to be gone for a couple of hours as the software hogs computing power while indexing.

21. Work smart. You don’t need to see or hear your e-mail when you have something serious to accomplish. Minimize it and turn off the sound notification. It will be there when you return to it. Really.

22. Have two e-mail accounts, one for business and one for your personal stuff—a free
Hotmail, Yahoo, Gmail account, etc. Make sure anything you order online or anything you sign up for online uses the personal address. This will mean most of the spam will go there, keeping your business inbox mostly free of spam.

 

Smartphones

 

23. Recognize their potential. Smartphones are computers—and very powerful ones at that. With a flotilla of applications, you can do many things faster on your smartphone and your location is now irrelevant (except if you’re using GPS apps).

24. You can also spend vast amounts of time on time-sucking smartphone games and applications. Resist that urge, to increase productivity.

25. Subscribe to www.lifehacker.com. If what you receive doesn’t interest you, hit delete, but this productivity site has carefully followed tips for smartphone use—and many other “work smarter, not harder” tips.

26. A favorite smartphone app is Google Maps. Get where you want to go, check the volume of traffic, detour around trouble spots, and so on. Just make sure you “exit” the program through the menu; if you simply close it, Google is still tracking you.

27. Poynt (www.poynt.com) is another cool app to find local businesses, nearby restaurants, and, of course, the cheapest gas.

28. And because we hate for you to spend your hard-earned dollars on bad movies, more and more folks are using the mobile
version of Flixster: www.flixster.com.

29. Need to manage your money? If you have a Droid or an iPhone, you can now get the highly applauded Mint application on your smartphone: www.mint.com.

30. Don’t sleep with your smartphones. Don’t put them on the bedside table. Don’t look at them every five minutes. It will raise your blood pressure and annoy the people around you. You will also be less productive overall because you are continually distracted.

31. If you have a smartphone with poor battery life (did someone say iPhone?), carry an emergency cell phone charger with you. Turbo Charge by Voxred International ($20) or Energi to Go by Energizer ($25, but it lasts longer).

 

Utilities

 

32. FavBackup 2.0.2: If you’re like us, then you probably have multiple browsers installed on your computer. If you’re looking at upgrading your computer to Windows 7, this tool provides an easy way to back up and restore your web browser settings and other data. FavBackup (www.favbrowser.com/backup) is a free utility and supports Internet Explorer 6–8; FireFox 2, 3, 3.5, 3.6 and 3.7; Opera 9, 10, 10.5 and 10.6; Safari 3 and 4; and Google Chrome 1–6.

33. What used to be the Maxtor One Touch is now the Seagate FreeAgent (what marketing genius thought of that one?). But it is still the one touch and the easiest way to back up your computer to an external hard drive. $99.99 on the site (www.seagate.com/www/en-us/products/external/freeagent/free agent_desk), but there’s a helpful comparison button where (as of this writing) you can get it for $79.99 at Best Buy and Staples. Lots of portable products from this manufacturer as well.  

34. YouSendIt (www.yousendit.com). Transmit large file attachments without charge. The free offering is called Lite and can transmit an attachment that is up to 100 MB in size. There are premium versions as well. Because a lot of ISPs limit the size of attachments, YouSendIt is a great alternative to “push” the occasional large attachment.

35. How do you manage Twitter? We use TweetDeck, a free utility that helps you organize Twitter and those you are following. You follow specific subjects, see who retweets your tweets or mentions you, direct message followers, etc. TweetDeck requires the installation of Adobe Air, which needs full administrative access to your hard disk. It is available at http://tweetdeck.com.

36. Evernote (www.evernote.com) makes it easy to remember things big and small, allowing you to capture everything you see when using your computer, cell phone, or other mobile device. Using the program, you can clip a web page, snap a photo, or grab a screenshot, and upload it to Evernote. Once uploaded, everything you capture is automatically processed, indexed, and made searchable. Evernote can integrate with your web browser, or you can install a small application on both Mac OS X and Windows-based computers, or your iPhone, iPod Touch, BlackBerry, Palm Pre, or Windows Mobile smartphone.

37. Copy2Contact. This used to be Anagram (does anything stay the same in legal tech?). This allows you to capture contact information from e-mails. It also allows you to turn the e-mail into a task or a calendar entry. There’s a free 14-day trial and it’s $39.95 to buy.

38.  What do we like for an all-inclusive security package? Kaspersky is a good choice. Try Kaspersky Internet Security 2011 at http://usa.kaspersky.com/products-services.

 

Books

 

39. Books are not antiquated, outmoded objects. We love our Kindle on a cruise (carrying tons of book on that small device is sweet), but settling in with a book at home in front of the fire is still a great experience. No TV, no computer, no smartphone—this will actually enhance your learning and therefore your productivity.

40. Google for Lawyers is a remarkable new book by legal tech experts Carole A. Levitt and Mark E. Rosch (ABA 2010). You have no idea what Google can do for free until you read this book.

41. Virtual lawyering is booming, and no wonder. With jobs scarce, smart solos are leveraging the cost savings of virtual lawyering  to begin their law practices. An excellent resource is Virtual Law Practice: How to Deliver Legal Services Online by Stephanie L. Kimbro (ABA 2010).

42. If you’re headed for the mid- to large law firm world and want to be ready, read Michael Downey’s Introduction to Law Firm Practice (ABA 2010). You’ll be more knowledgeable and productive from day one.

43. Social Media for Lawyers: The Next Frontier by Carolyn Elefant and Nicole Black (ABA 2010) is a good way to get a 10,000-foot overview of this new frontier.

 

The iPad

 

44. Why does the iPad get its own section? Because it’s a phenomenon. We don’t own one, but did that did stump us? Heck, no. We just turned to buddy and legal technologist extraordinare Tom Mighell, an iPad aficionado and begged. He obligingly provided us with a list of his favorite iPad apps. They are: Pages, Penultimate, SmartNote, WritePad, Elements, Office HD, Evernote, Instapaper, Fastcase, Expensify, Dragon Dictation, Dropbox, Mindmeister, and GoToMeeting.

45. Want more? Check out Gizmodo’s Essential iPad apps at http://gizmodo.com/5507569/gizmodos-essential-ipad-apps.

46. Have you wondered how lawyers are effectively using their iPad in court. Check out Craig Ball’s article on this topic at www.eddupdate.com/2010/07/ipad-in-court.html.

47. Another superb legal technologist, Brett Burney, adds this one: Compass iPad stand from Twelve South: http://twelve
south.com/products/compass
. Beautifully designed for function and portability.

 

Hot, New, and Useful

 

48. The MacBook Air 11”. To our friend and Apple fanboy Brett Burney, this is the perfect balance of size and power. It’s basically the Apple netbook. So tiny, so portable, and so Mac. If its initial debut bugs get worked out, it’s a keeper.

49. Legal Talk Network has really gathered steam in the last year; it now has hundreds of free podcasts on all imaginable legal subjects at your fingertips, including the authors’ own Digital Detectives podcast. Learn while you drive, exercise, etc.

50. Get Acrobat X for less. Buy Acrobat 7 Standard on eBay for $45 to $80. Upgrade on Adobe’s site to Acrobat X Pro. You could get the software for $244 instead of the retail price of $449.


There you have it. Go forth, be productive, and save money at the same time

Sharon D. Nelson and John W. Simek are the president and vice president of Sensei Enterprises., Inc., a legal technology, computer forensics, and information technology firm based in Fairfax, Virginia. 

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