Vol. 43, No. 4

NABE Midyear 2019: Executive director panel shares tools for efficiency, satisfaction

by Tim Eigo

If running and gunning are your go-to strategies to accomplish your daily tasks, a session at the 2019 NABE Midyear Meeting in Las Vegas offered a few alternatives to lighten your load.

Titled “Taking Care of Business (T.C.B.) in a Flash,” the session provided a list of “tips and tricks to help you leave the building.” Not by accident, the session was offered as a 30-minute “speed round”—perfect for those who prize every minute in their day.

As promised, the presentation came at attendees fast—perfect for an audience hungry for tactics to increase productivity. T­he format had a simple promise: If the tip currently being presented doesn’t appeal to you, wait 40 seconds, because another one is about to arrive.

The session was kept on track by moderator Steve Grumm, executive director of the Lancaster (Pa.) Bar Association and Foundation. Other speakers were Kathy Sabol, executive director of the Washington County (Pa.) Bar Association, and Sebrina Barrett, executive director at The Missouri Bar.

Each suggestion was paired with a single PowerPoint slide describing the tool’s features and benefits. The fast pace was eased by occasional “palate cleansers”—slides with Elvis Presley, whose appearance always brings a smile.

Here are a few of the speakers’ recommended methods to get a handle on your obligation-filled day.

Panelists started with that most versatile of resources—people. You may think you don’t have enough staff—and you may be right. But have you looked into the possibility of taking on interns? If you have a defined task that needs doing and that might offer an outsider a valuable experience, Sabol said, you may be in need of an intern.

And as for your staff on hand, consider how well you delegate. Not very well, if you’re like many people. But Barrett reminded busy attendees that effective delegating does more than empty your plate a little. It also provides an opportunity for staff to shine—or for you to confirm who is an underperformer. Both results provide actionable information.

Tech-based tips and tricks

Grumm pointed people toward Canva, a multipurpose graphic design platform. Those who have used it know that it’s template-based, and can be as easy as drag and drop. There are free and paid models. His bar association pays about $13 a month for the platform’s business plan, which allows them to create a branding kit, employing their logo across different products and uses.

He also discussed the value of social media scheduling. Among the tool choices are Hootsuite and Sprout Social. But don’t forget that Facebook allows you to schedule posts within the platform itself. Aside from being a timesaver, Grumm said, scheduling lets you keep your message across platforms uniform—or at least make sure that they complement each other.

Other tools Grumm recommended were TripIt (which can provide your entire travel itinerary in one vertical stream); Notin (which reminds you of things you need to do, numbers you’d prefer not to save in your contacts, and much more), and the Post-It Plus app (which does exactly what the original hard-copy Post-It Note does, but on your smartphone or tablet screen).

Barrett also shared travel time-savers, recommending two tools from Readdle: the PDF Expert, and the PDF Converter, which allows you to convert any document into a PDF. Each has allowed her to read and securely execute sensitive documents while on the road.

Sabol agreed that keeping organized while out of the office can be challenging. She said that when she’s at an out-of-office meeting—whether nearby or out-of-state—she takes a few steps to ensure that her notes will return home with her. Rather than rely solely on her laptop, she also takes a picture of her notes—which she attaches to her notes and emails to herself before her return trip, along with the notes themselves.

If you’re someone who needs to be reminded to get up and stretch occasionally at work, Sabol recommended Break Timer, a Chrome extension. It’s simplicity itself, and helps combat eye strain, repetitive stress injury, and fatigue.

Barrett also advocated for finding and using a planner and scheduler that works well for you. Kickin’ it old-school, she admitted that her reliable scheduling assistant is the hard-copy Full-Focus planner. She said she appreciates how the easy-to-carry book is goal-based—which means she is reminded to be the same. At the end of the day, she writes down three big takeaways and the next day’s goals. She gets a new planner every three months.

Looking beyond technology

Just as they opened, the panelists ended with fewer technological tools and more strategies that take a softer path toward maximizing daily living.

Sabol described how staggering office hours has had a tremendous impact on staff satisfaction—with no negative impact on work quality or quantity.

Barrett reminded attendees of a motto popular at her bar association: “Good, right and true.” This means that doing the hard—and ethical—thing may be difficult, but it will equal less work and less pain in the long run.

Finally, she said, all the technology in the world can only go so far in lightening our load. Instead, Barrett urged listeners, “Whatever your jam is, do it. You need to recharge and find something you care about.”

Barrett shared this thought with the room full of go-getters: “Work is important. But it’s not the most important thing in our lives.”

Tim Eigo

Tim Eigo is the editor of Arizona Attorney Magazine at the State Bar of Arizona.