Without question, being as productive as possible is the basis for a successful law firm. But, with so many interruptions, screens, commitments vying for your time it is easy to end up in a state of paralysis and not really addressing the priorities that are going to move your business forward. As an attorney, cramming as many billable hours into a day sounds like a strategy for success and potentially burnout.
Current thinking in the productivity circles focuses on Energy, not Time. It is human nature to try to jam as many hours into a single work day in the pursuit of “productivity” but what really matters is the quality of your focus, your motivation and sense of overall well-being. Think about the times you have been most productive. . . usually you have had enough sleep, it is earlier in the day and you haven’t had to make a ton of decisions yet. In other words, your “tank” is full. We only have so much will to exert effectively so managing the will and limiting decision-making to what matters is key to being productive. Don’t spend your limited will frivolously. Limit the decisions you make related to getting dressed, what you will eat for breakfast, etc. Strong routines that automate less important functions in your life are your friend.
In addition to mindful awareness of how you burn your will, here are some additional productivity “hacks” that really work:
- Determine what is Most Important. Think 5 years down the line and thin about what your actions will mean. The vast majority of what we do today will have zero effect on our long-term success.
- The 2-minute rule: if you can do something (like replying to an email, or a house chore) in 2 minutes, do it now. Planning it for later, remembering it, doing it in the future will take far more time and burn too much of your limited “will”.
- Pomodoros or “timeboxing”: Limit what you are working on to a 30-50-minute time block to do only the single, important task you are working on. Don’t jump on to Facebook, check email, call a friend, leave the room. Just stay focused and then reward yourself with a 10-minute break. Rinse and repeat. This really works!
- The 5-minute rule: The biggest cure against procrastination is to set your goal not to finish a scary big hairy task, but to just work 5 minutes on it. You’ll find out that most times it continues well beyond the 5 minutes, as you enter a flow state.
- Good routines beat good tools: We have so many tools and apps available to help us be productive that it can be overwhelming. No question there are some great ones out there, but what is most important is building strong routines. Set and prioritize your daily task list and make an effort to stick to it. Don’t burn any more precious “will” straying from your list unnecessarily. Jerry Seinfeld is known for his “productivity chain”—if you want to be good at something, do it every day in an unbroken chain. This includes weekends, holidays, every day. No exceptions!
- Write stuff down: Don’t try to keep all of your appointments, tasks, daily to dos, etc. in your head. This one sounds obvious and most of us are already using our calendars, lists etc. but tons of tasks still accumulate and we need to “brain dump” frequently into a journal or other repository to free up our precious mental energy
- Say “No”–a lot: For all you people pleasers out there (me included) this is a biggie. It is OK to say “no” to unimportant tasks, meetings, phone calls, favors, lunches, coffees, the list goes on and on. Saying “yes” to any of the above means, by default, you are saying not to EVERYTHING else you could be doing with that time. Worth pondering.
Well there are many more hacks to share in future posts but I need to get back to work!
Spend your will wisely today.