5 Ways to Better Manage Your Time in 2021

In 2020, the phrase “time management” took on a new meaning, especially for people working at law firms. With so many law offices working partially or fully remote during the COVID-19 pandemic, figuring out how to effectively and efficiently work from home presented unique challenges.

In 2021, some of these challenges remain. But many law firm employees are also re-adjusting to life back in the office—or striking a new balance that involves a combination of remote and in-person workdays.

Whatever your firm’s situation is, you likely already appreciate the value of managing your time as effectively as possible. And that brings us to the five essential tips that will help you do just that in the new year.

Tip 1: Plan Your Schedule

Take time the before your workday begins to map out your schedule. You can do this during the morning hours, the night before, or even on the Sunday night preceding your workweek.

Ask yourself what will make your day (or week) the most successful. Write down the most important tasks that you’ll be tackling and allocate enough time to accomplish them. You can then start filling in the gaps between these must-haves with less pressing tasks.

This process can be enlightening. You’ll get an idea of what’s required of you versus how much time you can actually devote to each item on your schedule.

Tip 2: Categorize Tasks Using the 4 D Method

One of the most powerful ways to prioritize your tasks is using what’s known as the 4 D Method of time management. The 4 Ds are:

Delete: Review your schedule to identify anything that isn’t necessary. This typically includes meetings or emails that are largely insignificant. Keep in mind that this principle also means pre-emptively saying no to requests that don’t help you accomplish tasks or lead to any fruitful rewards for you or your firm.

Delegate: Not everyone is privileged with the ability to delegate tasks to other teammates. However, for team members with many responsibilities and the ability to give work to others, delegation can save time and increase productivity.

Defer: Not every item on your schedule needs your immediate attention. If more pressing matters take priority, push back other tasks to a later time when your schedule is more accommodating.

WARNING: Be careful not to make a habit of frequently deferring tasks that are important, even if they don’t seem urgent. Understanding the difference between urgent and important tasks can be a revelation for those obsessed with time management. For more information, reference the Eisenhower Matrix, a time management technique developed by President Dwight D. Eisenhower.

Do: These tasks are usually both time-sensitive and important to your firm or role within a firm. For example, if you have a client with an upcoming court date, you must prioritize your responsibilities in relation to that task.

Tip 3: Batch Your Time

If your job requires wearing many different hats, you could benefit greatly by batching similar tasks. For example, if you have several clients that you need to touch base with in your upcoming week, you could set aside a single day or a chunk of your day to contact all those clients.

This will save you from constantly jumping from one task to a completely unrelated one (also known as context switching). By batching similar tasks, you’ll be able to focus more deeply and avoid feeling scattered throughout your day.

Tip 4: Do the Important Work First

Once you’ve identified which tasks matter most, you can schedule your day to tackle those things early in your day when you’re at your freshest. You can utilize the 4 Ds and the batching techniques mentioned above to help you plan what these tasks are for you.

If any of your work requires intense focus or creativity, it should be placed first on your schedule. Reserve more reactive or perfunctory tasks (such as returning phone calls or emails) for later in your day.

Tip 5: Leave Room for Play

Play isn’t just for kids. It’s incredibly important for everyone to have time away from work doing things they love. Whether your version of play involves reading a great book, exercising, spending time with your kids, or all of the above, don’t neglect your leisure time in the hopes of being more productive.

Research shows that taking time away from work to enjoy more playful activities makes people happier, more productive, and more creative. So, if you bristle at the thought of not working all your waking hours, remember that actively planning playtime is an investment that will make your workday more productive, engaging, and sustainable.

Better Manage Your Firm’s Time With backdocket

Backdocket is a practice management system that improves your law firm’s processes. Our software lets each of your team members customize a dashboard to have a clearer picture of what they need to do to help your firm thrive.

Backdocket also allows firms to automate certain tasks like records requests to free up valuable time that can be devoted to more pressing matters. And by improving communication between team members and centralizing important legal documents, your team will also find more time to prioritize things that matter most.

If you’d like to learn more about how backdocket can improve your firm’s processes and better manage your time, contact us today to schedule a free demonstration.

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