After trying out numerous methods of tracking my cases and related tasks, I have finally found what seems to work best. I love Getting Things Done (GTD), but the system does not necessarily translate smoothly to a law practice. I have tried using Outlook, but my productivity suffered from not being able to look at the “big picture” at a glance. So I went back to paper. I tried numerous things, and eventually settled on a hybrid of GTD and the weekly work plan my wife uses.
My work plan is a weekly affair. I take Sunday night or Monday morning to sit down and type up my weekly work plan. My template has five days up top for Most Important Tasks (MITs) for each day, and below are a row for each case, broken up into columns for “case,” “upcoming dates,” “do now,” “do later,” and “waiting for,” the basic GTD action categories.
My work plan serves as a “tickler” as well as a catalog of important due dates (I put all my scheduling order dates on it) and a holding cell for every task on every open file.
You can download my work plan template in Open Document Format (ODF) or Word format (DOC).
I read David Allen’s Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity about two years ago. Yes, it is a guru-ish productivity system, but it also helped me, a fundamentally lazy and disorganized person, to become extremely organized and productive.
Lawyers are at their best when they are free to think, and GTD is all about getting rid of the noise—all the things you have to do—so you can think. After two years, here are the bits of GTD that I find the most useful.
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I consistently preach the gospel of procedures. Nothing works without good procedures. You can have the most cutting-edge computer, the best software, and the best intentions, but if you do not have solid, tested procedures in place, none of that fancy tech will do you a darn bit of good.
Behind David Allen’s excellent Getting Things Done (GTD) system is the idea–essential to a law practice–that everything we need to do should be tracked in a trusted system. In the GTD philosophy, that system is a set of lists with everything you have to do, from taking out the trash to scheduling order deadlines.
This kind of organization is essential to a solo or small law practice, but many attorneys still walk around with much of their “to-do list” buried in their brains. That is completely unhelpful. A “tickler” is helpful, but only if that tickler leads to a solid system where anyone can determine what needs to be done on a particular file.
Here is how I organize my practice.
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