Stress Management for Overwhelmed Lawyers


Personal Productivity for Lawyers

This quick-start guide to Getting Things Done and Inbox Zero also includes two shortcuts for those who want the benefits of GTD without having to learn the system.

Lawyers who feel overwhelmed by all that needs to be accomplished on a daily basis can become paralyzed and unable to take action. These stress management techniques can help you break out of that paralysis and regain your productivity.


Focus on the highest value activities and, wherever possible, delegate or eliminate anything else. As a stress management technique, prioritizing helps you determine in advance where the majority of your time and energy should be directed. Create a daily or weekly plan and a logical starting point. Once you know where to start, the momentum will often carry you; it is when you have so much to accomplish and do not know where to begin that overwhelm takes over.

Some questions to ask that will help you determine priority include:

  • What is the purpose of this task?
  • Is there a deadline?
  • How “old” is this task?
  • Is it the core of what I get paid for?
  • Does this require my specific expertise or personal touch?
  • Can it be done by someone else?
  • How much time and energy do I have available?
  • What will the return be?
  • How will my firm/practice/clients/employees be affected by this task or its outcome?

Harness the Power of Three

Trying to tackle too much at once or having too many things on your to-do list can be counterproductive. Set only three big goals at a time. For each goal, there will be many interim objectives and action steps required. When an opportunity, project or task arises, evaluate it based on whether it will advance one of your three main goals.

Choose only three main tasks to accomplish every day. Ask yourself, “What three things, if I accomplished them today, would make me feel as if my day had been productive?” Tackle those three tasks first.

Set Deadlines

Tasks with deadlines get done. But tasks without a built-in deadline may be more important. Create deadlines for tasks without a due date. Build in accountability by telling someone else about the deadline and asking him or her to keep you accountable, or by scheduling something that requires that the task be completed (like a meeting with the client).

Use your calendar

If something is important enough to put on a ‘to do’ list, you need to ensure that you have the time to complete it. Make it an appointment in your calendar to do the work required. Schedule and block time to create a plan for every day.

Break it down into smaller pieces

When scheduling and choosing your three daily goals, choose tasks, not complete projects. Focus on the smallest action that will move the project forward to make it more manageable.


Get Lawyerist in Your Inbox, Daily

Current Articles
Current Lab Discussions
  • Linda

    I am a sole practitioner in my 30th year of a
    general civil practice. I am also a single
    mother to an 18 year old son who is
    graduating high school and getting ready
    to go away to college. I am completely
    stressed out trying to maintain my
    court schedule, write briefs, and
    maintain our finances. I am very
    proud of my son and his future is
    what motivates me to keep on and
    keep up. I was surprised when his
    football coach mentioned my son
    talking about becoming a lawyer.
    I am wondering if it is a good idea
    or not, even though it would of
    course make me feel even prouder.
    Any comments?