Prioritize Your Time When Overwhelmed

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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.

I never used a calendar or a to-do list until I became an attorney. Even then, I initially rejected the idea that I would be so busy that I would need to schedule everything.

The reality for most attorneys, however, is that if a task is not put on their calendar or a to-do list, it will never get done. Here are some tips for getting things accomplished when you are swamped.

Rank your to-do list

As noted in this post, a to-do list can be deceptively unhelpful because most lists are not prioritized. Granted, most people know what item on the list needs to be done first. But what about the second item? When I make lists, I tend to attack them in the order listed, not in order of priority.

If your task management system is built around sticking post-it notes to your monitor, make an effort to prioritize the list, and see if it helps.

React, do not think

At times, it can be counter productive to make a list of things that need to get done. As noted above, when something explodes, most attorneys focus on putting out the fire—they know what needs to get done immediately.

If you take the time to make a list of all of the other stuff you are putting on hold, that can be very distracting. For many people, it creates additional stress that makes it impossible to accomplish anything. Focus on putting out the fire, not what happen afterwards.

Be flexible

Your calendar is important, but it is not set in stone. If you need to cancel something in order to focus, do it. It is pointless to force adherence to your calendar when your mind will be elsewhere. Frankly, it could be worse to go through with something if whoever you are meeting with can tell you are not paying attention.

(Photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/napfisk/807562281)

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