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.
Guest post by Lior Levin.
There are very few professions better suited for using the Getting Things Done (GTD) system than the legal one. A project-driven field with hard deadlines and dire consequences for missing them, using GTD can be a sensible approach for staying on top of what is happening, what needs to be done and making sure no deadlines are missed.
Implementing GTD might be a solid move, especially for lawyers and law firms that are finding they have issues staying on top of everything.
A quick look at what GTD is and what it does explains why.
What is Getting Things Done (GTD)?
Originally created by author and consultant David Allen, GTD is a task and time management system that is designed to reduce stress and help ensure that you’re focused on your most important and most urgent tasks.
- Collecting: All of the things you are remembering to do or keeping reminders in various places (email inbox, calendar, notebook, etc.) is collected into one master list.
- Processing: That list is then processed and any items that don’t need action immediately are put on hold. Those that do are either acted on immediately if one is able to quickly or filed away to be done later.
- Organization: Tasks that are not acted on immediately are then organized into lists, with the most urgent tasks, placed on a list that gets the most attention.
- Review: Lists must be reviewed regularly, weekly is ideal, to ensure that the most important tasks are at the top.
- Execute: Finally, now that all of your important work is at the top of your list and both your inbox and calendar are empty of unneeded things, all that remains is to do the tasks at hand.
All in all, GTD is primarily just common sense task management but this is an area where many lawyers and law firms fall flat. Cluttering up inboxes and calendars with reminders and “to-dos” rather than using them for their intended purposes. GTD has the effect of combining all task management into one place, rather than spreading it out across multiple lists.
This can, in turn, increase task focus, reduce stress and help eliminate forgotten or missed tasks, making the office much more productive.
Should Lawyers Use Getting Things Done?
The choice of whether or not to implement GTD is largely a personal one. Many do well with the system and find that it reduces stress and makes them much more productive. Others, however, struggle to maintain their lists and find that the system can actually backfire if their list is incomplete.
That being said, the legal profession is still a very good candidate for the GTD system. The structure of projects, the rigid deadlines and back and forth with clients creates an environment where there are a lot of tasks to be done, but not all are urgent or even able to be tackled. GTD is designed to help organize tasks in exactly this manner.
GTD is also completely “platform agnostic” meaning that it can run on any computer or no computer at all. Though you can use a high-tech solution such as Producteev or Rocket Matter you can also do it with your existing notebook or even by using index cards.
Since there’s no technology commitment, there’s very little to lose, especially if you are already struggling to stay on top of things.
Considering how simple the principles are to follow and how much stress and headache it can save, GTD is, for most lawyers, a very natural choice.
Lior Levin is a marketing consultant who works for an E2 visa lawyer from New York.