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.
The Stop, Start, Continue technique is a quick, easy and effective tool that can help lawyers obtain feedback, evaluate performance, prioritize and create action plans. It is effective for non-billable work, productivity and firm-wide issues as well as individual evaluation. It helps create focus without getting tripped up by analysis-paralysis.
Stop, Start, Continue essentially consists of three questions:
- Stop: What isn’t working?
- Start: What should we be doing that we are not currently doing?
- Continue: What are we doing that is working?
This technique can be used in a variety of ways in your practice. It can be used by a solo or individual lawyer as a way to evaluate their individual performance and satisfaction and self-correct, if necessary. Ask yourself: What isn’t helping my practice? What am I doing to sabotage my own success? What activities or tasks are unproductive for me? Maybe it is accepting the wrong clients or not charging for consultations. Maybe it is volunteering for projects out of guilt, rather than interest or value. What can I delegate to others? All of these items belong in the STOP category.
Eliminating unproductive tasks should free up some of your time so that you can START something new. To decide what, ask: What have I been meaning to do, but haven’t gotten around to? What services can I add that would be beneficial for my clients? Consider what you enjoy doing and what you are good at, as well as what might make your clients happy.
Finally, recognize what activities, tasks and behaviors you presently engage in that have led to success. What is working? What do your clients comment positively on? CONTINUE these items.
This exercise is even better when done with others to get several different perspectives on the same topic or individual. For example, using this technique for a performance review can make it easy for many people that work with one individual to provide their input, and it provides a framework that the person being reviewed can easily understand and follow. You may even choose to allow participants to give their feedback anonymously for more candid responses, although doing so may cut off some potentially insightful discussion.
The questions can be directed toward an individual or several people, such as a practice group or team, but it can also be used to address issues firm-wide. When addressing firm-wide issues, it may help break it down into categories such as firm finances, technology, staffing, procedures, marketing, etc.
The Stop Start Continue technique can also be useful in reviewing the success of client engagements and improving client satisfaction. Let each individual who worked on that engagement do the exercise with an eye toward lessons learned from that particular engagement and improvement in future similar engagements. Incorporate it into a client survey; get feedback directly from clients by asking them what they think the firm should stop, start and continue.
You can find an easy to use Stop Start Continue Worksheet here.