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.
Just because you can check your e-mail all the time does not mean you should. Make an effort to tune out technology in the evenings and weekends to increase productivity.
Work-life balance, not work-work-find time for life
You can run a law practice from a smartphone fairly easily. That can also lead to your smartphone running your life.
Just because you can work at anytime, from anywhere, does not mean you should work all the time from everywhere. I am as guilty of this as anyone else. Sometimes I check my inbox while eating breakfast. If the proverbial crap has hit the fan, I might even check before I go to sleep.
Most of the time, I come home from work, play with my son before bedtime, and then check my e-mail once before 8pm or so. Unless I am working on a brief, I draw a pretty firm line between 8pm at 8am or so.
If you get in the habit of checking your BlackBerry or iPhone 24/7, you will never relax and you will never be able to enjoy your downtime. Humans aren’t built to work 24/7. There is research to suggest that technological overload has all sorts of bad effects. In other words, it’s quite possible that tuning out technology can increase productivity.
What are you working on in the evenings and weekends
As I mentioned above, it’s one thing to purposefully work in the evening or the occasional weekend with a specific goal in mind. It’s another thing to constantly check your work e-mail just for the sake of checking it. Admittedly, there are lawyers who need to constantly be in touch with their clients.
If you don’t practice that type of law, then don’t voluntarily be available all the time. Sending e-mails to clients or opposing counsel late at night can create the expectation you will always respond at night or on the weekends, which will simply invite more communication. It’s like a a work snowball, and you likely already have enough on your plate.
Limit technology usage during downtime/free time
Part of the reason people constantly check in is because smartphones make it easy. My work number forwards to my cellphone when I tell it to. On the weekends, I turn it off for sanity purposes. Plus, my son is obsessed with my phone, and having him talk to clients could get awkward.
I do check e-mail on my iPhone, but I only check it through a browser. That means I have to purposefully go into the browser, login, and check it. That makes it much easier to ignore when I want to—much easier than having my phone ring or buzz with every incoming e-mail. In the evenings and on weekends, it makes it that much harder to “accidentally” notice a work e-mail or get a non-urgent phone call.
Try it out for a week – you will get more done
After the weekends when I manage to stay away from work and avoid my work e-mail (except for maybe 1 check-in), I show up Monday morning raring to go. I feel completely refreshed and actually want to do work.
After a weekend of meaninglessly checking work e-mail and randomly doing little chunks of work, I show up Monday dreading the week and already clamoring for the next weekend.
If you find yourself falling into that pattern, make an effort to enjoy your downtime. Even if you cannot completely check out for a weekend, minimize and compartmentalize how much time you spend on work. Free time and weekends exist for a reason—enjoy them!