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 do not claim to be an expert at juggling a career and a kid, but in the (nearly) three months since my daughter was born, I have been learning fast. I do not get as much time at the office as I used to, and I need to be able to focus on my family—not my work—when I am not working.
I was used to working in short bursts throughout the day. I would work for an hour or two, then slack off for a while before picking up work again later. No more.
Now, if I want to get work done, it has to happen at the office or after my daughter is in bed. If I slack off while I am at the office, I cannot get that time back in the evening. So, I am learning to buckle down and work for long stretches. I still need breaks to stay productive, but I make the most of the time I have.
Purge, then organize
A lack of organization is a recipe for failure and ethical problems.
Most people start intending to get organized, but run headlong into the size of that project and give up. Do not get organized. Instead, start by eliminating things you do not need in your life, from your dresser to clients and other obligations that are no longer benefitting you. Once you have done some purging, get organized.
Organize your sock drawer if you like, but I mean you should organize your life. With so many things on your mind, what you really need is a way to drop your work completely, then pick it up again. You cannot enjoy your kid if you are thinking about work, and enjoying time with your kid is the higher priority, here.
I hate syrupy, new-agey productivity systems. That is why I love David Allen’s Getting Things Done. GTD is not so much a productivity system as a how-to guide to creating a system of your own. My system allows me to stop thinking about work completely when I walk in the door to my house, then pick it up again when I sit down at my desk to work. In between, I can spend time with my wife and daughter without work nagging at the back of my mind.
Multitasking is a myth. The human brain works best when it is focused. This becomes apparent when trying to mix formula and warm a bottle with a three-month old in your arms while trying to participate in a conference call. Chances are good the formula will spill, the baby will get upset, and the call will get disrupted.
Instead, focus on one task at a time. Do it until it is done, or until you get to a stopping point. Then move on.
It gets easier
While you and your partner—if you have one—are starting to figure out how to care for your newborn, you may think it will be impossible to reach anything like your former level of productivity. You may never again be a 14-hour-a-day workhorse, but you will get the hang of being a parent, and that will make it easier to get back to work.