Some of you have probably already made - and broken - your New Year’s resolutions for 2016, to include common personal ones like losing weight, doing more exercise, eating better, and quitting bad habits. However, consider making and sticking with some work-related resolutions as well as personal ones to keep you on track professionally. The following list from the paralegal perspective, but it can be applied to any position in your law firm.
FOCUS – January is the time to revisit time templates or to resolve to go back to good habits allowed to lapse, like using planning organizers. Lawyers with Purpose provides you with time management tools as well as a range of focusers, including those for daily, weekly, and monthly planning. Make sure your time template has time devoted to planning each and every week. Time spent planning will be repaid in increased efficiency and goal attainment. Every year I make myself a New Year’s gift of a great calendar as a reward for planning ahead. This calendar can be paper or digital, whatever your preference.
EDUCATE – Plan and prepare for further career development by identifying where the gaps in your knowledge and experience are, and deciding how to go about filling those. Or perhaps you want to hone part of your existing skill set. The mind, like many other tools, needs to be kept sharp to work at its best. Lawyers with Purpose offers you various ways of keeping informed and educated, including ListServs for BOTH the attorneys and their team members, blogs, and webinars on the event calendar. There are also the Tri-Annual Practice Enhancement Retreats (TAPER), which offer legal-technical focus sessions in addition to firm planning and personal development.
CHECK IN with your goals and/or set new ones. It’s been roughly three months since TAPER in Phoenix, so it’s the midpoint of the period during which many of you resolved to implement some projects. Have your efforts lost steam? This is a great time to reassess derailed projects and set tasks to get them back on track. If you did not attend the last TAPER event, now is a great time to set new goals. There are tools on the LWP website that you can use in your "Brainstorming Sprints", as well as project focusers like the "Money Plan" and "The Implementation Focuser".
RENEW your commitment to the system. Have you been so busy doing the work that you haven’t had time to do the necessary data input crucial for tracking? Regardless of what file management system you may use or whether you are still using paper files or have gone completely digital, attorneys must allow time for their team members to perform all the file maintenance required. If you don’t schedule regular maintenance – just like a car – the engine starts to run rough and may stall. Remember, it may just take 10 minutes to make a phone call, but it can take 5 minutes more to document the phone call, potentially mark a task complete and then schedule a follow-up task. In a typical work day for the law firm, I spend easily an hour of my time on file maintenance alone – adding file notes, scanning and uploading documents, marking tasks done, scheduling follow-up tasks, updating status of file in workflow, linking emails. It is this maintenance that permits you to track the work being done in your firm and hold team members accountable. Pull up your reports and identify where clean up must occur and schedule time on your template to chip away at any overdue file maintenance.
Finally APPLY the 4 D’s of time management – delete, delay, delegate, and do – to any and all of your lists and/or piles in your office. There are variations of these terms, so feel free to adopt the version that makes the most sense to you and your job responsibilities. With this strategy, you review incomplete tasks and decide whether you are going to delete, delay, delegate, or do the task. If a task is no longer important or relevant, or perhaps is already done, can it be deleted? Or you may have a task that you would like to do one day, but it can be deferred or delayed to a later time. Don’t lose sight of this task by adding it to a focuser reserved for remote future planning. Meanwhile, delegate those tasks that can be done by someone else, preferably someone who can perform the task better than you could. Finally, whatever is left over, you do. These might be tasks that can be done in 10 minutes or less and just need to be completed, or they may be tasks of higher priority that need to be scheduled immediately.
These five recommendations are my professional resolutions for 2016. By focusing on planning, scheduling time for education and training, checking in with previously set goals, renewing the commitment to your file management system, and applying the 4 D’s of time management to any pending matters, you can reboot your system, so to speak. I invite you to join me in resolving to start the new year with a fresh beginning – professionally and personally. Happy New Year!
If you want to learn more about becoming a Lawyers With Purpose member and what we have to offer your estate or elder law practice, join us this Friday, January 22nd for a FREE webinar "How You Can Have the Business, the Income and the Life that You Once Dreamed About When You First Started Your Practice. Click here to grab your spot today.
By Sabrina A. Scott, Paralegal, The Elder & Disability Law Firm of Victoria L. Collier, PC and Director of VA Services for Lawyers with Purpose.
Victoria L. Collier, Veteran of the United States Air Force, 1989-1995 and United States Army Reserves, 2001-2004. Victoria is a Certified Elder Law Attorney through the National Elder Law Foundation; Author of “47 Secret Veterans Benefits for Seniors”; Author of “Paying for Long Term Care: Financial Help for Wartime Veterans: The VA Aid & Attendance Benefit”; Founder of The Elder & Disability Law Firm of Victoria L. Collier, PC; Co-Founder of Lawyers with Purpose; and Co-Founder of Veterans Advocate Group of America.