Time Management and Planning System for Lawyers that Actually Works

Do you have a time management and planning system in place that allows you to run your day, instead of your day running you?

Time Management and Planning for Attorneys

When your to-do list just keeps piling up, you wake up in the middle of the night thinking about work, you don’t know what to focus on first, and you’re constantly putting out fires, then your day is definitely running you.

One of the biggest excuses I hear from attorneys is, “I don’t have time. I’m just so busy.” I get it. You are busy, but you can create more time in your day.

Here’s how…

It’s starts with the priority matrix.

I generally assume everyone has seen this matrix, but when I’m doing workshops and ask who’s familiar with the priority matrix, few raise their hands. When I draw the matrix, a few more hands go up. For the most part, though, attorneys aren’t familiar with it and very few use it.

It’s probably been a while since you’ve seen it and it’s worth a refresher, and if you’ve never heard of it before, this is going to be a gamechanger.

As President Dwight Eisenhower said, “What is important is seldom urgent, and what is urgent is seldom important.”

That may sound simple, but it’s profound.

If you’re like most attorneys and putting out fires all day, the truth is you’re spinning your wheels and wasting time. So how do you move from urgent to important?

You start to handle matters based on how it falls within the priority matrix.

Hustle & Flow with Heather Hubbard, Episode 3

The priority matrix has four quadrants. The x-axis is urgency and the y-axis is importance.

Quadrant 1 in the top left-hand is important but not-urgent. Either there’s no deadline or it’s far enough away that you don’t have to deal with it. Quadrant 2 is in the top right-hand and represents urgent and important matters. This is a hair-on-fire emergency. Quadrant 3 is at the bottom right-hand and is urgent but not important. Someone wants something immediately even though it’s not that big of a deal. Quadrant 4 is at the bottom left-hand and is neither important nor urgent.

Let’s dig deeper into each.

Quadrant 2 – True Emergencies

Quadrant 2 is where most attorneys think they are spending their time but that’s not accurate. You may be treating things like they are emergencies, but that doesn’t mean they are in reality.

So, what would be urgent and important?

A temporary restraining order definitely falls in this category. If you have any type of client emergency where you have to run into court, that’s a true emergency. You have no option. You have to drop everything and run into court. A family emergency would fall in this category as well. Otherwise, there’s not much else that actually belongs here…

So why do lawyers think things are emergencies?

First, we don’t manage our time well. When we procrastinate in Quadrant 1, at some point there is a deadline we must meet and then it becomes an emergency even though it didn’t have to be.

Second, we allow ourselves to believe that any stimulus requires an immediate response. We’ve trained our brains to be reactive. In this instance, we’re actually in Quadrant 3.

Quadrant 3 – The Major Time Suck

In fact, Quadrant 3 is where attorneys spend the vast majority of their time.

What falls in Quadrant 3? Emails, texts, phone calls, walk-ins, quick questions, and so-called “emergencies” just to name a few.

Let me ask you this…

Do you have your email up all the time? If a text message comes in, do you immediately look at your phone? When the phone rings, do you just pick it up?

Chances are there was nothing about that email or phone call that was really important. It’s not even urgent except for the fact that we now live in a culture where everyone is available 24/7 and we have this unhealthy expectation that people will respond back immediately. When we have email notifications on all the time, our brain is trained to think an immediate review and response is necessary.

Here’s another example. Let’s say you have an open-door policy and anyone can come in and ask you questions at any time. This would be something that in your mind is urgent because there’s someone standing in your doorway. Someone may just have a quick question or want your input, but they likely could have figured it out on their own without interrupting you. You’ve simply trained others to believe they can interrupt you at any time.

urgent calls emails

When you’re trying to focus and get something done, all of these emails, phone calls, visitors and quick questions completely disrupt and take over your day.

That’s why you can get to the end of the day and feel exhausted, but not have much to show for it. If you’re in a law firm and billing hours, you may ask yourself, “How did I only bill six hours when I’ve been here for nine?”

The truth is you’ve lost probably three hours to these quick questions, so-called emergencies, emails, and phone calls. They completely take over your day and you often fail to track or account for this time.

If you’re in Quadrant 3, you’re being reactive. You’re simply allowing the stimuli around you to dictate where your attention and energy goes.

So how do you take back your day?

When it comes to Quadrant 3, you need to start using systems and filters. Delegate and allow others to support you, only check and respond to emails once an hour, set “office hours,” and start implementing boundaries. Being intentional about how you spend your time is key.

Quadrant 4 – Buying Time with Distractions

Another trap is Quadrant 4.

You would think that as busy as attorneys are, we wouldn’t spend much time here, but that’s not true.

Here are some examples of where you may be wasting time: scrolling through social media feeds, binge-watching television, surfing the Internet, cleaning your office, or hanging out talking in the hallway.

We use this as a distraction.

There is nothing wrong with downtime, but we often spend time doing these things simply because we’re anxious, bored, or procrastinating. It’s not really how we want to spend our free time.

Try to minimize these areas. You’d be surprised how much time you might be wasting in this quadrant.

Quadrant 1 – Plan Ahead and Manage Time

Now for the game changer: Quadrant 1.

This is the area attorneys most neglect when it should be their primary focus. When you learn to spend most of your time in this quadrant, you’ll start making serious progress on your cases and even reaching your personal and professional goals. You’ll skyrocket in your career and find more time to spend outside of the office.

So, how do you stop procrastinating and start spending more time in Quadrant 1?

It’s all about planning. It’s about managing your life and career. It’s about dedicating time each and every day to focus on what’s most important.

A great way to make this a habit is by using the Life & Law Planner™ system.

Life & Law Planner

Imagine spending just 30 minutes a month, 15 minutes a week, and 5 minutes a day planning for what’s most important. With just a little extra effort, you’ll easily start to take back your day.

Instead of wondering what you should be focusing on or where to start, you’ll sit down each day with a clear plan of attack already mapped out.

When you take the time to systematically plan for your goals, projects and tasks, your life and your career will change in miraculous ways.

That’s why the Life & Law Planner™ system includes a digital workbook for your long-term vision and annual plan and a physical planner for your monthly, weekly and daily planning. It’s an easy-to-follow and fool-proof system designed and tested by other attorneys.

If you’re ready to take back your day, start utilizing the priority matrix and order your Life & Law Planner™ today.

[button style=”button-primary” link=”http://www.lifeandlawplanner.com” target=”_blank” label=”Shop the Life & Law Planner now” ][/button]