For any professional striving to manage heavy workloads and achieve some type of work-life balance, time management is key. Here are a few time management tips I have learned as a young attorney:
Billable hours. The 2 words that strikes fear – maybe the better word is anxiety – in just about every young lawyer’s mind. 1,800? 2,000? 2,400?! How are you possibly supposed to bill that many hours in a year?! Here are 2 new words for you – that’ll hopefully give you some relief: time management.
Being pretty new to having to bill, I’ll be honest; I’m still figuring it out. But there are a few things that I have learned that I believe will be helpful to young attorneys who are new to billable hours.
Know how many hours you need to bill per day
Let’s say you have to bill 2,000 hours in a month. I’m using this because this seems to be average amongst law firms. Of course you are going to get anxiety when you see a number as big as 2,000. But there’s good news, do the math! There are 12 months in a year. So, 2,000 divided by 12 (2,000/12) is…166 hours a month.
Now take that 166 hours per month and count how many billable (exclude any holidays and off days that your firm has AND weekends) days there are in a month and then divide that. Take January. There are 22 billable days in January. 166 hours divided by 22 (166/22) is…7.5 hours a day. See? Not as bad as it seems, right?
This method of taking a seemingly impossible amount of work and breaking it into manageable chunks can be applied regardless of your profession. The key is to develop a plan that gives you achievable goals each day, week, month, and then stick to your plan.
If you took the time to count how many e-mails you get every day, I bet it’s more than 20. For some attorneys, it’s probably more than 50. Let’s take the average of that and say it’s about 35. 35 emails every day. That means 35 times that your computer is alerting you that “you have a new message;” 35 times that your focus is going somewhere else because you think that you have to check every single email as it comes in. I mean, don’t get me wrong, you should definitely check your emails. However, being distracted 35 times in a day can – and will – cost you precious time and productivity.
So what’s the solution? Well, my suggestion is first and foremost, turn off your new mail alert. Trust me, you will see a big difference in your productivity. Second, create a schedule of when you check your e-mails. Mine is (1) when I get in to work, (2) right before lunch, (3) after lunch, and (4) before I leave work. That’s 4 times a day. Now, everyone is different. Some people need to check it a bit more often, and depending on the day that you’re facing, you may have to. The point is do what works for you.
These are just a couple of tips that I have found helps me. What are some things that have helped you in managing your time?