Do you avoid tackling the project that needs an hour of your attention until you can just complete just one “quick task”? Do you get distracted while working on an important task to do several “quick” tasks? Maybe you identify with these scenarios –
  • “I’ll start drafting the Motion for Summary Judgment just as soon as I return this e-mail.”
  • “I’ll take a break from preparing for tomorrow’s client meeting to take this phone call and track down the requested non-urgent information. It should only take a few minutes.”
  • “First, I’ll review e-mails, update my calendar and check in with my legal assistant. Then I’ll work on that important project.”
It is all too easy to experience these types of distractions in today’s go-go busy-busy do-it-now workplace. However, this method of working does not help you perform at your best. Performing at your best providing legal services is crucial. Distractions, interruptions and quick tasks take a toll on accuracy, judgement, and problem-solving abilities. After days and weeks and months of working in this way, our wellbeing also degrades.
Perhaps you have forgotten, or never knew, what it is like to work in any other way.
Do you want to work in a different way? Of course. Is there a way to work that that is less degrading to your internal resources and also enables you to perform at your best for your clients? There is. It starts with how you see yourself as a professional and how you manage quick tasks and other interruptions.
  • Your mindset matters. You are in charge of your own success when you manage your work flow. Yes, others may and will pile work on with unreasonable demands and unrealistic expectations. But if you provide clear communication about your capacity, priorities and time lines, it can make a big difference. After all, you are the lawyer. You get to have a say in how the work gets done. Your mindset is a crucial first step in discerning and promoting priorities for the day, week or month.
  • Your priorities matter. As the lawyer, you are in the best position to assess where, when and how to use your time and attention. You can’t delegate that to an impatient client or anyone else. Everyone is looking to you to figure out the best way to get the work done. It is your job to discern priorities and get the most important things done first regardless of what crash-lands in your inbox in the next hour.
  • Your productivity matters. Since lawyers make a living by billing for their time, we must be mindful of how we spend our time at work. Your productivity will improve if you do the right task at the right time without distraction until the task is done. (And your revenues will improve if you also record your time spent on those tasks.) So, what can you do to diminish the impact of inevitable quick tasks, distractions and other interruptions? Plan ahead. Set aside time in the morning for “closed-door” focused work with no e-mail, phone calls or interruptions. Two or three focused work sessions per week can help! Don’t let others decide that you don’t need that time. Claim it, use it and don’t apologize. Everyone will thank you as work product flows out of your office and into the world.
  • Quick tasks don’t matter. Quick tasks are productivity killers. Park them and deal with them later. Keep a small notepad on your desk to record (“park”) incoming items or ideas that pop into your head while you’re working on other things. Later, spend a few minutes deciding how best to handle those tasks. Can any of them be ignored for now or eliminated? Can you delegate the task to anyone else? For what’s left, decide whether to do the task now or do it later. Thoughtfully incorporate items into your master task list or put them on your calendar. Consider their relative priority to other tasks and projects. Give yourself time and space to consider the impact and relative priority of quick tasks. You will do a better job at this when you are not working on something else.

You might be thinking, “Great but I don’t have time for all that. It will be faster and easier if I just do it now.” Is that really true? Are you giving full weight to the impact that quick task or interruption has on your efficiency, accuracy and productivity? Just a few minutes ago other tasks had (and perhaps still have) higher priority. You can and should take a moment to consider the costs of diving into a less productive work day just because you received an e-mail or thought of a “quick task” that you could do.

Support your own success by adjusting your mindset and owning your priorities and productivity.  Park quick tasks and other interruptions while you attend to other priorities. Your productivity, efficacy and wellbeing will improve. You’ll feel more in control of your work and life. Your staff will delight in your improved workflow. And, your clients will benefit from having your exclusive attention on their matters at the right time and without interruption.

Does this all sound easier said than done? That is definitely true. Clients seek coaching to help them learn and implement this skill set. I am happy to talk with you about it in a free 30 minute coaching consultation. For scheduling or more information, contact me at 503-734-7232 or