As a managing partner in a multi-office law firm I’m often asked how I’m able to do so much. Whenever I’m asked this question I respond that the key is going back to basics. Without a fundamentally strong and sound set of systems and practices in place, it doesn’t matter how much willpower you have. So here are some of my top tips for time management and, in particular, some of the more practical aspects:
- Stay Positive – Before I turn my attention to the more practical time management skills, I want to address up front what I see as one of the most critical mental aspects of time management. In my experience, those people who are able to maintain an even keel whilst under pressure and have a positive disposition no matter the circumstances they face seem to be able to manage their time better. If you have 25 things to do this week, worrying and stressing doesn’t progress any of those tasks, instead it lends itself to procrastination.A negative attitude and mindset doesn’t help in giving you clarity on how best to approach or break down the matters you have at hand to be completed. On the other hand, if you remain positive and focus on breaking down each element to the tasks in front of you, you’ll quickly knock over a few, gain momentum, and achieve everything that you have set out to do. I’ve often said that worry is a waste of energy better spent getting things done.
- To Do Lists and Prioritisation – To do lists and prioritisation go hand in hand. It’s critical to have a to do list of the various tasks that need your attention, in both personal and professional settlings, and to then break those down into priorities based on the matrix below:
It’s critically important to regularly update your tasks and the priorities you set for them. Depending on your workload, this may be once a day or, alternatively, on multiple occasions throughout the day. The key is to try different systems to determine what works for you.
- Technology – The use of Microsoft Outlook, in particular the Task and Calendar functionality, is an absolute must for me in order to maximise the time I spend on doing instead of determining what I need to do. The days of handwritten to do lists are dead, at worst you should be printing out your task list, and potentially, highlighting some urgent tasks that you may be doing in priority for a short period on a particular day.
- Saying No – Having your task list and priorities should help you identify when you need to say no to things that pop up. Obviously you do not want to say no to opportunities which are a result of all the effort you are putting in but you do need to know which of the non urgent, non important opportunities can be held back for later and scheduled in to better fit with your overall priorities.
- Delegation – If possible, delegation is an ideal method with which to maximise your time. At the end of the day, you are only able to be in one place at a time and this limits what you can achieve. Being able to effectively delegate will allow you to leverage and achieve more that what you can as an individual.
There are plenty of other time management tips out there but these are some that I’ve found personally effective through my experience. I would recommend that you keep trying new techniques and ideas to better manage your time until you find what works for you. At the end of the day, whatever system you come up with needs to be one that you are comfortable with and that helps you achieve all that you set out to do.