Most lawyers I know jam their calendars each day with more than two people could accomplish in a week. Is this you? It’s a vicious cycle because we feel terrible not being able to accomplish what’s on the list… instead of feeling great about what was accomplished. We literally sabotage our success and the feeling of accomplishment! Now, how ridiculous is that! Maybe it’s time to start looking at things differently. I read a blog post by Alex Cavoulacos from an online magazine at WeWork, that makes a lot of sense… One Founders Best Productivity Trick: Save time and do less.

Cavoulacos proposes questions that will help you save time and do less.

1. Do You Say No? Most people have a deep need to be liked. As a result, we say yes to almost everything that’s asked of us, which makes it impossible to do everything well, and zaps our time and productivity.

As a lawyer there are big reasons you feel compelled to say yes… you are asked by your partners or clients that require a yes. But there is still a way to control the load and stress. You can say… “Yes, will next Tuesday work for you?” When you do that you are able to gauge the urgency of the matter, since most people are not asking you to drop everything you’re doing to address their matter. But when urgency is needed you have let the person know that you can’t get to it until next Tuesday, so they can choose to move on to ask someone else. And you have the opportunity to drop what you’re doing to help with this matter.

2. Are You Delegating Enough? Whether or not you’re a manager, there are opportunities to delegate to colleagues. If you’re doing everything yourself, and think “it’s just faster for me to do it,” you may be a delegatophobe. Take a good look at your tasks over the last week—are all of those really your job description?

This is a never-ending cycle for lawyers. Yes, it may be faster for you to do it yourself now… but if that happens several times, not so! Often times it would be much more efficient if you spent the time it requires to teach someone how you like the task done… consequently it’s permanently off your desk, saving a a much bigger chunk of time.

3. Is Everything on Your To-Do List Necessary? Don’t consider an endless to-do list a challenge to get it all done, when it’s in fact a challenge to prioritize. If you haven’t done a task in weeks, or it’s always what’s pushed to a later date that might be a sign that it’s not actually necessary.

Consider NECESSARY vs. DISLIKE. Often times we put the things we don’t like doing to the end of the priority list. AND it’s usually business development activities that you don’t like doing. Figure out a different way to accomplish the same outcome… something you like doing.

4. Are All of the Recurring Meetings on Your Calendar Necessary? Cancel any that aren’t impactful or that could be replaced by an email update. For meetings you keep, reassess if the format, length, and attendees are contributing to their effectiveness. As entrepreneur Jim Belosic explains, this saves both time and money—a one-hour meeting with 17 employees who make an average of $40,000 per year costs $232.88. Yikes.

I would like to point out that in a law firm those dollar figures are outrageous! Six people: 2 partners, 3 associates and one paralegal, could cost you $1500 – $2000 in non-billable time. That’s a very costly meeting!

5. Are You a Slave to Your Inbox? Speaking of things you don’t need to do: You do not need to answer every email that comes in. Give yourself permission to archive irrelevant cold emails and FYI emails you’re cc:ed or bcc:ed on. And while you’re at it, unsubscribe from anything you don’t read (no, you don’t need to read every ecommerce newsletter you get signed up for). Saying no to email is key to making time for real work.

A key strategy for managing email is NOT to look at it every time you hear an email come in. Consider this… if you were with a client you would concentrate on that meeting and get to your emails when you finish. Why not adopt the same strategy through out your day and only review emails every 60 minutes. Imagine how much better you could concentrate on your pressing priorities.

Productivity is about setting priorities and not letting outside forces hijack your time. Give me a call today if you’d like to discuss this further!

I don’t know a lawyer that isn’t trying to squeeze more out of every single day… maximum productivity. We would all like to find a silver bullet… the answer to the demanding obligations we have in our lives. Jeff Haden contributor to Inc. Magazine wrote… 14 Simple Ways to Get Considerably More Done. It’s an eye-opening list and I think there are 8 tips that will be particularly helpful for lawyers.

1. Craft your “just say no” elevator speech. Entrepreneurs work hard on their elevator speech. They revise, they hone, and they rehearse because their elevator speech is important.

It’s also important to know, with grace and tact, how to say no. Most of us default to “yes” because we don’t want to seem rude or unfriendly or unhelpful. Unfortunately, that also means we default to taking on more than we want or can handle. Maybe your response will be as simple as what I plan to use, “I’m sorry, but I just don’t have time.”

Whatever yours is, rehearse so it comes naturally. That way you won’t say yes simply because you think you should; you’ll say yes because you think it’s right for you.

2. Set limits. Deadlines and time frames establish parameters, but typically not in a good way. We instinctively adjust our effort so our activities take whatever time we let them take. Tasks should only take as long as they need to take–or as long as you decide they should take.

Pick a task, set a time limit, and stick to that time limit. Necessity, even artificial necessity, is the mother of creativity. I promise you’ll figure out how to make it work.

3. Rework your nighttime routine. Every day the first thing you do is the most important thing you will do: It sets the tone for the rest of the day.

Prepare for it the night before. Make a list. Make a few notes. Review information. Prime yourself to hit the ground at an all-out sprint the next day; a body in super-fast motion tends to stay in super-fast motion.

4. Rework your morning routine. Then make sure you can get to that task as smoothly as possible. Pretend you’re an Olympic sprinter and your morning routine is like the warm-up for a race. Don’t dawdle, don’t ease your way into your morning, and don’t make sure you get some “me” time (hey, sleep time is me time). Get up, get cleaned up, get fueled up–and start rolling.

5. Rework one repetitive task. Think of a task you do on a regular basis. Now deconstruct it. Make it faster. Or improve the quality. Pick something you do that has become automatic and actively work to make it better.

Even if you only save five minutes, that’s five minutes every time.

6. Outsource one task. I was raised to think that any job I could do myself was a job I should do myself. Starting next week the kid down the street will cut my grass. He can use the money. I can use the time.

7. Fix that one thing you often screw up. I’m terrible about putting meetings and phone calls on my calendar. I figure I’ll get to it later and then I never do. I spend way too much time, often in a panic, trying to figure out when and where and who…

You probably have at least one thing you tend to mess up. Maybe you don’t file stuff properly. Maybe you put off dealing with certain emails and then forget them. Maybe you regularly find you’re unprepared for a call or meeting. Whatever your “thing” is, fix it. You’ll save time and aggravation.

8. Pick one task during which you won’t multi-task. Plenty of research says multi-tasking doesn’t work. Some research says multi-tasking actually makes you stupid. Maybe you agree. Maybe you don’t. Either way, I feel sure there is at least one thing you do that is so important you should never allow a distraction or a loss of focus.

Choose an important task and when you perform it turn everything else off. Focus solely on that task.

I think there is good sound advice here for lawyers and if you would put each and everyone into practice imagine how productive you could be… it’s likely to be life changing. Why not give it a try? I know I will!

If you are a frequent reader of my blog you know that I have a motto for business development… Do Something Every Single Day! Creating a business development habit is key to building a book of business. But along with that we must look at the habits that we have acquired along the way that are counter-productive to building a book of business. Inc. Magazine contributor Jeff Haden writes about those little annoying things and the not-so-productive things we should consider NOT doing. He advises…

Every day, make the commitment not to:

1. Check my phone while I’m talking to someone. You’ve done it. You’ve played the, “Is that your phone? Oh, it must be mine,” game.

Want to stand out? Want to be that person everyone loves because they make you feel, when they’re talking to you, like you’re the most important person in the world? Stop checking your phone.

2. Multitask during a meeting. The easiest way to be the smartest person in the room is to be the person who pays the most attention to the room.

You’ll be amazed by what you can learn, both about the topic of the meeting and about the people in the meeting if you stop multitasking and start paying close attention. You’ll flush out and understand hidden agendas, you’ll spot opportunities to build bridges, and you’ll find ways to make yourself indispensable to the people who matter. It’s easy, because you’ll be the only one trying.

3. Think about people who don’t make any difference in my life. Trust me: The inhabitants of planet Kardashian are okay without you. But your family, your friends, your employees–all the people that really matter to you–are not. Give them your time and attention. They’re the ones who deserve it.

4. Use multiple notifications. You don’t need to know the instant you get an email. Or a text. Or a tweet. Or anything else that pops up on your phone or computer.

If something is important enough for you to do, it’s important enough for you to do without interruptions. Focus totally on what you’re doing. Then, on a schedule you set–instead of a schedule you let everyone else set–play prairie dog and pop your head up to see what’s happening.

5. Let the past dictate the future. Mistakes are valuable. Learn from them. Then let them go.

Easier said than done? It all depends on your perspective. When something goes wrong, turn it into an opportunity to learn something you didn’t know–especially about yourself. When something goes wrong for someone else, turn it into an opportunity to be gracious, forgiving, and understanding.

6. Wait until I’m sure I will succeed. You can never feel sure you will succeed at something new, but you can always feel sure you are committed to giving something your best. And you can always feel sure you will try again if you fail.

Stop waiting. You have a lot less to lose than you think, and everything to gain.

7. Talk behind someone’s back. If only because being the focus of gossip sucks. (And so do the people who gossip.) If you’ve talked to more than one person about something Joe is doing, wouldn’t everyone be better off if you stepped up and actually talked to Joe about it? And if it’s “not your place” to talk to Joe, it’s probably not your place to talk about Joe.

8. Say “yes” when I really mean “no.” Refusing a request from colleagues, customers, or even friends is really hard. But rarely does saying no go as badly as you expect. Most people will understand, and if they don’t, should you care too much about what they think?

When you say no, at least you’ll only feel bad for a few moments. When you say yes to something you really don’t want to do you might feel bad for a long time–or at least as long as it takes you to do what you didn’t want to do in the first place.

Imagine… if you truly committed to NOT doing these 8 things, how much more success you would have building relationships. Not to mention your productivity could go through the roof! Maybe it’s a bit much to ask that you tackle all eight at once. Try one for a week, then the next week add a second and so on. In two months you will have tackled all eight. What’s at stake? Strong relationships and productivity. So give it a shot!

Do the emails you send to your clients build credibility? Credibility… like your ability to be laser sharp and get to the essence of an issue? Or are they written like mini briefs? Everyone gets more emails per day than they can possibly read. When communicating with clients it is important that they read your emails and take action. So how do you get them to do it? Geoffrey James from Inc. Magazine has a six-step system to turn your over-written emails into productive tools that will build your credibility and demonstrate to your clients that you do care about efficiency.

James writes…

E-mails are the most common document in the business world. Unfortunately, many e-mails are so poorly written that recipients must struggle to figure out why they’re reading the e-mail and what they’re supposed to do about it. Here’s a foolproof method to write e-mails that get the job done.

1. Have a specific decision in mind. The goal of an e-mail is always to get the recipient(s) to make a decision of some kind. Otherwise, why bother writing it?

Therefore, before you write anything, ask yourself: exactly what decision do I want the recipient to make? As with all business writing, vagueness is the opposite of useful. The clearer the goal, the more convincing your e-mail will be.

2. Start by writing your conclusion. Your conclusion is a statement of the decision that you want the recipient to make, based upon the contents of your e-mail.

In school, they probably taught you to start with an introduction and end with a conclusion. Wrong. Nobody in the business world has time to wander through the development of an idea. If you don’t tell them the reason for the e-mail immediately, chances are they’ll just move on.

3. Structure your supporting argument into “digestible chunks.” Once you’ve stated your conclusion, marshal the arguments that support your conclusion (i.e. the decision you want made). To make your arguments “digestible,” break them into small “chunks,” and present each point with a similar format and sentence structure.

4. Bolster each argument with evidence. It’s been said that everyone has two things: a sphincter and an opinion. Unless you provide facts that back up your arguments, your e-mail becomes one giant, opinion and therefore, in the eyes of the recipient, you’ll probably seem like one, giant… well…, you get the idea.

5. Repeat your conclusion as a “call to action.” At the end of the e-mail, restate the conclusion in a way that provides the recipient with the next step that the recipient must take, assuming the recipient now agrees with your conclusion, based upon the force of your arguments and evidence. Keep it simple and specific.

6. Stick a benefit in the subject line. Your subject line (aka “title”) is the most important part of an e-mail, which is why you write it last, after you’ve written down both your conclusion and the arguments and evidence that supports that conclusion.

Ideally, a subject line should accomplish two important tasks: 1) interest the recipient enough so that the e-mail gets opened and read, and 2) imply the conclusion that you want to the recipient to accept. In most cases, the best way to accomplish both tasks is to encapsulate a benefit (or benefits) that will result from the decision that you’d like the recipient to make.

This simple six-step system could change the rate of new matters you get from your clients. So, do it and grow your practice.

What does REALLY productive mean to you? For me it is a FEELING of being in the zone of productive. I’m knocking things off my TO DO list (yes, I am one of those obsessive list keepers and I sometimes write something on my list just so I get the satisfaction of crossing it off! Okay, I’ve admitted it!) I was reading Kevin Daum’s article in Inc. Magazine6 Things Really Productive People Do, and I have to admit he blew me away. Some tell me that I have more energy then 3 people combined, but this guy makes me look like I’m standing still, and I seldom get 6-7 hours of sleep. It’s more like 4-5. Take a look at this…

People often ask me, amazed, how I manage to do so many things. Aside from writing two columns every week, I speak regularly, travel, create videos, manage my business, write books, consult with five companies, network, socialize, cycle, run, read, cook, sleep six to seven hours a night and have dates with my wife. Oh yeah, I watch a lot of television while hanging out with my dog as well.

I have a friend that warns me that one day the lack of sleep is going to catch up to me… ok…ok… in 2013 I promise to sleep more! But how am I going to sleep more and still be productive? Kevin has some ideas…

Okay, I know it sounds ridiculous. But accomplishing my preferred future requires this level of activity. I have the same 24 hours in a day that you do, but I have made specific choices that allow me to make the most of every day, and still feel happy and relaxed. Perhaps these tips will help you make the most of your time as well.

1. Pick Your Priorities

Make choices about the activities in your life. With most endeavors, you can either go deep or go wide. Focus on spending time that for you is fun and productive.

What lifestyle do you want? I am clear about mine, are you clear about yours?

2. Go For Efficiency

You don’t do everything well. The things you do well usually give you greater joy and require less time. Don’t take on something with a steep learning curve if you don’t have the available bandwidth.

I love this one, because when we work within our strengths, we are happier and the sky’s the limit.

3. Integrate Your Activities

Many people go crazy trying to figure out how to spend time with friends, family, work, play, etc. Stop trying to balance time between them all. Find ways to enjoy them in a combined manner.

When you can share the thing you like doing with the people you like being around, it can’t get any better than that.

4. Actively Manage Time-wasters

Social media, family, friends, employees, co-workers and general whiners all under certain circumstances can suck precious time from you if you let them. Budget your time for necessary activities. Make a choice to limit non-supportive interactions that don’t energize you.

Don’t let people hijack your time. Yes, easier said than done. But if it becomes your focus, you are more able to recognize each situation as it happens… and short circuit it.

5. Be an Active Learner

You would think learning takes more time from you, but actually there are always new tools and new ways of doing things that can save you time on mundane tasks freeing you up for your priorities.

Lawyers are generally avid learners. So, put it to work.

6. Lighten Up

No need to beat yourself up if you can’t do all the things you want because you are handling other stuff that needs attention. It happens. The world won’t come to an end in most cases just because you left a few things undone. Celebrate progress and keep refining toward a happy productive existence.

We all need to take this one to heart… celebrate the journey!

So, you and I may not be as productive as Kevin but if we put some of his ideas to use I suspect we will make improvement… don’t you?