We never have enough time. There is no disputing the fact that there are only 24 hours in a day. So instead of wishing for more time our focus should be on how to maximize our time. Forbes contributor… The Muse has written an article… 3 Ways To Get More Out Of Every Single Hour

Here are a few research-backed suggestions that can help you make the most of the time you have.

1. Value Every Single Minute… We tend to sell ourselves short in the time department. In many cases, we even allow others to take advantage of our time. So the most important step in time management is to take ownership of our time, making room for the activities that are meaningful and productive, and eliminating those that have less long-term value.

What sets worthy tasks apart are the outcomes associated with your time investment. For example, you might routinely attend a meeting that includes a lot of back-and-forth, but not a lot of action. Could that allotted time be better spent on an alternative activity, such as connecting with clients or collaborating with colleagues? Often, there are opportunities to “mine” time for more productive activities—we simply overlook them.

To this end, take a hard look at how you’ve been spending your time by completing a calendar audit. Start with this exercise: Record your hour-by-hour activities for two weeks. Then review your entries with these questions in mind: Was the time well spent? Were there solid benefits associated with the time spent? Would you go the same route again? In many cases, a “time” issue is actually a “task” issue. So jettison the tasks that add little to your effectiveness.

Most lawyers keep track of time. However it is with the focus of “more time, more billing” not with a focus of efficiency. Try this time audit as The Muse suggests and see if you can shed a little light on a more efficient use of every single minute.

2. Make Room for More Focus. From ringing phones to co-workers stopping by your desk for a chat, distractions are plentiful in most office environments. (Handling the “drive-bys” can be a real challenge.) While these distractions have become an accepted part of work life, they can wreak havoc on our levels of productivity. When we’re in stop-and-start mode all day, we find ourselves repeating tasks, losing our place, and spinning our wheels. In fact, it can take 20 minutes or longer to re-focus after an interruption.

In some cases, open offices are the culprit. However, we also contribute to the problem with the choices that we make. Psychologist Daniel Goleman discusses that we need to take control and protect ourselves from our own schedules—building time into our work lives to focus deeply on important tasks. We need to identify slices of time when, as Goleman explains, we have the opportunity to “cocoon” and concentrate fully.

You might consider silencing your cell phone or utilizing Google’s Inbox Pause feature to turn off incoming email for an hour or so each day. You can also ask your manager about setting aside two, uninterrupted 30-minute time periods during your workday, perhaps as your day begins, at lunchtime, or at the close of the day, where you can hunker down and do focused work.

You’ll likely be surprised just how much you get out of that time.

There is no doubt that when we can focus we are more productive, so take control of your time. So I suggest that you close your door and hang a “Do Not Disturb” sign on the doorknob with a time you expect to be accessible again. This will help to manage the expectations of those that need you.

3. Tame Procrastination. Procrastination is one of the most common workplace challenges—and for some of us; it can become a huge time waster. While procrastination can stem from feeling overwhelmed or under-prepared (in which case, don’t delay seeking guidance), research also suggests that procrastination can occur as the result of how we view tasks and goals. Specifically, we cast certain tasks in a very negative light—for, example, “I’ll finish the report by Friday, so my manager won’t be upset with me.” These are called “avoidance” goals—you complete them to avoid a negative consequence—and interestingly, they have a greater tendency to be correlated with procrastination.

But here’s the good news: You can curb procrastination by attempting to view these tasks differently, reframing them as an “approach” goal versus an “avoidance” goal. If you’re dreading a certain task, attempt to see it in the context of a possibly more appealing outcome. Could its completion contribute to advancing a larger, more positive goal—for example, impressing clients or being viewed as a team player? This may help you stay on course. An added bonus? Approach goals seem to offer more satisfaction when they are ultimately accomplished.

What I have learned from my own procrastination is that the task that I have put off generally doesn’t take as much time as I expected,and when I finish it, I often ask myself “Why didn’t I just do it sooner?” I could have avoided hours and sometimes days of feeling guilty that it was still on my “To Do List.” As the saying goes… Just Do It!

Want to discuss this subject further? Give me a call or shoot me an email!

 

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?

“I don’t have time!” I hear that over and over again. Often times, after lawyers complain about not having time we go on to discuss their business development initiatives and almost each and every time they divulge to me little and big things they are doing that don’t make sense that he or she is spending their limited time doing. But they don’t make the connection.

Time is money… I’m sure you have heard that phrase many times. It is never truer than it is with lawyers. Because you sell your time in hour increments and even if you charge a flat fee, you figure out what to charge based on how much time it’s going to take… Simple.

BUT, it’s not so simple when it comes to doing things other than legal work. Three times this week I spoke to lawyers about projects they were working on and each one lamented their lack of time. One talked about setting up a group on LinkedIn… great idea! But did she need to spend her time setting it up, no! The answer was… “It’s easy, I can do it fast.” Sure she can, but she has a team that could do it and besides, her time would be better spent writing an article to post on LinkedIn.

Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should. Others could bring expertise and insight that you may not have. And sometimes it’s simply a second pair of eyes that can be invaluable.

Ask yourself… “Could someone else do this task? Am I doing it because I like doing it or maybe because I want to prove how smart I am?” Neither of those qualifies as a good use of your valuable time.

Chelsea Greenwood wrote in Success Magazine… “Ticktock. Ticktock. Ticktock. For some, that’s what the passage of time sounds like. For others, it goes more like this: Cha-ching. Cha-ching. Cha-ching.” What does time sound like to YOU?

Peter Bregman writes for the Harvard Business Review and last week he was interviewed on ABC News where he shared his strategy for prioritizing and getting the right things done. 

Peter has written the book 18 Minutes: Find focus, Master Distraction, and Get The Right Things Done. OK… 18 minutes, how could a measly 18 minutes get you focused? Peter has a simple formula. Five minutes in the morning when you get your To Do list organized and schedule some of those items in your calendar with a specific time to accomplish them. Then at the end of the day you spend another five minutes to reflect on what went well and where you could improve… and I love this… show gratitude. Now that is only ten minutes… where do the other eight work in? Every hour take ONE minute to ask yourself… Am I working on what I need to? He sets his watch to go off every hour which will remind him of his commitments and priorities.

Now… let’s be honest. How often do you say "I don’t have time?" Imagine… how that could change when you get present to what you are doing every hour. I bet you will find that you aren’t working on what you need to! I have to admit… THAT is exactly what I realized. I was distracted… a lot! 

Here are some more take-aways for lawyers who are interested in gaining focus for your business development efforts.

1. Focus on follow through… He tells us that we probably don’t lack the motivation, what we lack is the follow through. Use the 18 minutes to focus on the things you need to do in order to follow through on the commitments in your 2012 Business Plan.

2. Learn to say NO… I love this one, as I have written before, is your time being hijacked? We often let others control our time with meaningless interruptions or pushing our buttons of obligations… YOU get to decide how you will spend your time and sometimes the assertion is NO!

3. Narrow your focus to five things… There is great merit in narrowing your focus. We minimize the distractions that get in the way of accomplishing what we have identified as our top priorities.

Black Pearl: Back in October I wrote about another one of Peter’s insights…. Find the one big theme for your 2012 efforts. It’s great insight to give an over all theme to your efforts. By the way… I finally figured out my big theme… adding structure and organization to my initiatives. What could yours be?