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Time Management Tips for New Attorneys and Associates. You CAN Do it All!

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If you struggle with managing your day and making time for your work and personal life, we completely get it.  Check out this system for time management and a daily routine that will get you in and out of the office (just in time for American Idol Season Finale)!

  • The art of the list

If you want to master your daily schedule, you have to get comfortable with making lists.  The five to ten minutes it takes to make a comprehensive list for the entire month, as well as your daily to-do lists, will save you hours on the back end.  While you ultimately have to figure out a system that works best for you, I find that the old school, handwritten list works best (I put all of my meetings and events into an electronic calendar, too, but I like being able to see everything I have to do written down in one place).

Here's my big secret (and my real-life calendar for this month): using a piece of lined paper, create this month's calendar vertically down the side of the page.

For each day, write out the tasks you have to accomplish.  Cross items out as you accomplish them.

This system has saved me again and again for years.  Anytime I am overwhelmed, I create a calendar list.  I can see everything I have to do for the entire month in one place, I know when I have to do it, and suddenly the overwhelm is gone.  (And writing in pencil allows me to erase or move things around as necessary.)

  • Get work done systematically

When we have a lot to do, as we all do each and every day, we tend to dabble.  We open one project, start another, take a phone call.  Instead of making small dents in all of your work, get your work done systematically.  Carve out three hours to start and finish a project before you move on to the next one.  Tackle your projects in order of priority first, and then in order of how quickly you can accomplish the project.  (With this said, you don't want to rush - make sure you are taking the time to do all of your work well.)  The more you can cross of your list each day, the better.

  • Get help!

Whether you have a personal administrative assistant, a firm-wide assistant, or no one, figure out how to ask for and get help when you need it.  You may be delegating to an assistant, an outside company, or your mother (have you seen hiremymom.com? - kind of awesome) - either way, have clarity about what tasks you are solely responsible for and what tasks you can pass along.  Delegate and get back to work.

  • Turn off email alerts

In this week's newsletter, we talk all about how to limit your email time and get work done.  But, the key takeaway is to check your email on a regular schedule and turn off your email alert during the day.  The fewer distractions you have, the more likely you are to get to the items on your checklist.

  • Stay off of social media sites, blogs, etc.

I love social media and a handful of blogs as much as the next guy (ok if I'm being honest - maybe more).  But it is a time suck and in no way furthers your goal of getting work done quickly and efficiently.  If you are on Twitter or LinkedIn or Facebook for work purposes (and we highly encourage you to be!), as with email, create a systematic time and place for checking in on those sites, and then forget about them until evening or the following day.

  • Eat lunch!

There is no such thing as being too busy to eat.  In fact, this makes no sense.  We're just like cars, people.  If we don't get fuel, we'll shut down.  If your goal is to keep your stamina up and get work done (and not be in a nasty mood) throughout the day, you have to take a break, get some water, and eat some lunch.  This is good for your constitution, anyway, and we all need a break

Desiree Moore is the President and founder of Greenhorn Legal, LLC. Greenhorn Legal offers intensive practical skills training programs for law students and new lawyers as they transition from law school into their legal practices.  Ms. Moore is also an adjunct professor at Loyola University Chicago School of Law and was an associate at the law firm of K&L Gates. She can be found on Twitter at @greenhornlegal.