Trial & Error: How to manage your time (Part 3)

In my last two columns, I offered up tips on how to bundle tasks and up your efficiency game — all to help you manage your time better. But no matter how much you bundle, or how efficient you are, you will never be able to do it all. In then end, some things just won’t get done, which means you have to prioritize — that is, decide what is truly important and what can be safely left at wayside.

And, all of my friends who went to business school have taught me there’s a tried-and-tested method to figure this out: the Eisenhower Matrix, invented by, you guessed it, former American president, Dwight Eisenhower. This is a standard concept at any MBA program and, in my opinion, it ought to find its way into the legal profession.

Here’s how it works: you build a chart (see below) that allows you to sort everything on your to-do list by urgency and importance.

Here’s how I might use the matrix on an average day:

Urgency vs. Importance

 

As you can see, once I know what’s most important and most urgent, I know I have to do that first. If it’s urgent, but not all that important, I delegate the task; and if it’s important, but not that urgent, I’ll schedule it for later. If it’s neither important, nor urgent, I know I don’t have to do it.

Learning about this paradigm has shifted the way I think about my time and has forced me to focus on what is important.Time is, after all, our most precious resource. And this matrix helps me establish a plan. Give it a try and you should be prioritizing in no time — pun intended.


Atrisha LewisAtrisha Lewis is a third-year associate in McCarthy Tétrault’s litigation group. Follow her on Twitter: @atrishalewisAnd also check out all of her past columns.

 

 


Photo from Sean MacEntee

Trial & Error: How to manage your time (Part 2)

In my last column, I discussed how you can bundle your tasks together to free up extra time. But, today, I want to talk about efficiency — another useful time-management tactic that will help you do more with the time you have. Here are three ways to boost your efficiency:

Give yourself deadlines

It’s easy, when I’m working on a task without a hard deadline, to let calls and e-mails distract me. My solution is to assign myself deadlines. If I’m drafting a statement of defence, for instance, I give myself two hours to finish the job. This artificial boxed-timeline forces me to ignore everything else and get it done. It’s also consistent with Parkinson’s Law, which says the time required to complete a particular task will expand according to the amount of time allotted to it.

Make calendar appointments with yourself

Endless to-do lists overwhelm me. How do I know where to start? But by making calendar appointments with myself to finish specific tasks, where I allot a reasonable amount of time, I am both organized and committed to the task at hand. Plus, it keeps me from feeling guilty that I’m not doing something else.

Ask for help

Our profession is remarkable: even the busiest among us are generous with our time and are happy to discuss cases and files with those asking for help. When I’m truly stuck on something, it’s far faster to talk to more senior lawyers at my firm than remain frustrated. My colleagues often save me from “reinventing the wheel” by offering up a solution to a problem they once had, and know how to easily solve.

Next month, in part three of this time-management series, I will discuss the importance of making priorities.


Atrisha LewisAtrisha Lewis is a third-year associate in McCarthy Tétrault’s litigation group. Follow her on Twitter: @atrishalewisAnd also check out all of her past columns.

 

 


Photo from Sean MacEntee