Start Page: Tips for catching up after snow days

February 12, 2014
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WilsonWe’re already over a month in to 2014. So far, the weather has wreaked havoc on school and work schedules. If you are like me, the list of things to accomplish has only gotten longer as a result. The solution? Use your technology tools more efficiently. Here are three concepts and related tips to help you (and me) dig out and catch up.

Rearrange your home screens to match your workflow

During one of delays the past few weeks, I took a serious look at all the apps on my smartphone’s home screen. All of the notifications of new emails, calendar invites and the like were distracting me from getting work done. As I looked at my main computer’s home screen, it was the same. There was no logic to how things were arranged. I decided it was time to arrange my shortcuts to better match my workflow.

On my smartphone’s main screen, I now have my four most used apps on its “dock” (the area of the phone that is available no matter what screen I’m on): the phone, texts, tasks and my calendar. I used to store my email application there, but found the notifications just took my focus away from actually accomplishing anything.

I also made a “daily” folder to hold the apps I want to use on a daily basis (e.g., alarm clock, Web browser, and weather app). Now, I open that folder and go through those apps more systematically. Finally, I moved the non-essential apps off the main screen to allow for better focus during the work day.

On my desktop at the office, I have a dual monitor arrangement. I moved the main menu bar (called the Taskbar in Windows and the Dock on a Mac) vertically in between my monitors. That way, I don’t have to move my mouse as much to switch between the open programs.

I also created a folder on the desktop called “daily,” placing the shortcuts to the applications I use every day in that folder (e.g., Outlook, case management and billing software). This arrangement helps me not open programs that could distract me from the most important things I want to accomplish.

Learn keyboard shortcuts

Keyboard shortcuts allow you to get more done in less time. Every time you take your hand off the keyboard to reach for the mouse, you lose focus and momentum. Granted, it takes some time to learn the keyboard, but the time saved will pay big dividends in the long run. To start, make a list of three things you do the most during the day (e.g., copy, paste or switching between programs) and find shortcuts for those actions. Once you see how much time you save, you’ll start finding and using other keyboard shortcuts in your workflow. The key is to build the habit of using the shortcut key instead of reaching for the mouse.

Most programs have a list of keyboard shortcuts provided either in the menus of the program itself or in its “Help” file. An Internet search for “keyboard shortcut for [the action you are trying to accomplish]” will often yield the result.

Limit distractions

Distractions and interruptions have a serious impact on your ability to get work done. Some studies suggest that we can train ourselves to deal with interruptions and not lose too much brainpower. Other studies suggest that every interruption requires several minutes to refocus on whatever you were working on in the first place. While it is impossible to eliminate all distractions, you can control some technology-related ones using these tips.

1. Plan your week. Mark off time on your calendar for larger projects and time for daily tasks (e.g., reviewing mail, making and returning phone calls). That way, you will know when it is safe to follow the other tips below and not miss an important meeting or hearing. If you use an electronic calendar, some phone systems will automatically switch on the “do not disturb” feature during the time the appointment is scheduled.

2. Turn off your email while working on a big project. Don’t forget to turn it back on when you are done or on a break so you won’t miss that all-important client email.

3. Close all programs but the one(s) needed to perform the task at hand. Internet-based legal research makes this harder, but discipline yourself to open only the legal research tab.

4. Give yourself a break. Use the “do not disturb” feature on your smartphone for a set period every day. I turn off my notifications from 10 p.m. to 8 a.m., except for emergency notifications. Let yourself off the leash for a little while, if possible.

I hope these tips help you get and stay caught up. I need to go, I just got a text.•

Seth Wilson is an attorney with Hume Smith Geddes Green & Simmons LLP in Indianapolis. In addition to practicing law, he helps manage the day-to-day technology operations of the firm, and frequently speaks and advises on legal technology issues. The opinions expressed are those of the author.


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  1. I think the cops are doing a great job locking up criminals. The Murder rates in the inner cities are skyrocketing and you think that too any people are being incarcerated. Maybe we need to lock up more of them. We have the ACLU, BLM, NAACP, Civil right Division of the DOJ, the innocent Project etc. We have court system with an appeal process that can go on for years, with attorneys supplied by the government. I'm confused as to how that translates into the idea that the defendants are not being represented properly. Maybe the attorneys need to do more Pro-Bono work

  2. We do not have 10% of our population (which would mean about 32 million) incarcerated. It's closer to 2%.

  3. If a class action suit or other manner of retribution is possible, count me in. I have email and voicemail from the man. He colluded with opposing counsel, I am certain. My case was damaged so severely it nearly lost me everything and I am still paying dearly.

  4. There's probably a lot of blame that can be cast around for Indiana Tech's abysmal bar passage rate this last February. The folks who decided that Indiana, a state with roughly 16,000 to 18,000 attorneys, needs a fifth law school need to question the motives that drove their support of this project. Others, who have been "strong supporters" of the law school, should likewise ask themselves why they believe this institution should be supported. Is it because it fills some real need in the state? Or is it, instead, nothing more than a resume builder for those who teach there part-time? And others who make excuses for the students' poor performance, especially those who offer nothing more than conspiracy theories to back up their claims--who are they helping? What evidence do they have to support their posturing? Ultimately, though, like most everything in life, whether one succeeds or fails is entirely within one's own hands. At least one student from Indiana Tech proved this when he/she took and passed the February bar. A second Indiana Tech student proved this when they took the bar in another state and passed. As for the remaining 9 who took the bar and didn't pass (apparently, one of the students successfully appealed his/her original score), it's now up to them (and nobody else) to ensure that they pass on their second attempt. These folks should feel no shame; many currently successful practicing attorneys failed the bar exam on their first try. These same attorneys picked themselves up, dusted themselves off, and got back to the rigorous study needed to ensure they would pass on their second go 'round. This is what the Indiana Tech students who didn't pass the first time need to do. Of course, none of this answers such questions as whether Indiana Tech should be accredited by the ABA, whether the school should keep its doors open, or, most importantly, whether it should have even opened its doors in the first place. Those who promoted the idea of a fifth law school in Indiana need to do a lot of soul-searching regarding their decisions. These same people should never be allowed, again, to have a say about the future of legal education in this state or anywhere else. Indiana already has four law schools. That's probably one more than it really needs. But it's more than enough.

  5. This man Steve Hubbard goes on any online post or forum he can find and tries to push his company. He said court reporters would be obsolete a few years ago, yet here we are. How does he have time to search out every single post about court reporters and even spy in private court reporting forums if his company is so successful???? Dude, get a life. And back to what this post was about, I agree that some national firms cause a huge problem.