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Start Page: Make the most of your 24 hours with workflow planning

Seth Wilson
March 26, 2014
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WilsonLawyers are hardworking professionals. But, most feel like there is more work to get done than is possible in the 24 hours everyone has each day. Legal professionals understand the reality of professional development: “the better you get, the better you’d better get.” (David Allen, author of “Getting Things Done”) So how can you manage work and all of life’s other commitments? Develop, and use, good workflow plans.

Here are three tips to help you “plan your work and work your plan” (Vince Lombardi):

Track what you do and how you do it

Review and reflect

Draft a plan and do

Track what you do and how you do it

Workflow planning starts by simply observing how you already “do work.” The goal here is to capture enough data about what you already do to later organize that work in the most efficient and effective way possible.

To start, grab a legal pad (or your favorite notebook) and take notes on what you do now to get things done. Also, make notes on what type of work you do (e.g., making phone calls, writing, reviewing documents, entering time and meeting with clients).

Use your notes to identify the patterns in the work you do. Jot down times when you often get interrupted. Note when you feel most productive. Think about what time of day is best for you to perform tasks that require the most focus and thought. Consider where you work best on certain types of projects.

While you are capturing this information, think about your current system for tracking your to-dos. Sticky notes? Legal pads? Is your to-do list on your computer, phone or tablet? When is the last time you updated your to-do list? Do you only make a list of things to do when you can’t keep track of everything in your head? Maybe it’s time for a new system?

It may take a week to gather enough information to identify some patterns, so keep at it. Your notes should be detailed enough to jog your memory and help you act as a productivity consultant for yourself.

Review and reflect

The key success factor is to actually take time to review your notes. Remember that note you made on your best time for projects that require focus and thought? Schedule an appointment with yourself at that time slot to review the remaining notes you have made on your workflow. What stands out to you? What patterns developed? Are there types of tasks that are similar in nature? The idea here is to evaluate how you are doing things to make sure that you are being as effective as possible.

Ask yourself: Am I the best person to perform all these tasks? Learn to delegate what you can to keep yourself free to focus on things that require your particular skills.

Draft a plan and do

You have created and reviewed your workflow. Now, it is time to draft workflow plans. Start the week by scheduling several two-hour appointments on your calendar to work on projects that take large blocks of time to complete. Choose several projects to work on during those times. Discipline yourself to actually do what you said you would do that day.

Next, make a list of the next steps needed to move your projects forward this week. Keep that list up to date, organized by the type of tasks to be completed (e.g., a list of phone calls to be made when you have access to a phone). Microsoft Outlook Tasks or a smartphone app are great for tracking and sorting these tasks.

Think through the best place to do a task. For example, don’t write out a long email on your smartphone. Put “draft email to atty smith re: property transfer” on a list of things to accomplish when you have a full-sized keyboard available (or access to dictation).

Finally, draft checklists for yourself (and your assistant) on what to do with the various inputs you face every day (email, snail mail, etc). As an example, I have a workflow plan for turning my snail mail into email for review. I take my snail mail directly to a scanner and scan it to my email. I return to my office, handle any immediate actions from the mail and file the paper mail. Later, I review and file the email with my workflow for processing email.

Draft and work your workflow plan. Review and revise it as necessary. Continue to improve your processes until they work as smoothly and effectively as you do at your best. You will feel more in control and better able to focus on tackling the work – and fun – that comes your way.•

__________

Seth Wilson is a partner at 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. Yes diversity is so very important. With justice Rucker off ... the court is too white. Still too male. No Hispanic justice. No LGBT justice. And there are other checkboxes missing as well. This will not do. I say hold the seat until a physically handicapped Black Lesbian of Hispanic heritage and eastern religious creed with bipolar issues can be located. Perhaps an international search, with a preference for third world candidates, is indicated. A non English speaker would surely increase our diversity quotient!!!

  2. First, I want to thank Justice Rucker for his many years of public service, not just at the appellate court level for over 25 years, but also when he served the people of Lake County as a Deputy Prosecutor, City Attorney for Gary, IN, and in private practice in a smaller, highly diverse community with a history of serious economic challenges, ethnic tensions, and recently publicized but apparently long-standing environmental health risks to some of its poorest residents. Congratulations for having the dedication & courage to practice law in areas many in our state might have considered too dangerous or too poor at different points in time. It was also courageous to step into a prominent and highly visible position of public service & respect in the early 1990's, remaining in a position that left you open to state-wide public scrutiny (without any glitches) for over 25 years. Yes, Hoosiers of all backgrounds can take pride in your many years of public service. But people of color who watched your ascent to the highest levels of state government no doubt felt even more as you transcended some real & perhaps some perceived social, economic, academic and professional barriers. You were living proof that, with hard work, dedication & a spirit of public service, a person who shared their same skin tone or came from the same county they grew up in could achieve great success. At the same time, perhaps unknowingly, you helped fellow members of the judiciary, court staff, litigants and the public better understand that differences that are only skin-deep neither define nor limit a person's character, abilities or prospects in life. You also helped others appreciate that people of different races & backgrounds can live and work together peacefully & productively for the greater good of all. Those are truths that didn't have to be written down in court opinions. Anyone paying attention could see that truth lived out every day you devoted to public service. I believe you have been a "trailblazer" in Indiana's legal community and its judiciary. I also embrace your belief that society's needs can be better served when people in positions of governmental power reflect the many complexions of the population that they serve. Whether through greater understanding across the existing racial spectrum or through the removal of some real and some perceived color-based, hope-crushing barriers to life opportunities & success, movement toward a more reflective representation of the population being governed will lead to greater and uninterrupted respect for laws designed to protect all peoples' rights to life, liberty & the pursuit of happiness. Thanks again for a job well-done & for the inevitable positive impact your service has had - and will continue to have - on countless Hoosiers of all backgrounds & colors.

  3. Diversity is important, but with some limitations. For instance, diversity of experience is a great thing that can be very helpful in certain jobs or roles. Diversity of skin color is never important, ever, under any circumstance. To think that skin color changes one single thing about a person is patently racist and offensive. Likewise, diversity of values is useless. Some values are better than others. In the case of a supreme court justice, I actually think diversity is unimportant. The justices are not to impose their own beliefs on rulings, but need to apply the law to the facts in an objective manner.

  4. Have been seeing this wonderful physician for a few years and was one of his patients who told him about what we were being told at CVS. Multiple ones. This was a witch hunt and they shold be ashamed of how patients were treated. Most of all, CVS should be ashamed for what they put this physician through. So thankful he fought back. His office is no "pill mill'. He does drug testing multiple times a year and sees patients a minimum of four times a year.

  5. Brian W, I fear I have not been sufficiently entertaining to bring you back. Here is a real laugh track that just might do it. When one is grabbed by the scruff of his worldview and made to choose between his Confession and his profession ... it is a not a hard choice, given the Confession affects eternity. But then comes the hardship in this world. Imagine how often I hear taunts like yours ... "what, you could not even pass character and fitness after they let you sit and pass their bar exam ... dude, there must really be something wrong with you!" Even one of the Bishop's foremost courtiers said that, when explaining why the RCC refused to stand with me. You want entertaining? How about watching your personal economy crash while you have a wife and five kids to clothe and feed. And you can't because you cannot work, because those demanding you cast off your Confession to be allowed into "their" profession have all the control. And you know that they are wrong, dead wrong, and that even the professional code itself allows your Faithful stand, to wit: "A lawyer may refuse to comply with an obligation imposed by law upon a good faith belief that no valid obligation exists. The provisions of Rule 1.2(d) concerning a good faith challenge to the validity, scope, meaning or application of the law apply to challenges of legal regulation of the practice of law." YET YOU ARE A NONPERSON before the BLE, and will not be heard on your rights or their duties to the law -- you are under tyranny, not law. And so they win in this world, you lose, and you lose even your belief in the rule of law, and demoralization joins poverty, and very troubling thoughts impeaching self worth rush in to fill the void where your career once lived. Thoughts you did not think possible. You find yourself a failure ... in your profession, in your support of your family, in the mirror. And there is little to keep hope alive, because tyranny rules so firmly and none, not the church, not the NGO's, none truly give a damn. Not even a new court, who pay such lip service to justice and ancient role models. You want entertainment? Well if you are on the side of the courtiers running the system that has crushed me, as I suspect you are, then Orwell must be a real riot: "There will be no curiosity, no enjoyment of the process of life. All competing pleasures will be destroyed. But always — do not forget this, Winston — always there will be the intoxication of power, constantly increasing and constantly growing subtler. Always, at every moment, there will be the thrill of victory, the sensation of trampling on an enemy who is helpless. If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face — forever." I never thought they would win, I always thought that at the end of the day the rule of law would prevail. Yes, the rule of man's law. Instead power prevailed, so many rules broken by the system to break me. It took years, but, finally, the end that Dr Bowman predicted is upon me, the end that she advised the BLE to take to break me. Ironically, that is the one thing in her far left of center report that the BLE (after stamping, in red ink, on Jan 22) is uninterested in, as that the BLE and ADA office that used the federal statute as a sword now refuses to even dialogue on her dire prediction as to my fate. "C'est la vie" Entertaining enough for you, status quo defender?

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