If getting more efficient and effective is part of the answer to achieving better work-life balance, then here are tips, apps and sites that can further you along in this journey.
This is a technique where you decide what to do with every email in your inbox immediately as you read it. File it, add it to a To-Do list, trash it – just don’t leave it in your inbox! Strive to empty your inbox daily. Also use SimplyFile (techhit.com/SimplyFile) which speeds up dealing with email by “guessing” which folder in Outlook an incoming and outgoing email belongs in. It is fast, accurate and amazing!
This is sitting down and writing down as many ideas as you can generate to address a problem. Fortunately, mind-mapping software can help you organize and grow/group the ideas as they come to you. You can try: Mindjet (mindjet.com), XMind (xmind.net), Coggle (coggle.it), Freemind (freemind.sourceforge.net/wiki/index.php/Main_Page) or MindNod (mindnode.com) (the 5 best mind-mapping applications per Lifehacker.com).
Capture Your Ideas
Ideas come to you at all times in the day. Use Evernote (evernote.com), Microsoft’s OneNote (onenote.com) or carry a paper notebook in your briefcase to capture those ideas before they slip away. Evernote and OneNote are also great ways of organizing digital information of all types, including web pages, video and audio. You can even dictate your notes into Evernote.
Many of us live by our To-Do lists. Time management experts tell us to have separate lists for work and for personal use. Apps such as Wunderlist (wunderlist.com) allow you to keep these lists on your smartphone, PC, Mac, Android, iPhone, Watch and more and keep them all in sync.
Block off Time and Reduce Interruptions
Take your To-Do list and block off time in Outlook, or whatever calendar application you are using, to allocate time to tasks. Have a sign for your door that politely asks people to not interrupt your work time unless it is an emergency. RescueTime (rescuetime.com) and similar applications will not only block Internet access for a set period (allowing you to concentrate on tasks at hand) but will provide you with a breakdown of how you spent your time during the day. Studies have shown that it takes time to spool up to really attack a task; if you are being constantly interrupted then you are not making the best use of your time and reducing your effectiveness.
Even if you don’t bill by the hour, it is a great idea to track your time to determine your effectiveness. This can also help you determine your effective hourly rate if you divide your collected fees on a matter by the actual (not just billable) time put into a matter. There are many time tracking and time and billing applications such as: PCLaw (lexisnexis.com/law-firm-practice-management/pclaw), Clio (goclio.com), Amicus Attorney (amicusattorney.com), Amicus Cloud (amicusattorney.com/amicus-cloud) and many others.
Learn to Say No
People will always request that you take on new commitments. While none of us wish to be curmudgeons who never help out others, you have to balance this time with the time spent on tasks that are important to you, and allow yourself the time to complete them. Accordingly, one important skill is to say no gracefully but firmly.
© 2016 David J. Bilinsky