Ok, so I hear you – this batching approach to task management sounds great for getting more done in less hours but surely it is only for people who don’t have the crazy-busy life of a family lawyer, right?
You’re likely thinking what I thought when I first heard of batching – “those who successfully use batching don’t have court commitments and urgent client demands to contend with!”.
But what if having the crazy, busy life of a family lawyer with court commitments and urgent client demands is exactly WHY you need batching in your life?
You’re busy so I won’t run through again all the fabulous reasons WHY batching will give you time back. That was all covered in last week’s blog.
Instead, let’s look at HOW you can make batching operate seamlessly for you.
First up, getting organised! Critical to batching is dividing your tasks into “like” batches. So, all your emails are in one batch, all your drafting in another, all your staff related tasks are another batch, all your billing/financial tasks go in another, all your work in Excel in another…you get the drift.
However, I am picking that, like me, you may still like to have visibility around what lies ahead for each client so I start there. You can do this several ways, depending on how you like to work:
if you are a retro, old school, pen & paper kind of lawyer then you can simply take your handwritten to-do list but instead of one long list, divide it into sections based on your batches. If you are all about the technology and have a client management system that you enter tasks for a client into, you can use that. Quick tip though - start each task with the name of the batch that it belongs to. This way, the tasks for a client are all together in their matter but you can then search for tasks that are in similar batches across client matters. I work in ActionStep so each client’s matters will have tasks within it but my task list can be arranged by my batches which may look like this:
If you lie somewhere in the middle, you may like to run a spreadsheet, listing all your clients and the tasks that lie ahead for each mater. When using this system, I like to colour code the tasks by batch so I can readily identify my tasks when I am working on a batch. This may look like this:
Of course, you need to schedule time for your batches in your calendar or diary. I tend to allocate my batch time for the month ahead around commitments for Court and existing meetings and leave slots for client meetings.
Then - this can be the hard part - once the times are scheduled in your diary they need to be treated as an inalienable commitment. It may be tempting to slot a client meeting over time set aside for drafting or to spend your emailing batch time lost down an Instagram rabbit hole but you’ll only do this to your batches a few times before you realise it doesn’t pay.
What to do about Court? My personal preference is to treat Court waiting time as a time-slot for batch-able tasks. There is a lot of time often spent waiting outside Courtrooms (or other appointments for that matter - how much can you get done while waiting for your doctor?!) so I batch tasks that can be done during such waiting times. For example, slotting your reading batch tasks or email tasks into your time at court. Or, recognise that the time spent catching up with colleagues outside the courtroom is also an important task for us – one that helps us progress cases, enrich relationships and give us an important sense of connection.
What about the urgent calls that disrupt your beautiful, colour coordinated schedule? These may be client calls but equally, could be that call from your child's school. This is when careful judiciousness (I just love that word) is required - Do you need to be the person who solves this problem? Really? If you do, does it need to be done at this immediate moment or can it be deferred into a batch?
The way I allow for the absolute-must-drop-everything moments is is to endeavour to schedule an unallocated block in my weekly diary for such urgent things or to pick up the batches that got pushed aside in order to deal with an urgent matter. I say “endeavour” because I am not perfect and am just learning at this. Stuff comes along and blindsides us but that doesn't mean we should just give up! What I can say with confidence is that, even with slips and mishaps, if I follow a batching system 80% of the time, life is a whole lot better and more in control than if I just allowed the urgent things, the interruptions and my inbox to decide my working day.
I’d love to hear what you do to ensure you are productive and don’t get dragged into working more hours. Drop me a comment below or a message in The Law Lighthouse Group.