“I just want to work less hours”
“I feel I have been rushing around, busy all day, but my time sheet doesn’t reflect that!”
“I wish there were more hours in the day”
“How can it be 4.00pm already? I feel I have only just settled into this work”
“I need to meet my fees budget but to do so will mean having to work big hours again this month. It just feels impossible”
"My family are really annoyed at me for working late again and missing sports practice"
“I am OVER working long days or weekends”
Does any of this sound familiar?
One of the biggest grizzles I hear from family lawyers is about the hours they work. This often means their work eats into their lives outside being a family lawyer and into important, restorative time for themselves and their family.
I know the struggle well. For me, it used to look something like this. You start your day with good intentions – you are at your desk early, you have a ‘clear day’ (yippee!), the files you are working on today are sitting at the ready and your to-do list is all prioritised and set out before you. How on earth then, before you know it, is it 4pm and you still have that same draft affidavit sitting open on your computer with your cursor blinking away at the very spot you left it at 9.30am when you just took that client call? That client call was followed by a colleague coming in to “pick your brain” then you had a secretarial issue brought to your attention then there was the meeting with a staff member to discuss their development plan followed by you deciding you absolutely HAD TO pursue an idea that came up during that meeting and throughout, every time you went to work on that affidavit, there were phone calls and emails pinging in. It feels like everyone wanted a piece of you today – again- and it’s going to be another late night after everyone has gone so you can just get one or two things on that list done.
If this sounds familiar, then I have got a game-changer for you! One of the most beneficial things I have done for my practice, the length of my work day (and my sanity) is BATCHING.
Quite simply, batching is compiling similar tasks and doing them all together before moving on to another batch of similar tasks. So, rather than working on all the tasks for one client’s matter before moving on to the next client’s matter, I batch similar types of tasks within my work day, my work week, my work month and year.
Some examples are:
In any given day, I will batch my emails and phone calls into one power-hour or two half hour blocks, rather than attending to these as the phone or inbox dictates.In any given week, I will batch my client appointments and meetings into two or three days, giving me some clear days to get on with other “batches”.For staff matters, forget your “open door” unless you love having your workflow constantly interrupted! I batch team related tasks into designated time slots in which I have a daily team catch-up and attend to any individual staff queries or matters requiring my input and supervision. My team have the advantage of knowing there is a time that they can definitely ‘catch me’. If you have a team reporting to you, this spells the end to those perpetual “can I just have a moment and pick your brain?” moments!If I know I have some tasks to do in a particular computer programme, for example Excel or Powerpoint, I will batch all the tasks to be done in that programme together. No more clicking in and out of different programmes and resetting my brain to operate each programme each time. All my document drafting tasks get batched into a weekly slot or slots designated for drafting. Within document drafting, I batch my first drafts then batch my editing/proof reading tasks. All my client billing tasks get batched into one slot each week.Tasks relating to my financial, business and strategic matters get batched into a weekly slot and a larger once-a-month slot. My volunteer work gets batched so that I can keep it contained to the time I am able to realistically commit to voluntary projects.
The beauty of batching is:
You will feel calmer and more in control of life, knowing there is a time in which everything will get done. Staying on one task for a concerted period of time is less stressful for the brain than dashing from one fire to the next.
You can quickly set realistic expectations for clients about when something will be done. “Need an agreement drafted? Sure, that will be with you next Thursday” (because you know you can complete it in your document drafting batch time allocated on Wednesday).
It is kind to your productivity! All those tiny moments spent clicking-here-and- clicking-there on various programmes on your computer are reduced as is the time lost through interruptions from others or suddenly deciding your Facebook needs your attention.
Apparently, for every interruption in your day, it takes an average of 20 minutes to get your focus back fully on the task you were interrupted from!
Your brain will love batching! Instead of feeling pulled in a dozen different directions and constantly getting interrupted, your brain gets to enjoy staying on one type of task for an hour or more. This allows it to get into the productivity holy grail “flow state” where you become completely immersed in a task and, even if it is a tricky task, you develop a sense of ease about it.
You’ll get stuff done! No more rushing from one thing to the next through the day, feeling flustered and that you are constantly not getting to things and letting people down. Your clients and colleagues will totally appreciate that you get back to their emails and phone messages each day. Imagine what that does for building positive working relationships and trust!
Your wellbeing is given a boost by having a sense of achievement and accomplishment at the end of the day, rather than having the energy sapping, mojo-breaking experience that comes with our brain having to switch tasks repeatedly throughout the day.
Now, I know what you are thinking! You have court commitments that you have no control over the scheduling of. There are client situations that come up and do need urgent responses. In the time it takes to organise your batching, you could have done 2 tasks. I hear you! In next week’s blog, I will be all over those obstacles and give you ideas for how to seamlessly and efficiently put batching into practice.
In the meantime, if you are already batching or you decide to give it a go this week, I’d love to hear how it is working for you. Just drop me a comment or come on into The Law Lighthouse Group and share how it is going.