Solo & Small Firm

Tech Report: Gaining 20 Hours Every Year

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By Robert M. Klein

Did you know that saving five minutes every day will create approximately 20 hours of time during one year? What does this mean to a solo or small firm practitioner? It could mean taking 2 ½ days off work or earning an extra $10,000 in billing. Or, it simply means working more efficiently. This article contains ideas which will enable you to save time, which is a valuable commodity to a lawyer and, in particular, to a small firm practitioner.

The easiest way to save time is by keeping a pen or pencil and a piece of paper with you. Jotting down ideas, or tasks, or reminders, without fail, clears your mind and saves an enormous amount of time. There are also studies showing that handwriting notes leads to better retention of information, which is a secondary benefit.

Use a text expansion app. One I have been using is called TextExpander, which works like a cut and paste tool, eliminating the need to cut and paste. Instead, you create a “snippet” along with its own identifying phrase, and by entering the phrase, the snippet is inserted into a document or email. The cost is approximately $4.15 billed monthly or $40.00 billed annually for a single user, and the snippets can be used on all devices.

Another time-saving tip is checking your voicemail half as often as you do now. How about this: carry floss with you so you can floss after every meal rather than one time at night. Apparently, this cuts down the time it takes to floss once a day. A silly, yet effective, idea is to wear headphones at work with nothing coming through the headphones. This has the psychological impact making other avoid creating unwanted and unnecessary interruptions.

Here are a few more: set up different email accounts. Create one dedicated to work and a second dedicated to one’s personal emails. Call a client or opposing counsel rather than emailing. Often, a short, five minute phone call will save multiple emails back and forth, along with the interruptions the emails create.

There is a study from UC Irvine which found, after careful observation that it can take over 20 minutes to recover from an interruption or switching tasks. (See, “The Cost of Interrupted Work: More Speed and Stress”, Gloria Mark, UC Irvine). This study validates and supports turning off email notifications, or turning a phone off during the day, or simply wearing a headset to discourage interruptions. Saving one interruption may save over five minutes a day.

If you are browsing the internet and find an article you would like to read, use a “clipping” app such as Instapaper or Pocket. These apps great tools for saving research and as premium subscribers the reader can highlight within an article and organize articles with tags and search within the inside for saved topics.

Another time-saving tip is limiting social network platform surfing and updating to specific times in a day. Make more use of a cloud storage, which will enable you to access documents no matter where you are located. If you are inspired at two in the morning and thinks of that brilliant idea, you will have access to office files or documents in other locations.

Do strategic planning. Creating a life plan helps plot your direction which leads to more an effective daily planning list, based on both short and long-term goals. This falls into the adage of without a plan, how do you know where you’re going? Also, prioritize your day so you’re doing the more important tasks early will have a positive impact on your life. Consider blocking 30 minutes every day to use on yourself.

There are other personal goals which save time: Pick companions carefully to avoid wasting time and energy on those who don’t bring happiness to your life. Get a good night of sleep. And, probably the easiest and most effective way to have a better life is look for ways to simplify your life. Think about errands and map them out rather than driving across town several times. Throw things away, create routines, and do things that will make you happy. The happiness you can create will extend to everything you do in work and in your personal life, and that alone is worth way more than the time and money you save.

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