Do you have trouble completing your daily to-do lists?
You might discover the solution by reading up on our 34th President, Dwight Eisenhower. He is famous, of course, for twice winning the presidency, being a five-star general, and prevailing on D-Day. He’s also known for coming up with a simple way to manage his time and boost his productivity.
The Eisenhower Matrix is a square divided by intersecting lines to create four quadrants, as follows. The two top squares are for important tasks; the bottom two for unimportant tasks.
Items in Square #1 (ex: filing deadline today; fire alarm ringing) should be prioritized and done immediately. Items in Square #2 (ex: install new case management system; get teeth checked) should be placed on the calendar for future completion. Items in Square #3 (ex: prospect walks into office without an appointment; friend is calling about dinner plans) should be put off (or delegated) until Square #1 has been cleared out. Items in Square #4 should be eliminated.
Why not give it a try? Draw an Eisenhower Matrix on your yellow legal pad, transfer items on your to-do list to it, and watch your productivity soar.
The end of the year is a stressful time for everyone, but it’s especially stressful for lawyers and legal professionals. Closing out case matters, completing Q4 financials, shopping for presents, making holiday plans. There never seem to be enough hours in the day to get everything done. The key to easing your stress could be Micro Self-Care. What’s Micro Self-Care? Attend our annual wellness webinar on December 14 and find out. The presenter, Michael Kahn, is a JD and licensed therapist who concentrates in treating lawyers struggling with stress, depression, substance use disorders, and other career issues. This free, one-hour webinar is the latest in Alta Pro’s ongoing series of cutting-edge legal education programs. Stay tuned for registration details, or shoot us an email and we’ll put you on the pre-registration list.
How to Prioritize When the Walls are Pressing In
Here’s another tip for when you’re feeling overwhelmed and out of time: breathe. That’s right, simply take a moment to breathe in and breathe out.
“When we take deep breaths, it calms our bodies and minds so that we can think more clearly and make better decisions,” writes lawyer Jamie Spannhake for Attorney at Work. “ Deep breathing activates the parasympathetic nervous system, which is the ‘rest and digest’ system that allows us to remain calm in the midst of the chaos of our busy lives. Once we are calm, we can take the time to assess and plan. This sometimes seems counterintuitive — taking out time to plan when there is so much to do. But making a plan allows us to be focused and efficient, which is key to managing our competing priorities.”
Here are three other tips from Spannhake’s article:
- Write everything down that you have to do. “I call this a brain dump,” Spannhake writes. “It is a great tool for relieving the anxiety of feeling overwhelmed when the to-do list seems impossible. A reason it helps is that we no longer fear we are going to forget an important task. It’s all written down. Don’t worry about prioritizing or figuring out how long each task will take. Just get it all down on paper or in your electronic file.”
- Delegate. “Looking over all your tasks from the brain dump, especially ones that are both urgent and important, determine if someone else can handle any of the work,” according to Spannhake.
- Estimate the time it will take for the most urgent tasks. “Sometimes it is best to focus first on the task that will take the most time so that you are at least started on that time-consuming work,” writes Spannhake. “Sometimes it is best to knock out a few short tasks to alleviate the feeling of overwhelm. You’ll have to figure out which is best in any given situation, but just knowing that you have a plan for handling it all will help tremendously.”
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