We have all experienced the feeling of being overwhelmed, and we deal with it in different ways.
One expert in law practice management expert recommends taking a cue from hospital emergency rooms and take a triage approach.
This starts by creating a master list of to-do items.
“Check your calendar and write down upcoming meetings, deadlines and other commitments,” recommends lawyer and publisher Joan Feldman. “Go two weeks out, then go two weeks back for deadlines you missed. If you use an email folder system or flags, check those folders for items that need immediate action…. review your practice management and project management systems for outstanding and upcoming tasks.”
Once you’ve compiled the master list, Feldman shows you how to start whittling.
Below is a step-by step triage method from Feldman in her recent article for Attorney at Work.
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Joan Feldman is Editor-in-Chief and CEO of Attorney at Work. Hat tip to her article “Overwhelmed? Here’s How to Dig Out When There’s Too Much to Do:”
Start whittling. “Use a highlighter and mark all the things you can cancel — be brutal — or reschedule for later in the month; use another color to highlight everything you can delegate. What’s left is a list of projects and tasks you must get done, or start, in short order. Now you need to prioritize, find time and, if necessary, people.
Group like tasks together. This includes phone calls to make, emails to write, documents to draft, errands that will take you away from your desk, and so on. Write down how much time it should take you to complete.
Use daily lists. “Use your daily planner, yellow pad, spreadsheet or favorite app and begin writing down the time in 15-minute increments down the left side of a page. (I use grid paper.) Before the workday begins, or the night before, start adding tasks from your triage list. First, though, look at the list and pick the one thing that is giving you the most anxiety — the one thing that will give you the most relief once it’s handled. It probably isn’t the most time-consuming. It’s either somebody you need to tell no to or something you don’t know how to do. It’s a phone call to ask for forgiveness or to ask for help. Put it first in your day and eat the frog.”
Delegate. “Sometimes people are simply too disorganized to delegate. Sometimes it seems easier to do it yourself, especially if you want to make sure things are done your way. But just because you like things a certain way, that doesn’t mean there isn’t another way, or that somebody else can’t do it. Also, keep in mind that to others, your need to control the situation may look like client hoarding.:
Change the wallpaper. “Write your triage list away from the office or home office, free from interruptions. (Somewhere you can burst into tears without family or colleagues around.) Taking your work somewhere new — like a “third place” as recommended by Analog Attorney — can help free your mind to make better decisions. In or out of crisis mode, my best tip for working from home is to shake up your routine and get away from the desk at least once a week. Spend the afternoon in a museum, take a nature walk, take a drive.
Find your people. It all starts here.