Best Time Management Tips When There's Too Much To Do!
by Jamie Spannhake
September 09, 2021
I was on vacation* last week, and I didn't have an opportunity to schedule a blog post ahead of time, so there was no post and no email. Now that I am back, I am drawing heavily on my time management tools to manage my incredibly busy life right now.
*We went on a real road trip, in a rented RV, for 6 days and 7 nights. We intended to go south to see my parents, but COVID numbers there are crazy high, so we abandoned that plan. The RV was non-refundable and paid for, so we did a New England beach trip instead. I plan to make a YouTube video about our trip, so check back later for that.
As you know, I am leaving the practice of law at the end of this month: 20 years was a good run, but now it's time to focus on helping others in a different way - through my writing, coaching, and content.
As always, when I go on vacation, it takes a lot of effort just to get away. We actually left 2 hours later than we planned because I couldn't wrap up my legal work in time to pack before it was time to leave. I rushed and packed and we finally got on the road.
Related Content: Five Ways to Get Away for a Much-Needed Vacation
And, as always, when I return to the office, there's a lot of catch-up to do for all the work that didn't get done while I was away.
Add to that:
- - we adopted a puppy (you can see pictures on Facebook!),
- - I started two new freelance writing gigs,
- - I started a new job Wednesday,
- - even though I still have my law job, and
- - Sarah's first day of school was Thursday.
The next month is going to be a bit crazy as far as time goes.
I am relying upon my own advice and following my Best Time Management Tips article that I wrote for the Maryland State Bar Association. It was written with lawyers in mind, but it is helpful for anyone with Too Much To Do.
Here's the non-lawyer version:
We are all busy. Yet some people are able to accomplish more than others. How is that? Effective time management. I have spoken to many people about how they manage their competing obligations to learn their secrets to successfully handling their busy lives. Here are five of their best tips.
Plan everything and put it on the calendar. Plan on a yearly, weekly, daily, and by project basis. Keep one calendar with everything on it – work deadlines and appointments, family obligations, and personal items (like exercise) – and sync it to all devices. Then follow the calendar. When things don’t go the way you planned, recalibrate, and review at the end of each day.
“Chunk” your work into manageable timeframes and take breaks. It’s easier to keep focused in smaller “chunks” of time, so try to work in 45-90 minute increments. Then take a break or switch to something else. If you must keep working, switch to a separate project or to a new task within the same project, for example switching from writing a brief to reviewing documents or responding to client email. If you can take a short break, go for a walk, do five minutes of stretching, or engage in a meditation mini-session. When you have a longer break, try exercise for rejuvenation and increased focus.
Use your time creatively and multitask wisely. Find snippets of “extra” time. An early weekend morning before the family wakes up, or in the evening after everyone else goes to bed, can provide more time for work or personal tasks. If you have more control over your schedule, you can work hours that work for you. For example, not working after the kids get home from school until after they go to bed; then heading into your home office, for evening hours.
Also get creative with multitasking. Despite research on the negative impact of multitasking on productivity, you can multitask wisely by combining an intellectual task with a mindless task. Some examples? Dictating a blog post or presentation or email response using Dragon Dictation on your smartphone while walking to work (then convert it to text and email it to yourself). Or dictating a “to do” list into a small digital recorder while driving the kids to their after school activities.
Use your technology, except when it doesn’t help you. Use your smartphone, tablet, laptop, apps, and whatever other great technology you have to keep up-to-date with important communications and relevant business news, to create a paperless office, and to allow you to work on-the-go, wherever you are. But remember that sometimes “old school” can be more efficient: for example, reading the paper (meaning, the actual paper) can be more efficient than reading it on your iPad because you may be better able to scan the headlines and stories more quickly.
Surround yourself with supportive people. People do not succeed alone. They receive help from a spouse or partner or friends, and from colleagues and support staff. The people that are most helpful to you are those who can anticipate issues and handle them independently. Delegate to them, ask them for help, and then let them help you.
And remember: part of effective time management is knowing when you need a break. Downtime to rejuvenate can be one of the most effective ways to regain the focus and energy you need to handle your busy professional and personal lives.
A version of this post first appeared at Attorney at Work and is reprinted here with permission.
Who Am I?
I am a lawyer and certified coach helping busy professionals, especially lawyers, create more integrated and happy lives with time for career, family, and personal endeavors. My work is based on the principles in my book, The Lawyer, the Lion, & the Laundry: Three Hours to Finding Your Calm in the Chaos, available here. Connect with me on LinkedIn and Facebook @LawyerLionLaundry.
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I’ve lived it. I’ve researched, read books and articles, attended workshops, and talked to innumerable people about how to thrive in the midst of the chaos that is our hectic lives. I’ve tried lots of different tools and techniques over the past 10 years, experimenting in my own life. Sometimes, I’ve failed miserably. Other times, I’ve been very successful. I’ve done the testing for you and found what works. You can benefit from my mistakes without making them yourself. I synthesize a wealth of information and distill theories into clear, easy-to-use applications for you.
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