By Wendy Heilbut
I’ve been thinking about productivity and time management a lot lately. Many of my founder clients and I are juggling the demands of our day-to-day ‘head-down work’ with that of networking and growing a business. Launching the New York office Jayaram Law is such a joy, but time management is constantly a negotiation. Not too long ago, we would get snail mail and have several days, or at least several hours, to craft a thoughtful reply; then came the phone and the pressure to call back within the hour, followed by the email, the text message, the Slack request . . . oh and social media — how we get any ‘work’ done is simply a wonder.
Recently, fascinated with some of the ideas I’ve been reading about, I put together a list of a half-dozen that seem reasonable or doable for certain professionals. See if any of these resonate with you and PLEASE write me or comment with tricks you have.
1. Schedule email time, Inbox to 0
While this doesn’t work for a lawyer, it could be great for other professionals. The hack is to schedule 1-hour blocks several times a week to reply to emails. During other times, don’t even check email. If you require more than 1-hour, or to do this more frequently than every-other day, schedule as such, but the idea is you are not looking at email all day. During that 1-hour, you run through all your emails quickly placing them into four categories – (1) trash, (2) reply immediately with a short response, (3) reply immediately with a longer response, (4) reply requires some thought. As you sift through your emails deal with the 1s and 2s right away and label or folder the 3s and 4s. After the initial sift, address the 3s. You may need to schedule separate blocks of time to reply to the 4s.
This service is amazing. I was subscribed to nearly 200 lists on my non-junk mail account! Just don’t unsubscribe from the Jayaram Law newsletter! Further to this point, unfollow over-posters, over-sharers and others to which you are no longer interested on social media.
2. Calendar a Routine
Block out time for specific tasks: i.e. head-down working time, replying to emails time, going to the gym time. Create time blocks for meetings and other blocks for calls. By grouping these into blocks, you are saving time for important work rather than trying to do head-down work in fifteen-minute windows between calls. (And let’s be honest, between a bathroom break and a coffee that fifteen-minutes is toast.) Block out time for reading or watching the news, or it will suck you in just like social media and it is not great for your brain or psyche. Oh, and if it is not in your calendar, don’t do it.
3. Optimize Meetings and Calls by Making them Shorter
Try to cut meetings by 25%: in-person meetings can be handled in 30 minutes but make them 25 and save they remaining 5 minutes for notes and follow-ups; telephone or Skype/Zoom meetings can be handled in 10 minutes but make them 8 and save the remaining 2 minutes for notes and follow-ups. Inform your meeting invitee of your intentions so that everyone can have their goals and priorities set before the meeting begins. Set a timer and pay attention to it. For in-person meetings, consider a standup meeting as people get less settled and tend to stay on topic more if they are standing.
4. Make Sunday Evenings the Most Important Time in Your Work Week
Set aside a couple of hours on Sunday night to map out your week; be sure to assign time for yourself, your family, exercise and other self-care. I also use this time to coordinate schedules with my husband and be sure we know who is home which nights and when I need to get babysitters or ask our nanny to stay late.
5. Create Slack Channels and Only Read the Relevant Ones
This has been a HUGE time saver for us here at Jayaram Law. Each large client matter has its own Slack channel subscribed to by only those professionals assigned to the matter. It not only prevents us from reading unnecessary chatter, it also makes finding conversations or documents much quicker when we need to refer back.
6. Write down 2-3 top goals for the day
This will both assure you actually get them done and help you assess the essence of your day. Start your day with the activities that require the most brain-work while you are fresh.
This is as much for me as it is for you: let’s go conquer together!