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Work culture today often leaves you feeling that you not only have to achieve more than before, but that you have to achieve it faster. This easily leads to overwhelm, which has a negative effect on productivity. You suddenly find yourself in a vicious circle of having too much to do but not getting enough done.
How do you break the cycle? There are productivity traps in every workplace that sap energy, attention and time. Law firms are no exception. By being aware of these traps, you can learn how to avoid them, increase productivity and achieve more of your goals in 2020.
So what are some of the most common traps?
1. The lack of the two Ps
Planning and prioritising. These are the backbone of a productive day. Without them, you will get distracted and procrastinate. So write a list first thing in the morning – or, even better, the evening before – so you arrive at your desk knowing your plan for the day.
Be honest with yourself. What’s the main thing you have to get done that day? Make it top of your list. Putting the ‘biggie’ at the top will mean you get it out of the way while you’re at your freshest. Starting with the smaller (and possibly more enjoyable) tasks will mean you might leave yourself short of time to achieve your main goal.
This takes self-discipline, but this will develop as time goes on and you realise the benefits of the two Ps.
2. Distractions – online and offline
Distractions are everywhere – mobile phones, social media, notifications for everything from emails to your online grocery shop, and the modern-day open-plan office spaces. The amalgamation of all these makes it exceedingly difficult to find your focus, never mind keep it. Even if you do get into a good workflow, the chances are that your phone beeping, a notification sliding across your screen or a colleague tapping you on the shoulder is going to ruin it within minutes. That’s unless you put measures like these in place:
- Put your phone on silent and place it out of sight. For peace of mind, set it up so you can receive calls from anyone that may need you as a matter of urgency.
- Turn off notifications for emails. A notification appearing on your screen takes your mind elsewhere and is very hard to resist. Set yourself predetermined times to check emails rather than constantly clicking in and out.
- Close tabs you don’t need. Having multiple tabs open can divide your attention and it can be all too tempting to have a quick look – especially if some of them are social media.
- Plug in your earphones. This is a modern-day way of saying ‘do not disturb’. Your colleagues will hopefully take it as a sign to come back later.
3. Saying ‘yes’
You don’t always have to say ‘yes’. It leads to stress, overload and, ultimately, reduced productivity. We live in a world where we generally try to pack too much into our days already, and saying ‘yes’ too often puts us under more pressure. It can also lead to us trying to multitask, which causes busy brains that can’t process anything fully and that produces lower-quality work.
So, learn to say ‘no’. It can be hard, but why should you sacrifice the quality of your work and your own sense of accomplishment by taking too much on?
No, we’re not talking about turning up to your law firm with a hammer in hand, but rather about falling into the DIY trap – especially when you’re too busy at work. Instead of taking the time to delegate, you just plough on.
Think about the items on your to-do list today. Is there at least one task that could be passed on to a colleague – maybe the paralegal or secretary? Do you really need to do it yourself? By delegating more, you will free up your mind to be able to concentrate on areas where your strengths lie.
5. No breaks
When you have a to-do list as long as your arm, the temptation is to work, work, work. However, not taking regular breaks will kill your energy levels and actually lower your productivity. You don’t have to be taking an extended lunch each day. But just making time to stand up, stretch and have a drink can be enough to refocus your mind. Set a timer so you don’t fall into the trap of forgetting.
Ironically, it can take time to begin to implement measures that will help you avoid the common productivity traps. But there are many solutions that can help you, such as DPS Spitfire, which offers email, calendar and task management, along with case, practice and document management. Our blog ‘5 Performance-Improving Tools Your Legal Team Needs’ talks about other tools that can help boost productivity.
Get in touch with our friendly team today for more advice on software options that will ensure 2020 is one of your most productive years yet!