• Alexander Messerer

8 Time Management Tips for IP lawyers

How do you organize your day? Do you feel like your time is not always well spent and that you’re wasting time in meetings and doing things you really shouldn’t be doing?

For me, managing my time is critical. Every minute of my day, every five minutes of my day, they’re precious. The more I can accomplish, the more revenue my business typically will generate and the better my firm will run. So, ensuring my time is spent correctly is critical.

Knowing and practising good time management skills will help you be more productive and efficient. Think. If you could seize just 30 more billable minutes a day, that would add up to more than $32,500 a year in revenue (assuming a rate of $250 an hour) – without spending any more time at the office. Effective time managers also feel less stressed and more satisfied with their work.

The following time management tips will help you prioritize your tasks and better manage your time.

1. Do a self-assessment

This is the first step. To be more effective at managing your time, you must first assess where you are now. How do you spend your time each day? What amount of time do you spend on billable work? On personal phone calls or chatting over coffee with other lawyers down the hall? Track your time for a typical week and enter everything you do during the day. Also, record your high and low energy times.

Once you’ve created a profile of your time, you’ll be able to see where you waste time and what things you can cut back on. You’ll also know if your peak energy periods are, for example, the first three hours of the morning or from 4:00 until 5:00 in the afternoon. This information will help you to better schedule your time.

Plan your time

Good time management starts with planning how to spend the time you allocate to practising law.

2. Prepare weekly and daily “to-do” lists

Think ahead to what needs to be done in the coming months. To-do lists are crucial if you want to accomplish tasks in a timely fashion. Each Monday, determine what matters must be completed that week, and prepare a weekly to-do list. Then, each day, devote 15 minutes at the start of your morning, writing your to-do list for that day.

3. Prioritize and schedule tasks

Block out and schedule time in your diary for attending to tasks. Separate crucial tasks from less urgent ones. If the project is large, break it down into sub-tasks that can be completed in one-hour or 90-minute chunks. Create artificial deadlines to help move a task to action.

4. Set aside a reserve of time

Plan for the unexpected and leave time for genuine emergencies and last-minute matters that inevitably arise. Don’t overbook yourself. “Under-promise and over-deliver,” says Irene Leonard, a professional development coach who practised law for 18 years. If you think you can prepare the contract by Tuesday noon, tell your client you’ll have it done by Wednesday at 3:00 p.m. Then if you deliver it on Tuesday, your client will be especially pleased.

5. Allocate work according to your high and low energy periods

Work on the most critical or complex tasks (preparing for an examination for discovery, drafting a new agreement, etc.) during your peak energy periods. Deal with less crucial or demanding matters (signing correspondence, etc.) when your energy sags.

6. Take advantage of technology.

Tech has revolutionized the practice of law. The sea of software and apps designed to make your life easier and your work more efficient is seemingly endless. So be sure to take advantage of those advancements and learn to incorporate technology into your routine in ways that eliminate unnecessary work and speed up manual processes.

For instance, Digital planners are an excellent tool for having a continuous snapshot of your day — including time spent, availability and priorities — right at your fingertips.

7. Learn to say “NO.

Being able to say “no” diplomatically is an essential skill to be an effective time manager. Here are a few “NO” examples:

● “I already have a meeting at that time.”

● “I can start that next week and deliver something by ….”

● “I am not able to handle your matter for two weeks. May I suggest someone else? Or would you like to wait for me to handle it?”

● “I’m in the middle of something now. May I get back to you ...?”

● “I’m sorry I won’t be able to attend. Thanks for asking.”

● “Let me call you back at 3 p.m. when I have more time to give you the attention you deserve.”

8. Stop multitasking

For most IP lawyers, multitasking is second nature. However, while it may seem like it’s saving you time, it’s making you more inefficient. Numerous studies show that juggling multiple tasks at once makes you more inefficient and less effective on any one of them. So, while you may think you’re getting more done by multitasking, you’re actually not.

Being an IP lawyer can be rewarding, lucrative, and fulfilling–and it can also be incredibly time-consuming. Making small changes to your daily routines may buy you only a few extra minutes each day, but these actions will help you build good habits. I’d love to hear what time management tip you like the most!

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