If you're reading this, you're probably committing 3 big calendar mistakes every week.
It's not your fault. Law school didn't teach us to manage a calendar.
First off, do you have a calendar?
If so, do you use it every day?
Most lawyers say “yes” to the first question and “no” to the last.
If you're like me, you're a lawyer taking on multiple responsibilities, so it's essential that your calendar mistakes be kept to a minimum.
You want to get more done with what seems like fewer resources.
If you're a lawyer with your own firm or solo practitioner, then you have more to do that just make court appearances or work on case matters. You're also dealing with management issues and more.
Your commitments at the office just scratch the surface, right?
There's more to what you're doing than just working. There's the grocery shopping, the personal commitments that come with having family and friends, and the legal community involvement you want to take part in.
All of these commitments take time. When we don't manage our time effectively, we have a running commentary in our head about how we “don't have time” and we say things like “I'm overwhelmed.”
What if you could use your calendar (correctly) to help you feel better and get more done?
What would you do with the extra time that you get just by using your calendar in a better way?
Today I'm sharing 3 tips that will help you take back your time and show you how you can use your calendar to get that time (and your life) back. (I also tucked in a 4th bonus tip at the very end.)
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Hello there. How are you doing? What? No music, no introduction? What is going on here? Well, I've been working behind the scenes to revamp soul roadmap podcast with some juicy topics aimed particularly at lawyers and it's interesting to go through this process and I'll share more of that with you in the upcoming months, but I wanted to let you know that if you start seeing some changes, some evolutions, that is what is going on. Now. The first thing I nixed was the intro, but maybe I'll change that. If you're subscribed to the podcast, then you will be the first to know. I will pull the curtain on some of the upcoming changes in future episodes. So if you have a legal practice that you want to grow, then you can take advantage of what I've learned during this process, but I need some time to marinate in it all before I create an action packed episode for you.
And before we get into today's episode, I want to invite you to get back five more hours in your week. How does that sound? I've created a guide called the busy lawyers quick start guide to getting back five hours a week. And there I walk you through simple actions you can implement in your life to get back your time, things that you likely have not thought about. And if you just choose one of these actions that I'm giving you, you will see results in your week. In fact, that's what I recommend at the outset. So you're not pressuring yourself to do all the things we already pressure ourselves enough with all the things to do. This is a way for you to get back your time and start rethinking how you do what you do. You can download it free at dinacataldo.com/busylawyer. That's Dina cataldo.com forward slash busy lawyer.
All right, let's talk about the three calendar mistakes that are costing you time.
So your calendar, do you have one? You probably have tried several and sometimes you use it. Maybe if you're not too busy, you may even think that your calendar holds you back from getting things done because it takes too long to work in you. Maybe don't want to spend the time in it and just feel like jumping in is going to be much more efficient. I've always had a calendar but I haven't always used it correctly as a trial attorney, I always needed to manage court appearances. Of course in one unit I even had to bill my time in cases, but that really wasn't a calendar. It was just one more thing I had to do to, to take up my time. I had, um, an unending amount of time at the office that I could spend just working on everything that needed to be done, right. Cause it's never all done. But I recognized that working, working, working instead of prioritizing and planning meticulously was costing me the life that I really wanted. And that included taking care of myself, feeling good, rested, like I looked and felt rested. Spending time with family and friends, building a business and working on myself. Right? Like I love working on myself as you probably can tell. All right, I got to take a sip of tea.
So these are no small tasks, right? But I was really determined to do this. And I wanted to do it without stress. That's always been my big goal, right? Like not having the stress surrounding all of it. So when I decided to start a business on top of my legal practice, I had to begin thinking differently about how I used a calendar. I drew from people who owned multimillion dollar businesses and seemed relaxed. I drew from former lawyers who seem to have some tricks up their sleeve for organizing their time. And I experimented and I experimented and I experimented. It's an unending experiment really. It's always tweaked depending on my priorities that week. But I start with a base just like you start with the base of a soup to get you started and then you start adding things in. And that is what gives me a huge advantage over other people when it comes to getting things done and feeling accomplished.
When I began approaching my calendar differently, I realized that I had a lot more time available to me than I knew. I went from wondering where the day went to understanding where I was allowing my time to go and that gave me the opportunity to begin creating the changes I needed.
The very first mistake that I made with using my calendar was that I did not use it for all of my day.
Instead of just using it to mark court appearances, I needed to begin observing how much time I was allocating to different tasks during my day at the office, research, discovery, phone calls, where was I being interrupted and not getting work done? When was the easiest part of my day to get concentrated, focused work done. Then I needed to move things around in such a way that made it a bit easier to do. This is in addition to the boundaries and communication with people that I've described in other episodes, and this is just scheduling.
When I do things during my office day and actually doing it for everything that I need to get done, then I needed to recognize what I needed to do for my business and how much time I was allocating or not advocating for essential tasks. Now, this is a work in progress for me because I'm creating additional availability for coaching clients. I'm still working on batching my podcasts, which makes content creation so much easier. By the way, if you were creating content for your business, your website, I want you to know that if you just sit and focus, it goes by so much quicker because you are in the zone anyway, so I'm playing with different ways to add more play into my day too. I don't want to be just work all the time mean I love work, but I also love the blank space between the work, the quiet times in the mornings and evenings.
The times when I have the opportunity to write, to read, to walk my dog, making time to go to yoga. Plus I love my sleep, so I focus on getting eight hours a night. It doesn't always work, but because I prioritize it, it's more likely to happen. Now. When I discovered time blocking, I initially thought it was tedious. All right. Then I fell in love. I could decide exactly how my day would go ahead of time and then I would just do it. The more I committed to my calendar, the easier it is to get into the habit. That just meant doing the things in my calendar even when I didn't want to do them. This is what it looks like. Scheduling everything from when you wake up, prep for the office, go to the gym, court appearances, depositions, management meetings, drive time, prepping for bed, all the things in between.
If you're listening to this and thinking, okay, that's great, but I have a schedule that's always changing. I want you to know that all of our schedules are constantly changing. The difference between someone who gets more done in the same circumstance is that they are starting with a base just like soup, right? Then they start improvising as they need to. Maybe they don't have all the ingredients to make the exact soup that they intended that week, but they throw in what they can and they still create something delicious or at least edible things pop up. Life happens. I have a dog who has all these medical conditions right, and they just pop up out of nowhere. What do you do about that? Well, what I do is I say, okay, well I had a plan and now I've got to modify that plan. It's going to have to shift a little bit.
Yes, I made this great plan at the beginning of the week and I had some other things I needed to do and that's okay. All I do is shift the things that need to get done to another time and I see exactly what needs to get done. It makes it a lot easier moving forward and once those things get you get past those things, then you can move on to the next thing on your calendar. It feels a lot easier having these unexpected things pop up when you know that you can improvise when you mean to and the rest of your week is always planned or already planned. So I don't want you to feel like, Oh my gosh, I didn't get what I needed to get done this week because this thing just blindsided me and I had to deal with it. Instead of going into all that drama in your head, just say, okay, well things happen and move on to the next thing that you have planned. It makes it a lot easier to do that when you've already made those plans ahead of time. Okay. Moving on another sip. Sip of tea here.
The second mistake I made was jumping into my day rather than planning it first.
It sounds like a good idea, right? It sounds like, Hey, if I just jump in and start working that I'm going to get more done. It sounds really good in theory and before I committed 100% to my calendar, I would jump into my day thinking that if I just started taking action, any action, then things would go faster. No need for a calendar, right? I just look at it for the occasional thing that I marked down. Look, I was so wrong when I discovered that if I didn't run my calendar, my day would run me. I noticed that none of the things I want to do accomplish or accomplished because I was hopping from one task to another as it came to me. That is letting my day get away with me or get away from me.
And when I prioritize my day in the office, in my business and in my personal life, more of what I wanted to get done got done. Make a set schedule to calendar your week every single week. I use Sunday nights to get it done. It also gives me a sense of calm because I've already thought about the essential tasks I want to accomplish during the week and I know that most if not all of them will get done when I make a plan and stick to it. So I highly encourage you to, instead of jumping right into your day, making a plan. Now, if you are the kind of person who kind of makes a general plan for your week, what I then encourage you to do is say, look, I've allocated three hours to a certain project and then get out a piece of paper before you start on your project and list the things that must get done.
If that is what you need to get focused for your day and then you just keep looking at that list every time you deviate from that list, like every time you look up and you see that the work that you're doing deviates from those list of priorities, then get back on track. That's something that in the one minute manager, if you haven't read that book, I'll link to it in the show notes dinacataldo.com forward slash 78 I will link to that. It's a classic management book and it talks to you about actually making sure you stay focused, so whatever project you have planned, you've created a list of things that have to get that in right, like you know exactly what is going to go into that project plan. It's been discussed with your teams. You've understand exactly where you need to go. Then what you do is you keep that piece of paper somewhere.
You can see it, you do your day, and then when you look at that paper and you recognize that you're not sticking to the plan, then you can begin shifting at your actions so that you get back on track. That will keep you focused and if you have a team, you can have your team members do the same thing and keep them focused on the plan that you have.
All right, mistake number three.
Mistake number three is that I didn't make time for me first.
Now you've been there, right? You were totally going to go to the gym, but you it because you wanted to get just a few more matters handled before you left the office. You knew that once those were handled that you'd feel way more accomplished. Right, and that always felt like a relief or maybe you know, you need to go to the grocery store but you don't really like shopping and you'd much prefer to get a few more files done.
Then stop off at the fast food place on the way home now I have totally been there. That was me. I just kept working. I felt like I couldn't even tread water with my cases sometimes, so I just wanted to keep moving. What I didn't realize is that when I prioritize myself, I felt way less stress and that meant I was much more focused and that meant I was much more efficient, which meant I didn't have to spend all night at the office and I had more time. Now on those Sunday nights when I plan, I'm working three times when I'm going to go to yoga, the time I'm going to go grocery shopping, time for friends and family, time to journal, time to meditate, and I'm devoted to the same sleep schedule every night with only the occasional deviation. So I am going to confess to you, I splurged the other night and stayed up way past my bedtime.
It was like past midnight reading the book in the woods. I'll also link to that. It's an Irish detective novel that's riveting if you're looking for a good read. So scheduling time for myself doesn't just give me the space I need to feel better overall. I also don't feel resentful when I scheduled the rest of my week and when things don't go according to plan, I can just get right back on track. So that night when I spent way too much time up reading that novel, which was just delicious, I decided, you know what, I'm just going to stick on my schedule and I am back on the schedule. It makes it so much easier. I'm not beating myself up for not sticking on my schedule. I'm just looking at it as, okay, well that was some play time back to my schedule. So just recognize where you're beating yourself up, where you might feel resentful and then you know that you just need to reexamine how you're allocating your time.
Maybe it means that little splurge the other night that I need to take some time off, like I need to take a weekend off, I need to create more time one day just so that I can read and feel like I get to play hooky. Right. So just kind of recognize when those kinds of things pop up and you can actually change your calendar to make room for those. Um, I'm going to give you a bonus one actually because it's one that I feel a bonus mistake. I mean it's one that I feel a lot of us make. I know I have made it and it has to do with giving too much time to a task, not actually setting an amount of time ahead of time that you want to spend on that task. And what I mean by that is this. So I'm going to give you this really common example and that is exhausting case law.
So let's say you've got a project, you've got something that you've got to get ready for court, a brief, whatever it is, and you've got to research a topic. Now, one of the things that lawyers are famous for is just spending so much time, like every moment that you have before a hearing every like it could be a week and you use it, it could be an hour and you use it. And instead of saying, I am going to devote five hours of research time concentrated research time to this one topic because I believe that it is a somewhat complex issue or saying this is not a complex issue. I will devote two hours to it to exhaust case law or this is a matter that deserves a week of research on it. Instead of doing that, what we do is we just keep researching and researching and researching and then we go back and we check and we go back and we check and we keep doing that until the day of the hearing or the day that the brief is due.
That is a problem because what that is demonstrating is Parkinson's law and all that means is that the amount of time we spend working on a project, a thing, whatever it is, we'll expand to the time allotted for it. Which means if you're working on a research project, you will and you have a whole day to spend on it, you will spend the entire day doing it. I can tell you from experience being in trial, having a research issue come up that I was given my 45 minutes when I was back for lunch to work on that research project. And I will tell you I got it done in 45 minutes because I was given a time schedule. It was focused on a time that I needed to take to do the research that the judge wanted as an example of letting our time get away from us.
So if you are not allotting an amount of time for something and sticking to it, you are going to be unfocused. You are not going to be efficient because you are going to allow the time to get away from you. So that's a bonus one. Okay? Just don't make that mistake a lot time ahead of time for projects so that you are encouraged to use the time the best that it can be used.
All right, let's do a quick recap of all these calendaring missteps.
- So misstep step number one, do the mistake number one is not using your calendar for all of your day. It may seem tedious at first, but once you begin using it, it may even feel comforting to you. It means that you don't have to think so much and you know exactly what needs to be done. First.
- Mistake number two, jumping into your day instead of consulting your calendar. When you do that, your day will get away from you. You'll have from one task to another without focused, and that's going to cost you time.
- Mistake number three, not scheduling me time first. Now, if we want to perform at our best, be efficient, focused on the ball, it's imperative that we schedule time for ourselves first. This means workouts, quiet time, family time, and even scheduling sleep. My iPhone has a little alarm that has a sweet little lullaby tone for when it's time for me to start getting ready for bed. It's a nice reminder that I need to wrap up what I'm doing if I want to get my precious shut eye.
If you want to find more ways to stretch your time, I highly suggest you go to Dina cataldo.com forward slash busy lawyer there you will find the busy lawyers quick start guide to getting back five hours a week. It's a great download that will give you practical strategies to get started. Getting your time back to do more of what you want to do with it. All right. Thank you so much and I will talk to you soon. Bye.