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Friday, March 5, 2021

Agility lets you be more productive

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Agility to Be More ProductiveWith all the talk of focus and how to be more productive it would be easy to think that your legal career will go smoothly through each day with you having some kind of actual choice about what you do.

The reality is, of course, quite different.

In our ongoing discussion about how to add value to your firm, the issue of how to be more productive is going to come up time and time again.  Ultimately productivity is something which you can control more than many other value factors, and if you are going to be more productive it will give you a big leg up in the career stakes.

Your ability to shift your focus from one thing to another (that is – to be agile) will greatly enhance your legal career as you find that you can still be productive despite interruptions.

Agility without Losing Focus Lets you Be More Productive

The problem people have with interruptions (including me) is that they make the individual who is being assailed with the interruptions lose focus.  Losing focus, of course, makes me less productive.

So in order to be more productive in the face of real world legal career we need to take on some appreciation of the benefits of agility.

Now, I’ve said before that your ability to retain focus is an important component of knowing how to be more productive.

However, when the real world of a law firm comes and smacks you in the face, you realise that your desire to be focused on the task at hand all the time is completely impossible.

The reality is this:

  • I’ll get given a task and a deadline
  • I’ll get started on the task
  • Somebody will chat to me on the way past
  • I’ll continue with the task
  • Somebody will ask me a question about a task that I either did the day before, or is on my list to do later
  • I’ll continue with the task
  • Somebody will then ask how busy I am and whether I can assist with another task
  • I’ll continue with the task
  • Meetings, lunches, coffees, events, and other marketing activities that aren’t as urgent as the task but are still important will pop up.
  • Eventually, I’ll finish the task.

How to Be More Productive?  Be Agile

There are some people who respond to this reality in their legal career by simply locking themselves in a room and making it clear they don’t want to be interrupted.  That approach, however, is not for me.

Remember when I wrote about generous productivity?  The fact is that other people need to get things done too, and sometimes they need your input.

Here are my strategies for you to try and retain  your focus in the face of interruptions:

  1. Try and keep the interruption as brief as possible – don’t waffle on – answer the question, help the person, then get back to it.  The longer you are away from your task the more focus you will lose;
  2. Don’t get frustrated with the interruptions.  If you huff and puff every time somebody speaks to you, you’re going to get annoyed, and getting annoyed will take away your focus just as much as 29 phone calls would;
  3. Fully off, then fully on.  Some people might argue with me on this one, but my view is you shouldn’t sit there trying to do two tasks at once – chances are you’ll do both poorly.  Just be fully on the interruption task, get it done, then give your full attention back to the task you were doing;
  4. Expect the unexpected.  When trying to plan how long something will take you, you need to account for the inevitable distractions and interruptions that will occur.  They simply happen – factor them in.

That’s how I learned how to be more productive in the face of interruptions.  If you’re a junior lawyer I assure you that the interruptions only get worse as you get more senior, so try and develop some good strategies now that both help the team and help you get on with things.

Happy Lawyering!


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