Yep – we’re there already, and everybody is FREAKING OUT.
Clients are bugging you to get things done. You’ve promised (or somebody has on your behalf) too many clients to do too many things in too little time.
You know that you’re away for a couple of weeks, and so all the things that “could wait” are now piling up and can’t wait any more. Certainly they can’t wait until the new year when you return from holidays.
So what’s a lawyer to do if they’re going to stay sane, keep their job, and avoid clients abusing them?
Let’s Get Control
You probably know by now that I’m not ordinarily one for producing big written lists of things to do.
But if ever there was a time to do it, then now is the time.
To the extent possible, write down a list of every single task that you know you have to do between now and Christmas.
All of them.
It’s going to take a while, but it’s going to be worth the investment.
Why? Because once you’ve got your list, you’re in control. You don’t need to flap from thing to thing – you are 100% sure what you have to be working on, because you’ve got The List.
Over the next few days, make sure that any new tasks get added to The List.
You will also get the joy of lining through things that are on The List that you complete. It’s a very satisfying thing to do for most people (I know people who write down things they have already done, just so they can cross them off immediately).
Sorting The List
The list is going to have a lot of stuff on it.
Some of it is critical (commence proceedings before limitation period ends).
Some is important (ensure client gets advice promised by 22 December).
Some is desirable (tidy desk to the new year doesn’t feel like rubbish when I come back to work).
You need to apply a bit of triage here, to ensure that The List is as helpful as it can be.
Perhaps you could put it in date order?
Perhaps you could put it in categories of urgency vs importance.
Either way, just having The List isn’t as useful as it could be unless you bring it under control.
Using The List
People work in different ways.
There are people who thrive when they “eat that frog” and do the biggest, baddest, hardest and most challenging tasks first up in their day (or week). They tackle the biggest thing, and then everything else feels like a breeze.
Others like building momentum. They like to cross of 3, 4 or 5 things from their list in quick succession, and then they feel pumped to get on to the rest of the list and inertia gets them through it.
I expect you’ve experience this, right?
On those days where you start slowly and never quite get your energy and momentum up, you often get to the end of the day thinking “where did all the time go, I barely got anything done!”.
What you might find is that if you start the day with a few “quick wins” you get the snowball effect going, and you get more and more done.
However, if you start your day bogged down into some horrendous problem, then perhaps you’ll just never lift yourself out again.
Delegate the List?
If you do The List and notice that it’s insurmountably long, then you might need to consider asking for help.
Unfortunately everyone else will be pretty busy too.
However, the ability to delegate is important, whether it’s upwards, downwards or sideways.
Once you’ve got The List you also have a great idea of exactly what needs to happen in a short space of time.
That means you might need to say no to a few new things, if at all possible, to ensure that the critical items on The List can get done.
But Stay Generous
Don’t forget my occasional rant about Generous Productivity – it’s even more important now that tempers could be a bit frayed, people are very busy, and you’re trying to attend to the items on The List.
Everyone’s going to have their own list, whether it’s like the one I described here or not – they’ve got stuff to do, and hopefully you can lend a hand.
You won’t get through the list by freaking out, yelling at people or staying locked in your room in a panic.
You need to stay cool, calm and collected.
And then only one thing matters – begin.
Stay well over this last little week of work, keep getting things done, and stay focused.
You’ll be fine.