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Jax Daily Record Thursday, Jan. 3, 201905:10 AM EST

Time is of the essence: Be a better lawyer by managing your schedule

Take the first step in taking control of your time.

By Nick Elder, Jacksonville Bar Association Young Lawyers Section

It’s Saturday morning, and my wife just hurried out the door with our two toddlers. If things go as planned, I may have a solid hour to attack my to-do list and accomplish as much as possible in a short amount of time.

Do I focus on work or household chores or try and exercise for the first time in weeks? No matter which task I choose, it is inevitable that something will fall by the wayside. 

A common saying among attorneys is that there never is enough time in the day. This is especially true as you progress from a young professional to a more seasoned counselor.

With age comes wisdom but also marriage, kids, finances, aging relatives and other responsibilities we never imagined as fresh graduates just passing the Bar. We replace late nights and weekends in the office with grocery shopping, feeding children, dinner with our significant other or visiting a loved one. 

Following graduation from law school, I failed to grasp the importance of time management. Then a wise mentor shared with me a quote by Henry David Thoreau that has stuck with me throughout my career: “It’s not enough to be busy; so are the ants. The question is what are we busy about?”

It reminded me that working many hours is only one aspect of being an effective attorney. If you can master time management in your personal and professional lives, you can increase efficiency and productivity.

Quite simply, you can get more done.  

The first step in taking control of your time is to make planning your schedule just as important as accomplishing each task. Set aside time at the beginning of each week to map out a game plan and set priorities.

While this seems like a simple concept, consistently setting goals and prioritizing tasks often gets lost in the chaos of a busy life.

The weekly (if not daily) planning exercise will get you focused on projects or tasks that slipped through the cracks. It also will allow you to see the big picture more clearly and be in a position to respond quickly to that senior partner who comes inquiring about the status of a project.

If you’re working on a group project, request regular meetings with your colleagues so that everyone is aware of the assigned tasks and is on the same page.

After you prioritize time management in your professional life, use the same skill in your personal life. Dedicate an hour in the afternoon to exercise, schedule family cleaning time every weekend or set aside two hours a week for a date night.

Once a schedule is set, be disciplined enough to follow through on each item. Tasks that are not accomplished go to the top of the next schedule.

With a comprehensive plan in place and productivity increasing, your anxiety will fade and the overall stress of life will decrease.  You will notice the difference and so will those around you.  Mastering time management will make you a better lawyer and it might make you a better person as well.   

Nicholas Elder is an attorney at Gunster, Yoakley & Stewart, focusing on construction and business litigation.

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