A stitch in time
Marc Bloomfield
Description: Practice management
Time management tips for practitioners juggling home responsibilities with remote working.
The problem with your own time is that it is a strictly limited resource: you can’t make more of it. But you can use it well. Time management is the process of planning and exercising control of time spent on all the activities you want to engage in. The aim is to increase efficiency and hopefully help you make more effective use of your time. Good time management leads to improved productivity, less stress, and more time for the things you actually want to do for yourself. Managing time well reduces that wasted on trivial activities and means you can take advantage of more opportunities as they arise.
Set goals
You need SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-based) goals when managing your time. These will often be a mixture of goals you set for yourself and others that are set externally. You need to make sure you can accommodate them all.
Make ‘to do’ lists and keep them updated – they will help to remind you of how much you have achieved.
Personally, I always start a ‘to do’ list with something I have already done so that I get an instant tick in the box.
Think of what you are trying to achieve overall at the end of a task – try not to get bogged down by the detail. Prioritise tasks based on importance and urgency. For example, look at your daily tasks and decide which are:
important and urgent – you need to do these tasks straightaway;
important but not urgent – you can decide when to do these tasks;
urgent but not important – you may be able to delegate these tasks; and
not urgent and not important – you can put these aside to do later.
Allocate time to complete each task
If you only have a limited amount of time to complete something, is there another way you could do it? Decide how long you need to complete a task and block out the time in your diary. This means you have a realistic idea of what you need to do and will be able to complete it in the required timeframe. It stops you getting overloaded because you have agreed to do too many things at once.
Make yourself some protected time. Rather than always being available, it can help to let people know when the best time is to approach you.
Take breaks
You need time to reorientate yourself between different tasks. If you push on through too many different things one after the other, you will lose focus and become overloaded. You will work more effectively if you come to the next task with a fresh mind.
Take a break, take a walk, have a cup of tea or whatever works for you.
Organise yourself
Put milestones and deadlines into your diary. That way you can easily keep track of progress. If you are falling behind schedule, you can re-prioritise your time so that you can still meet an overall deadline.
Remove non-essential tasks/activities
Think about whether you really need to do everything you usually do. Does every task really serve a purpose? Is there a quicker way of doing something? Could someone else do it instead of you?
Plan your day
Start every day with a clear idea of what you need to do – what needs to be done that day. At the end of each workday, it can be really helpful to write your ‘to do’ list for the next day. That helps you to focus and start each day productively.
Try to keep your desk organised.
Think about how you save documents and emails in folders and directories so that you can easily find them again.
Turn off email notifications or automatic ‘send and receive’ so that you are not distracted constantly by your emails.
Use your out-of-office message for emails. Letting people know that you will reply to an email can be enough, leaving you to do the work when it suits you.

About the author(s)

Description: Vicky Ling - author
Vicky Ling is a consultant specialising in legal aid practice and a founder member of the Law Consultancy Network.