How I prioritize my day

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In the past, before I knew any better, I allowed my client work to dictate my schedule. Unless I had a court appearance, an appointment or a hearing to prepare for, my day consisted of starting at the top of the stack of files on my desk and trying to get through as much of it as possible before it was time to go home. 

As my secretary took calls and did the work I had assigned her, she would replenish the stack of files. When the phone rang, when the mail or a delivery arrived, that work got added to the mix.

I got a lot done but every day was chaotic and stressful and every day I went home exhausted. My big projects, therefore,  usually resided on the back burner.   

Today, I prioritize work differently. I do my best to follow two simple rules.

1. Instead of trying to get everything done, I focus on getting the most important thing(s) done;

2. I try to do the most important thing(s) first. 

The most important things are tasks and projects that provide me with the most value. In productivity parlance, they are my “big rocks” and big rocks go in first. (If you’re unfamiliar with the concept, watch this video.)

If I was still practicing, my big rocks would include things that provide my clients with the most value because that usually provides me with the most value.

I don’t always start with the most important work. Urgent matters crop up. Sometimes, I haven’t allowed enough time to finish something that’s due and I have to fit that in. And sometimes, I like to take care of a bunch of small things first, to get them out of the way and free up more time to work on a big project. 

But generally speaking, I prioritize my day by focusing on quality, not quantity. 

If want to do this, start by figuring out what quality means to you, not just at work but in other aspects of your life. If time with your family is important to you, for example, add this “big rock” to your schedule before you schedule anything else.

Because big rocks go in first.

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