Ten ways to get more done in less time


If you could get eight hours of work done in six hours, you would have two more hours to do billable work.

Or you could go home early.

Either way, working faster is your friend.

There are many strategies for getting things done in less time. Here are some of my favorites.

  1. Single-task. Doing one thing at a time allows you to get things done faster because you’re able to focus and work at a deeper level. You’re also not wasting time “task switching”.
  2. Time-block. Scheduling blocks of time on your calendar to work on important tasks or groups of tasks forces you to work on those tasks.
  3. Shorter deadlines. Parkinson’s Law says, “Work expands to fill the time available for its completion,” which means you can usually get things done in less time simply by allotting less time to complete them.
  4. Do your most important tasks first. Get your most important or difficult tasks done when your energy is highest. You’ll be better able to concentrate and work faster.
  5. Plan your day in advance. At the start of the day, or even better, the night before, plan your day so you know what you’re going to do and can move from task to task without having to figure out what to do next.
  6. Divide big tasks into smaller sub-tasks. You’ll procrastinate less when you “only” have to do something that takes a few minutes. You’ll also get a dopamine fix each time you complete a sub-task and check it off your list, making it more likely that you will continue working until you’re done.
  7. Eliminate bottlenecks. Examine all the steps and identify those that slow you down or send you off on tangents. Fix these by finding alternative methods or delegating those steps to others.
  8. Gamify your tasks. Promise yourself a reward for achieving important milestones–making twenty calls, working for twenty minutes, or completing 2000 words, for example.
  9. Take breaks. When you’re “on a roll” (“in a state of flow”), keep going. Lose yourself in the activity. Otherwise, to avoid mental burnout, take a five-minute break every half hour or so. Clear your mind, stretch your legs, and hydrate, before you go back at it.
  10. Done is better than perfect. Give yourself permission to do a “bad” first draft or first iteration. You will often find that its “good enough” and if it isn’t, you’ll have time to fix it. It’s easier to fix something that’s done than to do something from scratch.

Okay, one more: Dictation.

When I was practicing and had staff, I dictated and recorded my work product and had someone else type it. Today, I often use text-to-speech software to get first drafts done in a fraction of the time.

How about you? What are your favorite ways to work faster?


Screw motivation


You don’t feel like calling that client, writing that article, or researching that motion.

So what?

You don’t need to “feel” like doing anything to do it. You just do it.

You do it because you have to. Because bad things will happen if you don’t. Because as Steven Pressfield writes in The War of Art, “At some point, the pain of not doing it becomes greater than the pain of doing it.”

Ah, but what about all the optional stuff? The things you need to do to accomplish your goals that don’t have immediate negative consequences if you don’t do them?

Like marketing.

You know you have to do it because if you don’t, your income will shrink or you won’t achieve the goals you (say you) want. But you still procrastinate.

The answer–the way you get things done without motivation–is to establish systems and habits that align with getting those things done.

When you schedule 15 minutes a day on your calendar for marketing (or whatever) and commit to it, you will see progress. Even if you don’t feel like making the calls or scratching out the words, you’ll do it because the alternative is to sit quietly, thinking about what you’re not doing.

(Note, if 15 minutes is still too much for you to handle, start with 5 or ten.)

Checklists can play a part in your systems. It’s easier to do something you don’t want to do when you have a pre-determined sequence in front of you that leads off with easy tasks that help you start.

Breaking up tasks into bite-sized pieces can help. Ten minutes of assembling and organizing your notes and ideas (while you’re watching the game) will make it easier to take the next step.

Ask yourself, “What could I do to help me get [whatever] done?” Would coming in an hour early twice a week help? Would hiring someone to do the most difficult or disagreeable parts help?

There are answers. You can get things done without motivation. But only if you have enough internal motivation to do it.

15 minutes a day can help you get more referrals


If only I was a Time Lord


You’ve got a bunch of letters or documents to write. Two hours later, when you should have been long done, you’re still writing. Or re-writing. Before you know it, your day is half gone and you’re behind schedule.

Sound familiar?

The problem is explained by “Parkinson’s Law,” which says that “Work expands to fill the time available for its completion.”

Give yourself an hour to catch up on correspondence and you’ll use that hour. Even though you could have finished in 30 minutes.

And therein lies the answer to getting more done in less time. Get in the habit of giving yourself less time than you think you’ll need.

Allocate 30 minutes for dictation instead of an hour. Give yourself one day to finish a brief that’s due in two weeks.

The more time you allocate to a task or project, the more complex it tends to become. When you have less time, you are forced to keep things as simple as possible.

When it comes to managing time, one of my weak spots has always been research. I often go down a lot of rabbit holes, spending hours and sometimes entire days trying to find what I need. The problem is I don’t always know what I need or I’m not always sure when I’ve found it.

That’s no way to run a business.

So now, I give myself a fixed amount of time. One hour of research, for example, because I can do a lot in one hour and if that’s all I have, that’s all I usually need.

If you want to start a blog or newsletter but are concerned it will take too much time from your other work, give yourself the amount of time you think you can allocate, and no more. The odds are that’s all the time you’ll need.

Yes, you do have time to get more referrals


Give your life a tune-up


You’re busy. Taking care of business, living the life you’ve created, traveling forward in time towards whatever comes next.

Are you going where you want to go? Are you doing what you want to do?

If you’re not sure (or, even if you are ), I encourage you to make a list (yes, another list) and find out.

Make a list of everything you do you wouldn’t do if you didn’t have to.

If you didn’t have to have an office, for example, would you? If you didn’t have to write articles, record videos, network, or advertise, would you?

Include big things and small things and everything in between.

Would you practice law if you didn’t have to? Would you do trial work, stay with your practice area, maintain certain expenses (e.g., employees, software, etc.) or take the same types of clients?

Do the same thing with your personal life. Relationships, activities, hobbies, investments, expenses.

Write it all down. And make no assumptions about whether you really do have to do what you’re doing. We all do things on autopilot, because we’ve always done them or because we don’t think we have a choice.

Set aside the list for a while. Come back to it with fresh eyes. And then eliminate, delegate, or modify the things on your list that don’t serve you.

Or, consciously accept them (for now) if you believe there is no alternative or that the price you’re paying is worth it.

This exercise will allow you to make better decisions about what you’re doing. It will help you gain clarity about your goals, priorities, and responsibilities, pare down or eliminate activities you don’t enjoy, and improve both your effectiveness and efficiency.

It will help you become more productive and more prosperous and improve the quality of your life.

So, what’s on your list?

Getting more referrals gives you more options


The three-day workweek


I just read an article about Richard Branson who believes that working fewer hours can be equally–if not more–effective.

I agree.

As you know, I did this in my practice. I cut my week to three days and quadrupled my income. I did it by specializing, hiring good people and delegating as much as possible, and making marketing a priority.

When I say, “earn more and work less,” I don’t just mean you can do both, I mean that you can earn more by working less. Branson says that shorter hours (and flexible hours) allow people to relax and recharge and find more balance between their work and personal life. “Through this balance, they become happier and more productive,” he says.

Branson says that technology is the key to working fewer hours. I didn’t have access to technology but I can’t disagree with this. Being able to work remotely, for example, might have allowed me to visit the office just once or twice a week.

Okay, I know what you’re thinking. I’ve heard all the “yes-buts,” all the reasons you can’t work fewer hours or you can’t do it without suffering a loss of income. If that’s what you’re thinking, you’re right. You can’t. Your belief won’t let you.

If you want to earn more and work less, you have to start by believing it’s possible. When you do, you can find ways to make it happen.

Instead of saying, “I can’t. . .” you ask, “How can I. . .”.

How I earned more by working less



Another take on the to-do list


First, we had the to-do list. Then we heard about the “don’t do” list. For those of us who sometimes find these lists too black-and-white and would like another option comes the latest idea: the “do more” and “do less” lists.

Instead of committing to something big all at once, before we’re ready, a full-on exercise program, for example, we can put exercise on our “do more” list to keep the idea front and center until we’re ready to put something more specific on our to-do list or calendar.

We can use a “do less” list to wean ourselves away from bad habits, time-wasting activities, and things we don’t want to do but feel guilty about giving up.

The “do more” and “do less” lists give us a nuanced way to bring things into or out of our field of vision.

If you know you need to do more marketing but you’re not committed to it or don’t know where to start, start by putting “marketing” on your “do more” list. If you want to lose weight, put “carbs” on your “do less” list.

Baby steps.

Go through your master list and move things to one of these lists. Or add a tag to designate “do more” or “do less” in addition to whatever else you’re doing with a task or project.

You might start with just a few things you want to improve on (or remove from) your life and focus on these for now. If you’re especially busy or conflicted about your priorities, start by putting as much as possible on your “do less” list since this will free up more time for your “do more” list.

If you’re not sure about this, if you want to give it more thought, analyze the pros and cons, and consider all of your options, do this: put “over-thinking” on your “do less list”.

Want more referrals? Put this on your “do more” list


Micro-scheduling ain’t my thang


What are you doing three weeks from today at 3:15 pm? Some people can answer that question. They schedule their days and weeks in 15-minute increments. If this describes you, God bless. Do what works for you. If you’re like me and this sounds suffocating and impractical, you need another option.

I’ve mentioned this before but thought I’d provide a little more detail about what I do.

I schedule appointments, calls, and anything with a deadline. I also (sometimes) schedule “time blocks” for working on projects or groups of related tasks. For everything else, I keep a list of 3-5 projects I’m currently working on or want to work on this week and a list of 3-5 tasks I want to work on “now” (today).

I keep another list of what I want to do “next,” that is after I finish what’s on the other two lists. I limit the “next” list to no more than 20 items to keep me from being overwhelmed with hundreds of options. Everything else goes on a someday/maybe list.

(Actually, I use tags for all of this.)

This gives me flexibility. I keep my lists in front of me and look at them frequently. At any time, I can look at my lists and decide what to work on. I make that decision based on factors like:

  • The type of work–some tasks require more focus and energy than others
  • Time needed to complete the work
  • My experience/ability with that type of work
  • What I’ve done/will do before the task
  • What I need to do after the task (e.g., appointments, other tasks)
  • My energy level (and projected energy level; mornings are better than afternoons)
  • Deadlines
  • Current progress on the project
  • Enjoyment factor–do I like the task or detest it
  • Difficulty
  • Need to coordinate with others (or waiting for something from others)
  • And so on

I don’t use a checklist for this. I look at my options and let my gut tell me what to do next. When I’m on a roll, I might keep at something for a couple of hours. When I feel resistance or fatigue,  I might put it aside or move it another list.

And that’s why I don’t micro-schedule my time.

Anyway, that’s how I do it. How about you?

Evernote for Lawyers ebook


The trend is your friend


Some days, everything seems to go wrong. The day is filled with problems or complaints, you struggle to get your work done, you don’t want to talk to anyone or do anything, you just want to go home.


Leave work. Take the rest of the day off.

Go home and lay on the sofa or go to the park and get some fresh air. Get some rest and reboot your brain and come back the next day, refreshed and recharged.

Don’t fight the trend, investors say.

Typically, we don’t do this. When we have a bad day we muscle our way through it. We have things to get done, hours to bill, people who rely on us, so we don’t even consider stopping. But that’s ego talking. Sometimes, you have to give yourself a break.

Many a day, I left the office early and went to a bookstore or for a drive. Or I sat in a coffee shop and read a book or wrote in a journal. I turned my problems over to my subconscious mind and let it figure things out.

And it almost always did.

When I went back to work the next day, the problems were still there and I had work to catch up on, but I felt better and got the work done.

Because I didn’t fight the trend.

But here’s the thing. The trend goes two ways. When you’re having a great day and feel like you can do no wrong, you might want to take the rest of the day off, to reward yourself.

Go eat some cherry cheesecake. Your work will still be there tomorrow.

Earn more, work less


Keystone habits for the win


Charles Duhigg, author of “The Power of Habit,” talked about “keystone habits”. These are habits that tend to lead to other good habits and behaviors.

Exercise is an example of a keystone habit. Duhigg said,

“Typically, people who exercise start eating better and becoming more productive at work. They smoke less and show more patience with colleagues and family. They use their credit cards less frequently and say they feel less stressed. Exercise is a keystone habit that triggers widespread change.”

Other keystone habits might include meditation or prayer, reading personal development books for 30 minutes daily, writing in a journal, getting more sleep or learning a new skill.

Marketing is a keystone habit. Writing a weekly email to your clients and prospects, for example, can not only bring in more business, it can also improve your presentations, help you develop more content (and better content) for your website, and improve your conversational skills.

You don’t have to change every habit to achieve your goals. Focus on developing a few keystone habits that will allow you to create a wave of successful outcomes in your work or personal life.

Start by identifying one keystone habit and working on it every day. If you’ve chosen well, one small change in what you do or how you do it can cause a trickle-down effect and generate a plethora of positive outcomes.

Keystone habit: teaching clients how to identify your ideal client and refer them


12 lists for organizing and managing your practice


I like lists. They keep me organized, focused, and productive. I use them every day.

Take a gander at this list of lists, to see if there are any you might want to add to your productivity toolkit.

  1. Current Projects. Everything you’re working on (or should be). Having these in one place will keep you from neglecting anything and see if you’ve got too much on your plate and need to offload something.
  2. Next Projects. What do you intend to work on once you’ve completed your current projects? This will help you prepare for those projects, e.g., write down ideas, research, etc., so you can start them without delay.
  3. Ongoing & Recurring Projects. Other projects or responsibilities, e.g., updating your website, networking activities, content creation, client relations activities, your newsletter, preparing reports, etc.
  4. To Do This Week. 3-5 important projects to focus on in the next week to ten days.
  5. To Do Today. Look at your “this week” list, your calendar, your project lists, and elsewhere, and choose 3-5 “MITs” (Most Important Tasks) for the day.
  6. Routines. Checklists of weekly or daily tasks for tidying up, organizing, and planning your work. Examples: weekly review, inbox zero, cleaning up computer files, paying bills, morning and afternoon “startup” and “shut down” routines.
  7. Goals & Dreams. Monthly, quarterly, and annual benchmarks. Long-term goals or vision.
  8. Someday/Maybes. Ideas you’re considering but aren’t yet committed to doing.
  9. What’s Working Now. Questions that prompt you to reflect on what’s working well so you can do more of them.
  10. What’s Not Working Now. Questions that help identify problems, bottlenecks, and poor ROI, so you can eliminate, curtail, delegate, or fix them.
  11. Budget. Track income and expenses to reduce debt, increase profits, manage investments, etc.
  12. Remember. Ideas, quotes, or accomplishments you want to keep in front of you, to stay motivated, focused, and on message.

Do you use any lists that aren’t on this list?

My Evernote for Lawyers ebook