In our current world of constantly being busy, it’s easy for our organizational skills to slip. After all, if you’re getting the work done, does it matter that you have a messy desk?
Keeping your practice organized is one of the best ways to stay efficient and avoid feeling overwhelmed – which in turn helps you produce the best work for your clients, and also respect yourself and your mental wellbeing.
Below are the three biggest organizational mistakes that most lawyers are making, and the best ways to resolve them.
Not utilizing your tools and resources
From meeting invites, to lists, to client communication, there are many aspects of your day to manage. Even if you feel organized and are keeping up with your to-do list throughout the week, there is an endless supply of apps and programs to make your life easier.
A good place to start is your calendar. It’s easy to jot down a meeting time in your phone’s notes app, or write it down on your desk calendar – but moving all meetings to one online calendar is the best way to ensure you’re not missing anything important or running late to appointments.
Google Calendar is the most widely used online calendar program. It allows you to set up multiple calendar views, link documents directly on the invite, and send meeting reminders.
Calendly is a service that is perfect for scheduling meetings with clients. It generates a link for the recipient to schedule a meeting at a time that works for them, and for your availability. This can save you time by eliminating the back and forth of trying to find a meeting time that works for both parties.
Todoist is a great option to help you manage your to-do list. It’s interface allows you to assign certain items to different projects and easily manage due dates. It also integrates with Slack, Google Calendar, and Gmail to create tasks based on your activity.
If you’re using a notebook to take notes, it can be hard to find what you need after the fact. Evernote is a platform that’s perfect for taking notes quickly and keeping them organized. If you prefer handwritten notes, you can use Penultimate on an iPad to jot down notes – and it integrates with Evernote to keep them organized.
To easily store and find your documents, Sync and Google Drive are both secure, easy-to-use, tried-and-true solutions. Sync offers both privacy protection and data protection, and allows users to collaborate on projects.
Not tracking time as you accrue it
When you’re swamped and your to-do list seems to be a mile long, tracking your billable hours might be the last thing on your mind as you jump from task to task, and meeting to meeting.
Many attorneys might estimate their time spent on a client at the end of the day or week. The longer that you wait to record this time, the less accurate your recollection will be.
To best abide by your ethics, make the most of client budgets, and follow billing guidelines, it’s best to get in the habit of tracking this time as you go. This ensures that you aren’t overbilling the client, or underbilling yourself.
Tracking your time is how you get paid – so prioritizing it throughout the day is in your best interest. There are several programs that can make this process less tedious, such as Clio, Smokeball, or Zola Suite.
Letting your inbox control you
Emails are the ultimate distraction – it’s a constant stream of people needing your attention.
Although it’s tempting to keep your inbox open in a separate tab, try to limit yourself to checking your email only three times a day: right away in the morning, right after lunch, and right before you close your laptop for the day.
Also, try turning off your desktop email notifications to stop being pinged every time a new email hits your inbox.
Organizing your emails into folders is a good way to track client communication and make sure nothing goes without a response or is prematurely archived. Create a separate folder for each client where you can file emails after reading and responding to them.
Staying organized might just feel like another thing to tick off of your growing to-do list, but it very well might be the most important one. If you can tackle these three common mistakes in your everyday organization, you’ll be well on your way to maintaining a successful and efficient practice.