Honest Abe, Sharp Axes, and 5 Ways for Attorneys to Improve Time Management

Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I’ll spend the first four sharpening the axe.

Abraham Lincoln

This quote rings true because it’s a reminder that we can better manage our time and execute our work if we become disciplined in the way we plan and prepare.

How often are we quick to run headfirst into a project without taking the time up front to think about what the project entails, or be strategic about how we approach it? There’s any number of reasons why we don’t spend the time planning: we don’t find it valuable, we feel the urge to just “start” right away, or we don’t think we actually have the time to plan.

If you want to improve the way you manage your practice, here's what you need to do first: Adjust your mindset when it comes to planning. Before you rush into your next project, be intentional about spending time up front to map it out. Acknowledge that even a little bit of planning up front can save you massive amounts of time later.

Here are a five aspects of planning to focus on:

  1. Timeline. How long do I estimate this will take?

  2. People. Who else do I need from our team to help me complete this project? Is there anyone else I need to loop into this project NOW, or is there something I can get someone started on NOW that will save me time later?

  3. Resources. What resources will I need to complete the project, and do I have all of those things at my fingertips–or do I need to track them down?

  4. Clients. Do I need anything from my client and would it make sense for me to contact them NOW to get that process started (so that I’m not rushing around later and asking for things on short timelines, which leads to poor client service)?

  5. Anticipating Problems. Are there any roadblocks or issues we run into with this kind of project, and is there anything I can do NOW to prevent them? Will this work conflict with other work I’m doing and I do need to alert anyone else on my team to set expectations?

THE TAKEAWAY: be intentional about sharpening your axe before you get to work.