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Webinar report: Manage your time, manage your sanity

In the final webinar of her 2023 Self-Marketing series, Joanna Gaudoin focused on time management.

With a background in marketing and consultancy in large corporates, Joanna understands the importance of time in business.

Joanna Gaudoin founded Inside Out Image in 2011 to specialise in workplace relationships and skills that are rarely taught in formal settings. Clients of Inside Out Image include HSBC, RPC, Mastercard, Irwin Mitchell, Ashurst and Willis Towers Watson.

You have 10,080 minutes every week - for everything

Time is finite. You can’t generate extra minutes out of thin air and no amount of money will buy you an extended day. Your 10,080 minutes each week includes time for sleeping, eating, commuting, leisure activities and being with family and friends. 

And, of course, working. So, to be truly effective at work (and minimise the leisure time we sacrifice in the name of work), we must manage our time.

Not finite are the barriers to good time management and the implications of leaving them unchecked. Scenarios in-house lawyers struggle with daily include:

  • Satisfying high demands with limited resources;
  • Pointless meetings;
  • Overoptimism about how long things take;
  • Distraction by endless emails and instant messaging (suggesting an instant response is required);
  • Constant minor  requests;
  • Overthinking things;
  • Procrastination;
  • Late involvement in projects/legal matters; and
  • Waiting on others to deliver work/respond to communications.

If you recognise these situations, consider the advice of voice coach and management trainer, Caroline Goyder. ‘Teach people how to treat you’ is her message. When colleagues understand, for example, that you allocate time to read your emails, need things done by a certain time or that you should be involved in a legal process as early as possible, life can become easier. As you get to know people and they know you, this gets easier to navigate and trust is built.

Also worth exploring are apps that can help you ringfence time for necessary, yet time-consuming, tasks and help you avoid ‘mobile rabbit holes.’

Buckets of tasks

Another great way to control your workload is to arrange it into buckets of tasks. This involves grouping similarly natured activities together and estimating the time you’ll need for them. Typical task buckets for in-house lawyers could be:

  • Horizon scanning and checking for legal updates;
  • Internal and external communications;
  • Supervision and team management tasks;
  • Training;
  • Legal strategy and goal setting;
  • Project work; and (inevitably)
  • Admin. 

Buckets of tasks won’t just make your work easier to schedule. They’ll also show you what your weeks look like and flag up any aspect or your role that you may be spending too much or too little time on.

Time blocking

With your buckets of tasks ready, block out time for them in your diary. For easy visualisation, colour code each bucket. Then, complete your diary week by adding:

  • Solitary time – for thinking and preparing yourself for your next bucket;
  • Empty space – to allow for tasks that overrun or are interrupted;
  • Time to update your to-do lists; and
  • Time at the end of each day to think about tomorrow's time blocks.

Once you’ve created this at-a-glance view of your working week, you’ll love how flexible it is. You’ll discover, example, that it’s easy to swap task buckets and time blocks around as circumstances change – yet still get things done.

This is useful because sometimes unforeseen events demand immediate attention. Colleagues may overstate the urgency of an issue or mistakenly feel that you’re the only person who can deal with it. It may test your internal relationships but ask yourself in these moments who should handle the matter - and by when. Must you drop what you’re doing and attend to it right now, or can it be done by one of your team members on say, Friday?

This is where the Eisenhower matrix for prioritisation can be indispensable. It gives you these four options when the unexpected arises:

  • Do – the work is urgent and important and you should do it immediately;
  • Decide – it’s important, but not urgent, you can schedule the work for later;
  • Delegate – the situation is urgent but not so important as to require your attention. You can ask a team member to deal with it now; and;
  • Delete – the task is neither urgent nor important so neither you nor your team need to spend any time on it.

Adapting to people’s personalities and styles

In webinar No.3 in this series, Communicate yourself effectively at work, Joanna explored  distinctions between task focused and relationship focused colleagues and how these characteristics play out among introverts and extroverts. Observing your colleagues through these lenses will help you manage your time with them (for example, don’t waste too much time on small talk with task focused people).

Also, recognise different people’s working styles. We all differ in our behavioural patterns, level of engagement with others, attention to detail, how much time we need to process requests and when in the day our energy levels peak.

The better you understand a person, the easier it is to plan how you work with them – and the more productive your time with them will be.

Manage your email

Email management is usually the single biggest consumer of time for anyone who works with an internet enabled device. Here are Joanna’s top five tips for reclaiming some of those 10,080 precious minutes every week.

  1. Review your emails at set times – don’t get waylaid every time a new message arrives.
  2. Set rules/filters – only you can decide how to make this work for you but setting a few rules will reduce inbox overwhelm.
  3. File emails once you’ve processed them. This keeps things tidy and helps keep daunting inbox clear-outs to the minimum. This way of working isn’t for everyone but does mean you are clear on what you have left to respond to.
  4. Respond in good time – it’s quicker that way than fielding countless chase ups and apologising for delayed replies.  If you can’t reply in a day or so then reply to let them know when you will.
  5. Write your emails in a way that’ll speed up response times: use simple language, be concise, get to the point quickly and say what you want the recipient to do. Make it easy for them to reply!

You’ll find more self-marketing tips and insights from Joanna in her book, Getting On: Making work work , which is currently discounted to £12.50 for CLL members (usual price £14.99) using code CLL234 until Tuesday 21 November.

Finally, thank you for joining Joanna and us for the 2023 Self-marketing webinar series. Joanna will be back with us in 2024 for a new series of webinars. Watch this space!

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