They feel bullied by their inbox, they feel like their calendar goes to shit every week, and they feel like they’re always having to cancel or reschedule work appointments and other commitments.
Their work is getting in the way of things they love.
Perhaps you’re a lawyer who really struggles with your calendar. You feel overworked. You just can’t seem to get ahead of your workload. You’ve tried all the productivity tips you’ve read online, but nothing seems to work.
Perhaps you’re a law firm owner who is constantly having to cancel catch-ups with friends and family, or you’re skipping other things like charity work or exercise because your work’s always getting in the way.
When I first became a law firm owner I really struggled to have productive weeks. My weeks always got completely out of control and chaotic. By about Monday afternoon, stuff would already have cropped up that would totally wipe my calendar out for the rest of the week.
As a result, I was constantly cancelling catch-ups with friends and family. I stopped doing a lot of the things that I love; things like sports and exercise and other hobbies.
All because my work kept getting in the way.
I became miserable. I was irritable. I was snappy.
And I was definitely not showing up in this world how I wanted to be showing up.
This went on for a while, until I went on a quest to figure out how to work in a way that was more productive and energising and enjoyable.
So that I got the shit done that I wanted to get done, and I got to do the amazing things that I wanted to do outside of work.
I’ve tried a number of different productivity tips and techniques over the years, and I’m going to give you the five that have had the biggest impact on me.
#1: Design, not default
As a busy law firm owner, if you’re not planning out your weeks in advance, your default is having a calendar that runs you.
To have a perfect week, you need to design it intentionally.
But before you can do that, you need to understand what your perfect week looks like.
Think about it: what are the specific things you would do in your perfect week?
From a work perspective, what would you spend your time on? Whether it’s marketing, or finance-related, or managing your team, think about the things that you actually want to achieve and how you can spend your time to make it happen.
What about in your personal life? You might want to spend some more time with your husband, wife, partner.
You might want to spend more time with your kids. You might want to pick them up from school or preschool a couple of times a week, or take them to the dance class, or the art class, or swimming.
Perhaps you’ve got hobbies or sports that you enjoy, so you want to spend some time doing those.
What would you be doing? How long would you be doing it for? Write down a list of the sort of things that you would like to do in your perfect week.
#2: Block your time
Now that you know what the things are that you’d do in your perfect week, you can start to slot them in your calendar. When you put them in, make sure you’ve got enough time for each one.
Make your bookings in multiple places if you can.
For example, if you have a booking to a Pilates class on Wednesday at 5:30 pm, put it in your calendar and then jump on your Pilates business’ app and book it in there as well. Then you’re much more likely to show up and do it.
#3: Theme your days
This is a really fun one to bring some more energy and enjoyment to your calendar, and also to bring some order to what can often feel a bit chaotic.
Think about your goals and the things that you want to achieve in your life at the moment. Then come up with some themed days based on those goals.
I’ll give you some examples:
So you might be doing a real marketing push, and you need to spend time actually looking at what’s working and what’s not working. You can do everything you need on marketing Mondays.
Every Monday, you’ll dedicate time to your marketing. It doesn’t need to be the whole day necessarily, but set aside the time you need to do all the marketing things that need doing.
Tuesdays might be team Tuesday. This is a day where you catch up with the team members who report directly to you and talk to them about what’s going well, what they’re finding challenging and how they’re tracking against their KPIs.
Then you might have Work it Wednesday. That’s a day where you’ve got nothing else on and you can just get some solid work done.
These are a few examples of how you can bring themes into planning out your perfect week to make it more fun, enjoyable, and to help you figure out where to slot in all the things you want to do in your perfect week.
#4: Fill it weekly
You’re not going to have the same perfect week every single week, which means you need to plan your perfect week every week.
I spend 30 to 40 minutes every Sunday planning out my upcoming week. Some people do it on a Monday morning because it means they’re aware of what’s come in over the weekend, and they can plan with that in mind.
One of my friends, Emma Heuston from the Remote Expert – who is one of the most organized law firm owners I know – does hers on Fridays because she doesn’t want to spend her weekend thinking about how she’s going to do all the things she needs to get done next week.
I’ll often ask law firm owners if they’re setting aside time every week to plan out their week, and they’ll say, “I’ve done that once or twice but it doesn’t work for me.”
They’ll say, “I’ll get to the end of the week, and I’ll only get half the stuff done that I set for myself in my calendar.”
My response to that is, some weeks you’ll get less done than you wanted, and that is absolutely fine. But you need to start fresh every week regardless.
I get derailed sometimes too; everyone does. But my perfect week happens far more often than not because I plan it out. So even if you’ve had a bad week, don’t let that discourage you from stopping.
Think of the next week as a blank canvas. Even if you have a week where you don’t get as much done as you’d like, that’s fine.
It takes a while to get into the rhythm and routine of the perfect week.
It also takes time to realise that you need to honour your commitments.
For example, if you’ve put a yoga class in your calendar, it’s easy to skip that class because no one else is relying on you for that commitment. I used to do that; I’d think ‘who cares if I cancel that appointment?’
But, of course, self-care is so important. In fact, that appointment is probably more important than nearly any other in my calendar.
So I used to think, ‘would I ever not show up to a client meeting?’ Absolutely not. I would always show up to a client meeting. Any lawyer would.
You need to learn to honour the commitments to yourself like you honour the commitments to your clients and other people.
That doesn’t necessarily happen overnight; it’s a bit of a transition. So when it comes to Fill It Weekly, do it every week, even if you’ve had a less than perfect week the one before.
#5: Package the details
So this is my ninja move for you.
Once you’ve put everything into your calendar, you then need to go into each one and put in the details that you need to get started on that thing quickly.
So for example, say you’ve got marketing Monday, and you’ve put in 90 minutes to get your Q2 marketing plan finished. You’ve already started it, you just need to get it finished.
So in that calendar appointment, put a link to your marketing plan. Put a link to the training or the template that you were using to create the marketing plan, and put a link through to any marketing data that you’ve got from previous things you’ve done to help you create your plan.
Also link to any websites who are doing marketing well and you like what they’re doing, so it’s all there.
There’s nothing worse than coming to do some work and having to faff around for 10 minutes to find all the documents and other things you need just so you can get started.
But if you package the deets when you’re actually planning out your perfect week, you’ll be able to just get straight into it with no faffing, then you’ll feel much more energised and much more productive.
If you’re interested in scaling a law firm, or building, designing and selling online legal solutions and learning about how to do the marketing around that, then there’s plenty more for you to discover over in my Savvy Lawyers Facebook group.