A lot of law firm owners struggle to stick to the schedule that’s set out in their calendar.
This is not so much in meetings with clients and team members, but it’s the other things that you put into your calendar. Personal things like going for a run, or doing tasks that are on your to-do list.
For example, tasks to help you move towards your goals of growing your law firm. Often those are the things you’ll put in your calendar, but for whatever reason a client will call, or a team member will need your attention, or a file will blow up, and you won’t get around to them.
When I was running my law firm, I used to have my Outlook calendar (I use Google calendar now), and I would always have it all planned neatly out. But I often wouldn’t actually follow the schedule that I’d set out for myself.
Things would always just crop up, and those tasks would remain on my to-do list until I was able to reschedule them. And even then, something else would crop up, so they would just stay on my to-do list forever.
That really slowed me down in terms of progressing towards the goals that I’d set myself around growing my law firm.
So I really wanted to find a way to set out my calendar, so that I actually stuck to it.
That’s what led me to this five step process of how to set your calendar out so that you follow it, and get the things that are in it done.
#1: Theme days
This is a technique that I’ve found really effective over the last few years.
It’s where you look at your goals, and you pick the main things that you need to focus on every week to achieve those goals, and theme an entire day around it.
For example, you might have Marketing Monday. Marketing Monday is when you do everything related to marketing – review your marketing plan, see how you’re tracking against it, think about what you’re going to try differently next week.
Then you could have Team Tuesday, where you catch up with all your team members, discuss their KPIs, and see how they’re tracking towards those KPIs.
Wednesday might be Work It Wednesday, where you just hammer out the legal work because you just need to get some done.
Theme days have been so effective for me as I’ve gone from working mostly in the business, to working mostly on the business.
I’ve implemented a CEO day, which is where I focus on becoming a better leader, and looking at the metrics of the business. I can see where our opportunities are, and give myself that space to improve my skills as the CEO of our business.
As time has gone on, my theme days have changed. I usually look at them a couple of times a year and I can say, “Well, actually I’m not really that involved in marketing anymore, because I’ve got a good marketing team,” so I don’t need to spend a day dedicated to marketing.
But maybe I do need to work on my leadership skills, so I might make it leadership Monday, for example.
Theming your days in your calendar is a great way to block out your thinking in one space for a whole day, which makes it much easier to actually stick to what’s in there.
#2: Colour it
This is a really simple one, but it’s one that works really well for me.
For every theme day I have, I give it its own colour.
So, Monday might be blue. Tuesday might be green. I also have orange, for family time and personal time. And I have a yellow for my self kit; my workouts, things like that.
The reason why I like to colour it, is because it means I can instantly glance at my calendar, and I already know in my mind what’s coming up, without having to really read the details.
I can consume what’s in my calendar a lot faster, which just helps me to get to whatever’s in the calendar at that point in time.
#3: Package the details
When you fill in your calendar at the start of the week, and you put in the tasks that you want to get done, a great way to make sure that you do those things, is to put in all the details around what you need to do.
For example, say you need to work on hiring a new team member, and you’re going to write the job description. You’ve set aside an hour to do it.
In that calendar appointment, you would put a link to the template you want to use. You’d also put a link to some other job descriptions for that role that you like. You might put a link to a few different articles that you’ve read about job descriptions, and you’ve found really helpful. You might have done an online training about job descriptions. You might have a procedure in your firm about hiring, or writing job descriptions, so you might link to that.
Package all that detail into your calendar appointment, so when it comes to doing that task, it’s all there, and you don’t have to look around for 15 minutes, trying to find everything you need.
You’re much less likely to procrastinate if everything you need is right there, ready to go.
#4: Set reminders
For everything in my calendar, I have a 15 minute reminder beforehand to remind me that I have something else coming up.
Those are pretty much the only notifications that I have on my computer or on my phone, to remind me that I really need to start looking at finishing up what I’m doing, so that I can get ready to do the next thing.
I don’t ignore those reminders either – I take them seriously that it’s time to wrap up what I’m doing because that next thing in my calendar is important.
Also, if, for example, I need to drive somewhere to be at a one o’clock meeting, I would have a notification for half an hour before. That’s just to give myself enough time to finish up what I’m doing, get my stuff together, get in the car and drive there.
With reminders, you’re much more likely to stick to your schedule, and get the things done that you need to get done.
#5: Calendar management
You may already have your assistant or your secretary managing your calendar. If so, that’s great.
But if not, then it’s something you might want to look at outsourcing – either hiring an assistant, or perhaps outsourcing to it to a virtual assistant who can do a couple of hours a day for you.
Regardless of who manages your calendar, the cadence of everything that’s in there is really important.
For example, if you have a whole lot of appointments back to back, whether they’re meetings or tasks you want to get done, then that will reduce your chances of actually getting through everything.
It’s important to make sure you have the appropriate buffers between different tasks and appointments, to ensure that you have enough time to get something done and move on to the next thing.
That just means you’re not being overrun or having to rush – because the more you rush, the less likely it is that you’ll get the tasks done.
It really helps to work out how big those buffers are that you need between certain appointments too. It might just be 10 minutes, it might be that you like half an hour.
There’s nothing worse than back-to-back meetings. Nobody’s thought about bathroom breaks or lunches for you, or anything like that; you’re totally on your own.
Again, that will mean that you’re much less likely to get everything done in that time.
So calendar management is key, and getting somebody in to help you with that is really helpful.
If you don’t already have somebody already, then perhaps it’s time to think about doing that.
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.