If your office is a disorganized mess, you’re not only running a risk of malpractice, but you’re also losing billable time by having to constantly search for files and documents.
Oh, and it’s also detrimental to your mental health.
But don’t try to turn things around immediately. Getting organized is an ongoing and incremental process, not a one-time event.
“You won’t achieve organization overnight,” writes Florida practice management advisor Karla J. Eckardt in this post on the Clio blog. “It will take time and practice to figure out what works best for you. But once you get into the routine of things, you’ll find your mental health improved and your practice more efficient.”
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6 Steps to Getting Your Office Organized
- Free your mind. If you’re relying mostly on your memory to determine where things are located and what needs to get done, you’re in trouble. “Memory is categorically unreliable,” Eckardt writes. “You can’t get organized based on memory any more than you can build a case upon it. To get organized, you’ll need to use calendars, checklists, and notebooks to keep track of tasks, case progress, deadlines, and miscellaneous thoughts. You can, of course, opt to use a legal pad or paper planner and calendar.”
- Take advantage of tech tools. Some of Eckardt’s top picks: Basic Calendar Options: Microsoft Outlook Calendar, Apple Calendar; Basic To-Do Lists: Todoist, Microsoft To Do, Apple Reminders; Task/Project Management: Microsoft Planner, Trello; Notes: Microsoft OneNote, Notability.
- Clean up your desk. If it has taken years for your workspace to become a landfill, it’ll take a bit longer than a single episode of Hoarders to get it cleaned up. Try dedicating 15 minutes a day – maybe first thing in the morning or just before you leave – for placing loose documents in files, converting paperwork into digital data, and putting folders in cabinets.
- Reduce distractions through “digital mindfulness.” When you’re constantly being interrupted with calls, emails, texts and social media notifications, projects get stalled and workflow backs up. That’s when clutter happens. The solution is to become more mindful of your relationship with your digital devices. Throughout the day, turn them off periodically so that you can give undivided attention to must-do tasks.
Channel Marie Kondo. “Marie Kondo is thetidying expert,” says Eckardt. “Her method ‘encourages tidying by category–not by location–beginning with clothes, then moving on to books, papers, komono (miscellaneous items), and, finally, sentimental items.’”
- Know your organizational style. In The Organized Lawyer, Kelly Lynn Anders identifies four types of organizational personalities: Stackers (if files are piled high on your desk, credenza and floor, you’re a stacker); Spreaders (similar, but you prefer a panoramic view of all your work-in-progress; Free Spirits (you keep your office free of personal belongings, preferring to stick to work-related items); Pack Rats (the more stuff, the better). By knowing your style, you’ll be better able to tweak it or change it.
Jay Reeves is author of The Most Powerful Attorney in the World. He practiced law in North Carolina and South Carolina. Now he writes and speaks at CLEs, keynotes and in-firm presentations on lawyer professionalism and well-being. He runs Your Law Life LLC, a training and consulting company that helps lawyers add purpose, profits and peace of mind to their practices. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org or 919-619-2441.