I have played this trick since college for anything I am resisting.
Ten minutes is a short enough time to exert some discipline. We
regularly spend 10 minutes watching commercials or getting lost
on Facebook. Why not take the same amount of time to complete,
or at least start, something pressing on our minds? I am repeatedly amazed at how many of the tasks I avoid for days could have
been completed in around 10 minutes.
Try giving 10 minutes of your undivided attention to a project you are avoiding. Turn off email, close the internet, and put
the phone on silent. Put a pen and pad near you so that if you
think of other things, you can jot them down and return to the
task at hand. Set a timer on your phone—if you want to be done
when the timer goes off, you are. After 10 minutes, one of two
things happens: 1) you are engaged in the task, and ignore the
timer, continue for a longer period of time or to completion, or
2) you stop working when the timer goes off, but at the least
you have a start.
Neuroscience research shows that our brains are activated by
motion—starting a task, even briefly, communicates to the brain
that action is happening. Our brains then start thinking about
the project, coming up with ideas and solutions during lulls
(such as time in the shower), and are able to return to the project with strategies, rather than wasting time. Ten minutes is not
enough to write a brief or complete a declaration for summary
judgment, but getting started on a task—particularly one we are
avoiding—is more than half the battle.
The timer trick also works to make time for things that relax
you. Try setting a timer for something that will rejuvenate you.
Don’t let your mind worry about what you are not doing—give
your activity your full attention. Let yourself be unavailable for
10 glorious minutes to read a book, garden, or dance to ’80s
tunes. It doesn’t have to be much. The timer will ring to a different person than the one who started.
How to Have a Productive Day:
Three Easy Tips for Lawyers
The law is a profession full of stresses—deadlines, interruptions, demands from clients and opposing attorneys, case schedules, court filings, contracts, and motions with endless attachments. If you run your own practice or you are part of a smaller practice, administrative and managerial tasks are also added
to an often overwhelming day. I have always been organized and loved systems, and I’ve looked for ways to maintain
efficient productivity while keeping my sanity. Here are three easy ways to maintain focus during your day.
We all want to feel good about our time at work, serve our
clients well, be a good team member, and feel prepared for the
tasks and filings we know are coming. I find a to-do list essential in these endeavors. How can we get there if we don’t know
where we are going?
Since becoming a lawyer nearly 20 years ago, I have maintained a typed list of all cases and tasks so that everything in
my work life is contained in one document. I regularly update
and revise this list, usually after staff meetings. Before, for
years I made the mistake of using this as my daily to-do list as
well. Running through the next four months of work without
prioritization not only did not help structure the day, it also
stressed me out before I even started.
A few years ago I heard that the CEO of a large local company
prepared a four-item to-do list every day. This changed my daily
expectations dramatically—if that was good enough for the CEO
of this major tech company, why not good enough for me in my
humble law practice?
I started keeping a daily four-item list, in addition to the comprehensive list. If the tasks are large, like “start draft of brief,” I
may include only two. At the end of the day, I have accomplished
the items I set out to accomplish, completed them with my full
attention, and continued to keep our cases and managerial tasks
Here is how it looks: I come into the office and take a look at
the long-term to-do list and the papers on my desk to see what is
pending. I write my four-item list and keep it near the phone so I
see it throughout the day. If there is an urgent request, I may not
complete all four items. Incomplete items stay on the list. The
next day, there is no need to waste time wondering what to do,
stressing about priorities, or worse yet, browsing the internet to
put off starting work—the list from the night before guides the
day, and I am productive as soon as I begin the day.
by Anne-Marie Sargent
KEEP A DAILY FOUR-ITEM TO-DO LIST.
One of the secrets of getting more done: make a to-do
list, keep it visible, and use it as you go through the day.
— Jean De La Fontaine
GIVE IT 10 MINUTES.
The secret to getting ahead is getting started.
— Mark Twain