With holidays and festivities on the horizon, managing your time as well as client expectations is crucial to ensuring your downtime is filled with relaxing summer fun rather than a post-Christmas work hangover. Here are a few handy time management tips to help you tie up loose ends, close out your 2014 workload and start afresh in 2015 after some serious R&R.
Signing off in good time
Even if your time away from work is limited, be sure to use the lead-up to the year’s end to make important calls and prioritise tasks that need to get done before the 31 December deadline.
Be realistic about your boundaries and inform your clients of your commitments in November and December so that you can attend to urgent jobs and put off those matters that can wait until 2015.
Suzi Dafnis, community director and CEO of the Australian Businesswomen’s Network, has a simple and practical approach to the end-of-year rush, recommending that we all:
• Make a list.
• Check it twice.
• Schedule time to take action.
• Take action.
With a bit of forward planning, you can be prepared for the holiday season in ample time.
Managing client expectations
We all want to solve our clients’ legal problems in an efficient and timely manner. However, managing client expectations is also important to achieve productivity.
Send clients an email early on (i.e. November) to advise them of your last day in the office before taking annual leave and when you will return to work, perhaps allowing yourself a little buffer time to ease yourself back in.
Before you go on leave, personalise your automated messages and turn on your ‘out of office’ email notification, including options for clients or third parties to find assistance in your absence.
If you plan to be on call for some or all of the Christmas period, you may want to take the Tim Ferriss approach and ‘batch’ your emails. Check your inbox and respond to correspondence twice a day so that client demands don’t compete with the next wicket taken by the Aussies or a lazy lunch in your local café.
A balancing act
At the ninth annual Tristan Jepson Memorial Foundation lecture on 23 October 2014, Her Honourable Justice Virginia Bell referred to “unhealthily high levels of anxiety and depression within our profession”.
With alarmingly high rates of depression amongst lawyers, the term ‘work-life balance’ is not just an idealistic expression – it’s part of a critical industry dialogue and a practitioner’s call to action to nurture their mental, emotional and physical wellbeing.
To avoid undue stress and help you on your wellness path, finalise cases where possible, make a January to-do list, inform your clients and colleagues of your break period and then set some goals for early 2015 so that you’re not spending precious relaxation time mulling over court deadlines, discovery or document review.
Even if your Christmas lunch is comprised of cabanossi and cheese in the boardroom, enjoy the opportunity to network and connect with your colleagues as the year comes to a close. Make sure you take breaks, eat well-balanced meals, fit in some yoga or exercise amid the flurry of social events and laugh with those around you.
If you can wind down in a productive, realistic and healthy way, you will finish the year with a flourish.