If you have what we call, “hurry sickness,” that state of being in which you are always rushing, always pressed for time and always at risk of arriving late – even to important meetings, resolve to make 2012 the year in which you take control of your time.
It can be done. As we point out in our book, Time Management for Attorneys: A Lawyer’s Guide to Decreasing Stress, Eliminating Interruptions and Getting Home on Time, you may never be able to control 100% of your time, but with a little planning and a lot of self-awareness, you can make the kind of choices that will allow you to slow the pace down. It’s worth a try.
The sense that there is not enough time to handle everything is the number one reason that lawyers feel anxious and overwhelmed. To see if you suffer from this widespread malady, take a look at the following list of symptoms and see if you can relate to any of them:
- You consistently run a half-hour to an hour behind
- You say “yes” to many more tasks, appointments, and meetings than you can handle
- You don’t plan your day or week proactively, but reactively
- You marvel at how others can arrive on time and fully prepared to meetings and appointments
- Your close associates and friends always expect you to be late
If you can relate to more than one or two, take some consolation in the fact that you are not alone. Attorneys are especially susceptible to hurry sickness because of the highly reactive nature of their work as problem solvers. Even when your day is well scheduled, it can rapidly deteriorate when a client has a crisis. By the time the second client crisis hits, your planned activities are now either compressed into the rest of your day or you work late (or over the weekend) to make up the time.
So the nature of your work is working against you, and you will often fall legitimately behind. So how do you counter the unpredictable nature of your profession which is often made worse by the tendency of many attorneys to underestimate their time and over-commit?
You make a firm decision to commit to less. You take the pessimistic view of how long everything will take – from the drive to the courthouse to how long it will take you to get work done. You add 20 to 50 percent to your estimations based on how late, overdue or unprepared you tend to be. Because something will usually happen, through no fault of your own, to slow things down. So you factor it in right up front.
To do this means you have to slow down and become painfully self-aware in that moment right before you over-commit to a client, your kids or your partners. You have to take a breath and engage in what I call, “worst-case-scenario thinking.” Then, force yourself to say no or modify the time-frame. It’s uncomfortable and inconvenient, but for those of you who wish to heal yourselves of hurry sickness — this is the only cure.