Organising yourself 1 – Getting Started

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Disclaimer: LawSkills provides training for the legal industry and does not provide legal advice to members of the public. For help or guidance please seek the services of a qualified practitioner.


Getting the best out of each day involves managing yourself, others and your environment to achieve efficiency and effectiveness and also have time for some fun! As Peter Drucker said “Until you manage your time, it is impossible to manage anything else.”

Over a series of posts I will explore some ideas for you to begin the process to help you achieve some winnable goals in your personal and professional life.

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What’s your time worth?

Everyone is increasingly aware of the cost of time. Individuals and departments are held accountable for their use of time: goals are clearly defined and financial penalties are incurred for missed deadlines. The firm’s own culture can have an important influence on how you use your time. In some organisations working long hours is equated with working hard; if you leave on time, others may think you are not pulling your weight.

In fact, long hours often decrease our efficiency and productivity. If we actually thought about how much our time costs we perhaps would realise just how much of it was not being spent effectively.

1.5 x annual salary
working hours per year = approximate cost
per hour
Cost per hour
60 = approximate cost
per minute

Are you worth it? Should you be doing the type of activities you do? Is it sensible to make drastic savings to the firm’s overheads now by letting only junior staff go? Think about the relative cost of you arranging a meeting yourself rather than asking a junior person to undertake that task.

Equally, do you spend your non-working hours toiling away on domestic chores when you could be relaxing or having adventures? You could delegate these tasks to someone else often for a modest charge compared to what your leisure time is worth to you.

Think how much healthier you would be if you were sleeping better because you had time to take regular walks or other free exercise just by paying about the same as the cost of a good meal each week to someone else to help you at home.


Grant (1995) Contemporary Strategy Analysis , 2nd Edition, Oxford, Blackwell advises that the purpose of strategy is to “pursue profit over the long term”. For the law firm this may mean increasing net profit per equity partner including any notional salaries.

The components for profitability in the law firm are:

  • the fee rates charged
  • utilisation of time to maximise the amount of chargeable time
  • the leverage obtained by reducing the ratio of equity partners to other fee earners
  • the reduction in expenses
  • the speed with which work-in-progress is turned into fees received

How much time in your working day do you actively work towards improving the profitability of your firm? A successful firm will focus on these components. Each member will have a clear sense of what is his contribution and what must be done individually and collectively to achieve the firm’s financial targets.

E.M.Gray discovered in his research that the one thing that all successful people share was putting first things first. In other words, doing some things that have to be done whether we like it or not in order to achieve our clear purpose. It is interesting to note that it is not working hard or enjoying good luck or being astute at handling human relations that is defining, although each are important factors, but being willing to do things which advance our purpose rather than being side-tracked at any given moment.

The power of the human spirit is intense. We can achieve anything we put our mind to. It is not just putting that effort into one dramatic event that brings ‘success’ but our willingness to make and keep commitments to ourselves on a daily basis. Ask yourself

  • What is it I want?
  • Why do I want it?
  • Am I prepared to work towards achieving it?

Most of us have been motivated at some time in our lives to do things that needed effort and commitment, not least the studying to pass exams in order to practice our profession. There will be occasions when you were proud of particular work projects or have happy memories of time spent with your children.

  • Are you willing to invest time and energy in identifying what your mission is for the rest of your life?
  • Will you focus on the reasons why these achievements are important to the enjoyment of the rest of your life?
  • Will those values help to motivate you to develop the means to achieving what you want?

Research shows that if we have the will to organise ourselves and undertake activities around what we recognise as our priorities we can reduce stress and achieve more.

As Goethe says ‘ Things which matter most must never be at the mercy of things which matter least’. This simple phrase is at the route of effective management.

What is the purpose of your job?

It is much easier to focus on doing the right things and therefore make the right decisions if you are absolutely clear what the purpose of your job is and what you want to achieve as a life partner, parent or individual. Sit back and reflect upon what is the purpose of your job. For example, iIf you are a team leader, how much of your time should be spent:

  • organising systems and processes to enable your team to work more efficiently
  • providing coaching and mentoring to develop your team members
  • investigating the marketplace for new ideas and identifying the competition
  • communicating with clients of the practice and making sure you know what they need and how they need your services delivered to them
  • reviewing work loads, allocating appropriate work to the right team member and costing the work done
  • keeping an eye on the finances for the team – the chargeable and non-chargeable time; the work-in-progress; the profitability of the type of work offered and the individual team members
  • setting and reviewing budgets, forecasts and plans
  • undertaking client work

To help you make a start on focusing on what your job is all about and what you may need to do differently why not complete the LawSkills Time Management Action Plan?


To really achieve personal effectiveness and satisfaction our average week usually needs to include activities which progress individual personal development; family projects, work projects, community projects etc. This type of week will be the exception rather than the rule unless we plan to make it happen. Even when we do plan, life gets in the way.

It can be a frustrating experience but if you have thought about the goals you want to achieve and have plans that are flexible you can adapt to meet life’s ‘spanners in the works’. The important thing is to know the principles behind what you are trying to achieve and work them into your daily life.

There is a danger that we lose spontaneity by prescribing our lives by checklists, calendars, values, goals and efficient scheduling of time. However, if what we want to spend the rest of our life achieving is of any value to us then employing some organisational skills and tools to achieve them whilst balancing that approach with preserving and enhancing the relationships which matter to us might make us feel happier!


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