Staying on top of the day in a law practice can be difficult. There are always a number of tasks to attend to. I use a number of tools to try to manage my daily approach to practice as you probably do to. I will use the next couple of posts to address several of these and will provide templates that you can use in your practice or build off of. Today’s post is on the use of the daily journal. Sounds thrilling – right? But seriously, if you haven’t tried it don’t knock it.
The Daily Journal
Regardless of what you use in terms to keep on top of you to-do’s, a daily journal that gives you a place each morning or, as needed, to pencil in notes or reoccurring to-do’s can be helpful to taming your practice. The simple act of taking a few minutes to write things down, rather than type them or dictate them, is to me and many others a type of mini meditation that can help focus the mind and relieve it of stress. The template for my daily journal can be found at http://www.smiliegrogers.com/attorney-to-attorney.html, under the heading “Complex Planning Visual Aids and Practice Aids”. Although I have tried to keep my template to one page with an overflow second page, your template might be longer. I find that if I can get myself to focus on that one page I can achieve the most immediate results without spending and excess amount of time on journaling, which is not an activity that pays the bills.
“What’s important today” kicks off my template and probably like many others, mine allows for a quick task ranking in a side column if needed.
The second topic of my template covers those matters that of lesser immediate concern. There is a row of spaces on the left hand side for those lesser matters that I want to attend to today. In the right hand column I have included a “Hatchling” list, where I can try to capture ideas that arise during the day (often during the drive to the office or during lunch when my mind is more relaxed) and return to them at a later date. I have heard it said that 90% of what we think about is reoccurring. Only about 10% of your ideas or thoughts on a daily basis are new. Taking a minute to write down some of those items on the left hand column ( the reoccurring items of lesser concern) may give the mind space, or permission, to think about other things. As a small business owner, I tend to think that part of what distinguishes my practice from others is that I give audience to that 10% and try to write them down.
In the middle of my template I have a place to note calls or notes that I want to record in a place where I can easily find them later. If I need more space, there is always page two.
Least I forget that I am a small business and have to always consider how I am marketing my services, I include a space for trying to squeeze in a couple marketing goals each day. These goals might include calling a past client to check in and see how they have been doing – which is something that I often want to do but may find it difficult to justify on a daily basis if I don’t classify it as a productive activity (like marketing); writing a blog post or Facebook post; working on an article or on part of our firm’s website; going to lunch in a new location (it is amazing what just getting out of the office can do for your business); working on a new practice skill or reviewing the websites of other lawyers/law firms to see what they are posting on their sites and the list goes on.
My template includes a “betterment” section, which is focused on reinforcing habits that I want to work on. This mindfulness technique helps me focus on a daily basis on the person, the attorney, the father, etc., that I want to be. Like my work, my life is a practice. This small section of my template helps remind me of that and gives space for me to focus on this aspect self.
My template also includes some daily reminders of issues I want to touch on or update each day or every couple of days. These little reminders help to create a consistency in my practice approach when I only have to be accountable to me.
Finally, my template ends with a place to record the joys of the days, as well as the grumbles. My newest version of this template, which I have not shared, includes a place for me to record what I think is a proactive response to my grumbles. I think this additional is important – as I tend to believe that our proactive responses to problems are what separates order from chaos.
My next post will address taming your desktop.