Time management – top tips from a legal apprentice
This week the trainee solicitor blog caught up with Charlie Spendley, paralegal apprentice, who tells us her top time management tips.
Time management is something that many of us spend all our lives trying to master. After all, it is a fine art and at the end of the day, no one has their life together all of the time, but most of the time, we manage to stay on track.
Balancing various pressures is vital to succeed as an apprentice: we work in many different teams and also help out where we can with extra-curricular matters at work such as our Charity Committee. And this is all whilst studying for our academic qualifications!
I like to view this as an ever-changing triangle – work, life and study. Each point of the triangle will get heavier from time to time. During an exam or coursework submission, the study corner is put under pressure. Equally, the life corner can become weighted at times and work commitments can crop up suddenly meaning you have to re-adjust.
The only way to enjoy all three aspects of an apprenticeship is to manage our time effectively and I would like to share with you, just a few of the tips I keep in mind when managing my time.
Tip 1 – the dangers of multitasking
It is a common misconception that “Multitasking is the best way to get things done.” Despite this often being considered as the ultimate skill to master, our brains can only focus on one thing at a time. To complete a task to the best of our ability, we must give it as much of our attention as possible. Otherwise, juggling various tasks all at once will most likely result in avoidable mistakes being made. Whilst it’s still imperative to have multitasking skills under your belt, we must train the brain to work smarter, not harder. By slowing down what we do, we will ultimately accomplish more.
Tip 2 – when you don’t know where to start
Additionally, there will always be more to do. We must accept this in order to be as productive as possible. More often than not, if we feel that there is too much to do, we end up procrastinating and taking a fatalistic approach where ‘it’s not all going to get done so what is the point in trying’. Instead, you should identify the most important task and do this first. I also believe that if a task will take you less than five minutes, do it immediately. However, don’t check your inbox every five minutes, which leads onto my next tip.
Tip 3 – managing your inbox
Instead of constantly checking your inbox, schedule times throughout the day to manage your emails. No one expects a reply immediately (in most instances). Continuously alternating from the task you’re doing to your emails, will result in you losing focus and becoming preoccupied. Most of us will not actually action anything in our inbox, we are merely browsing, thus diverting attention and valuable time away from the task at hand.
Tip 4 – find what works best for you
The most important aspect of effective time management is to find what works best for you. Personally, I work best with lists and tick boxes and there are a multitude of online task management platforms that you can use to set out the work you have for the day. By just writing down your tasks in your calendar, you can avoid putting pressure on your brain to remember the things you need to do. Equally, some people prefer to use their email inboxes as to-do-lists and so on. Like I said do what works for you!
With all of that being said, it’s important not to obsess about crossing off all the items on your list. Finishing a mammoth to-do list today isn’t worth the burn-out tomorrow, where you will ultimately be less productive. Work at a steady rate and at your own pace. In other words, keep things structured enough for success and achievement, but also flexible enough for creativity and fun!