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Master Your Time: Effective Calendar Management for Law Firm Partners

As a law firm partner, your time is one of your most valuable assets. The demands of managing client cases, business development, and firm responsibilities can make your schedule feel overwhelming. Effectively managing your calendar is crucial not only for your professional success but also for maintaining your well-being, integrating work into your life, and stewarding your energy. So, how can you master your time and take control of your calendar? Use the REDA cycle: Receive & Reflect, Evaluate, Decide, and Act.

Calendar management is not just about fitting more into your day. It's about making deliberate choices that align with your priorities and values. By taking a structured approach to managing your time, you can ensure that you focus on what matters most, reduce stress, and create a sustainable balance among all the priorities in your life. Here's an overview of how to do it.


Receive & Reflect

The cycle starts by gathering the right information. Start by gathering input from your colleagues, clients, and even your family. This can be challenging, and there are ways to do this that don't require an explicit, "Do you think I'm wasting my time?" What do they notice about how you manage your time? Do you often seem rushed or stressed? Do you frequently have to reschedule meetings or miss deadlines? This external feedback can provide valuable insights into your habits and highlight areas that need attention.


Once you’ve received this feedback or collected the right data on your own, take time to reflect on it. Consider how you currently manage your time. Do you often feel overbooked or find yourself making last-minute changes? Is finding time for deep work a struggle? Think about these questions and identify your pain points. Common issues include the constant crush of meetings, emails that seem to need an immediate response, client requests, and administrative tasks. Taking a moment to assess these challenges and get a firm scope of the issue, rather than a sense of the problem, can provide valuable insights into where changes are needed and possible.


Reflect on your daily routine and identify patterns that contribute to inefficiencies. Are there specific times of day when you are more productive? Do you have recurring tasks that disrupt your flow? Understanding these patterns can help you identify areas for improvement. For instance, figuring out how to schedule deep work during your most productive hours can significantly enhance your efficiency.


It’s also essential to reflect on your personal and professional goals. How well does your current schedule align with these goals? Are you dedicating enough time to activities that drive your long-term success and satisfaction? Giving thought to these aspects can help you create a more balanced and purpose-driven calendar. Taking a holistic view of your time can reveal discrepancies between your daily activities and your broader objectives.


Finally, gather real data about where you're actually spending your time. Use time tracking apps or a time audit to get a clear picture of how you spend your time. Spend a week doing nothing new or different except being laser focused on tracking. This information will be key in the next step.


Evaluate

Once you’ve reflected on your current practices and gathered some good data, it’s time to evaluate them. Start by assessing your current calendar practices. Are there tasks that consistently take longer than expected? Are there recurring meetings that could be streamlined or eliminated? Evaluate your schedule with a critical eye to identify areas for improvement. This step involves a detailed analysis of where your time goes each day.


Assess the effectiveness of your current time management tools and techniques. Are you using digital calendars, project management software, or other tools to organize your tasks? Evaluate how well these tools serve your needs and consider exploring new options that might better support your goals. For example, leveraging the built-in task tracking tools in your practice management software might be an opportunity for streamlining your workflow. integrating tools Trello or Asana into your calendar can similarly help. (And if you have the opportunity and interest in using stand-alone apps, Sunsama and Akiflow are two of my favorite and amazing at helping with the next two steps. (referral links for these two - they're so good, I use them!) Look for tools that offer automation features to save you time.


Evaluate your priorities by categorizing tasks based on their urgency and importance. Techniques such as the Eisenhower Matrix or ABC prioritization can help you determine which tasks require immediate attention and which can be scheduled for later. This process will enable you to focus on high-impact activities that drive your success and highlight which tasks can be delegated or postponed. Evaluating your tasks through these lenses can help clarify what truly needs your attention.

Consider seeking feedback from colleagues or mentors about your time management practices, or solicit the help of a coach. They might offer valuable insights or suggestions that you haven’t considered. And remember that this is an ongoing process, a cycle. Regularly evaluating your methods will ensure that you are always optimizing your time effectively.


Decide

After evaluating your current practices and tools, it’s time to make decisions about how to improve your calendar management. Start by setting clear priorities. Use the insights gained from your evaluation to decide which tasks are most important and should be scheduled first. Again, prioritization methods like the Eisenhower Matrix can help to categorize tasks and ensure that your most critical responsibilities don't get lost among the most urgent ones. This will help you focus on what truly matters.


Create a plan for effective calendar management that includes time blocking and delegation. Time blocking involves dividing your day into specific blocks dedicated to particular tasks or activities. This method helps you stay focused and reduces the temptation to multitask. For example, you might block off mornings for deep work and afternoons for meetings and client calls. By dedicating specific times to different types of work, you can increase productivity and maintain a structured approach to your day. This also helps in setting clear boundaries between different types of tasks to keep you mentally focused.


Time blocking isn't a requirement, but it is effective. As you look at your day, you may see an need for more regular check-ins on recurring tasks, like email. Blocking off whole mornings might not be possible, but dedicating just 45 minutes to uninterrupted work can increase productivity tremendously.


Setting boundaries is also crucial for effective calendar management. Decide on your availability and communicate these boundaries clearly to your team and clients. This might mean setting specific times for meetings, deep work, and personal time. Learning to say no to non-essential tasks and meetings that don’t align with your priorities can free up valuable time for more important activities. For instance, if a meeting isn’t crucial, consider if it can be handled via email or delegated to someone else. We all like to be part of the action - any action - but delegating meeting where you aren't an essential player can both free up your time and help develop the junior members of your team, making them more valuable and productive down the road. Ultimately, establishing these boundaries will help you maintain control over your schedule and avoid overcommitting.


Use digital tools that support your calendar management goals. Integrate your calendar with task management apps to create a cohesive system that keeps you organized and on track. Automate recurring tasks and appointments to save time and reduce mental clutter. Decide on the tools and techniques that best fit your workflow and commit to using them consistently. Tools like calendar reminders, project management software, and scheduling apps can streamline your processes and enhance your efficiency.


Act

With your decisions made, it’s time to implement your new calendar management strategies. Start by making the necessary changes to your schedule and tools. Begin time blocking and setting priorities in your calendar. Delegate tasks to team members where appropriate, and ensure they have the resources and guidance needed to succeed. Regularly review your calendar to ensure it aligns with your goals and adjust as needed. Taking consistent action is key to seeing long-term results.


Monitor the effectiveness of your new strategies by regularly reviewing your time management practices. Are you meeting your deadlines and achieving your goals? Are you experiencing less stress and more balance in your work-life integration? Continuously assess the impact of your changes and make adjustments as necessary. Building sustainable time management habits takes time and commitment, but the benefits are worth the effort. Regular reflection and adjustment will help you stay on track and improve continuously.


Delegate, delegate, delegate. The reality is, you're probably not as necessary for everything as you think you are, and delegation is an essential component of effective calendar management. Identify tasks that can be handled by others and delegate them to capable team members. Provide clear instructions and expectations, and ensure that your team has the necessary resources to complete the tasks successfully. Remember, effective delegation requires and demonstrates trust and clear communication, key components to the most productive teams.


Practice respecting your boundaries to protect your time and ensure that you can focus on your highest priorities. Learn to say no to (or delegate) non-essential tasks and meetings that do not align with your goals. Establish clear guidelines for when and how you will be available to others, and communicate these boundaries to your team and clients. By protecting your time, you can maintain control over your schedule and avoid overcommitting. Implementing these boundaries consistently will help you create a more manageable and productive workflow.



Effective calendar management is crucial for law firm partners who want to excel professionally and enjoy their practice and they rest of their lives. By reflecting on your current practices, evaluating your tools and techniques, deciding on improvements, and acting on your new strategies, you can take control of your schedule and master your time.


The REDA cycle is a great tool for taking control of your time. It is one of the tools incorporated into the Practice Mastery for Law Firm Partners self-study course and that I use with clients in my 1:1 coaching. Feel free to check out the course to learn more; if you want to see how to use REDA for daily planning, get this short PDF here.

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