Multi-tasking is a Myth

Four years ago I was inspired to write Attention Divided: Avoid Multi-Tasking.  multi

In that post, I shared the following:

My name is Beverly and I’m a recovering multi-tasker.  Like others of my ilk, I used to take pride in my juggling skills.  I believed that tackling two or three tasks simultaneously was a sign of efficiency.  Boy, was I wrong!

The truth is we just aren’t wired for multi-tasking.  Research shows that when we attempt to switch our attention back and forth we take 50% longer to finish a task and make up to 50% more errors. In the worst case scenario, multi-tasking can literally cost us our lives or at a minimum, our dignity.

I encouraged lawyers to stop the insanity and suggested 8 specific action steps to resist multi-tasking:

  • Control distractions – like the annoying pop-up: “You’ve Got Mail!” or push notifications on your smartphone or mobile device.  In fact, turn your smartphone OFF occasionally.
  • Give yourself a break from social media and the Internet.
  • Set boundaries for reading and responding to e-mail and texts.
  • Schedule a specific time each day to make and return phone calls.
  • Advise clients of your business practices – office hours, availability by phone, ability to accommodate unscheduled appointments.
  • Embrace “single tasking.”
  • Ditch the guilt.  Much of the reason we feel compelled to multi-task is because we believe it is expected of us.
  • Respect each other’s time whenever possible.  “Do You Have a Minute?” almost always translates into a much longer interruption.

In this month’s issue of the Oregon State Bar Bulletin, I was thrilled to see Elizabeth Ruiz Frost’s article “Mental Shrinkage: The Many Costs of Multitasking.”  I couldn’t agree more with the title and the points made in Frost’s article.  If you haven’t read this month’s issue of the Bulletin, I urge you to do so.  Take a few minutes to read Frost’s article and ask yourself: is this me?  Do I see myself in these scenarios?  If the answer is yes, consider implementing the 8 point plan above.

All Rights Reserved 2015 Beverly Michaelis

Submitting Your First eCourt Filing

Mandatory eCourt begins today for the eleven circuit courts that currently have the Oregon eCourt system.  In last week’s post, I described 10 steps to get ready for eFiling. Today I want to address how to manage the stress and anxiety of this transition.

Give Yourself Extra Time

I truly believe that once practitioners gain experience with eFiling, the transition will be embraced.  I appreciate that the road to gaining experience brings anxiety, especially since there is no way to “practice” with the Odyssey eFile & Serve system.

Knowing that the first filing or two might be a little nerve-wracking, please give yourself extra time.  You will become familiar with the process, but building familiarity and confidence takes time.  Don’t create extra pressure for yourself by waiting until the deadline date to file a document.  If your filing is rejected, you will need to seek relation back to cure the missed deadline.

If at all possible, file well in advance of the deadline.  If your filing is rejected, you will have time to breathe, fix the problem, and refile.

File During Business Hours When Support is Available

The Odyssey eFile & Serve system is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  While it may be tempting to complete a filing at 10:00 p.m. Friday night, technical support staff are not available to assist you if something goes awry.

File during regular business hours, Monday through Friday, 7:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. Central Time when Tyler Technologies support staff can assist you.

Tyler Technologies support staff can walk you through:

  • Initiating a new filing
  • Filing into an existing case
  • eServing parties in a case

Tech support can also use “GoToAssist” to take control of your computer and help you complete an eFiling. Keep the support number handy: 1.800.297.5377 and don’t hesitate to use it.

Reach Out to Experienced Colleagues

If you know a colleague who has used the Odyssey eFile & Serve system system, ask for pointers.  There are practitioners in Yamhill, Crook, Jefferson, and a handful of other counties who have lived with eCourt for 18 months.  If you don’t know of someone personally who has used the system, posting to a listserv or contacting a Resource Lawyer through the Oregon State Bar Lawyer-to-Lawyer program may be an option.  (Note: eCourt is not a specific resource category in the Lawyer-to-Lawyer program, but Litigation is.)

[All Rights Reserved – 2014 – Beverly Michaelis]

 

The New Year Offers a Fresh Start

If your goals for the new year include any of the following:

  • Reducing your stress level2014
  • Improving your office routines
  • Increasing productivity
  • Streamlining office systems
  • Balancing the demands of work and home

then resolve to get a head start.  Check out these classic posts on how to “spring clean” your office systems and work habits

Feeling Overwhelmed?

If you’re an Oregon lawyer, you have a great resource right in your own backyard:  the Oregon Attorney Assistance Program.  The OAAP can give you guidance on how to develop your own stress management program using deep relaxation, meditation, time management, and other proven stress-reducing techniques.  Best of all, OAAP services are free and confidential. 

Looking for Practice Management Advice?

We’re here to help! Professional Liability Fund Practice Management Advisors provide free and confidential assistance with office systems.  If you’re a lawyer in Oregon, give us a call!  800-452-1639 Toll-Free in Oregon or 503-639-6911.

All Rights Reserved – Beverly Michaelis [2014]

You Need a Vacation!

104Vacation?  No way, no how.  I can’t afford it.  I’m too busy.  I don’t have anyone to cover my cases.

Well, I know how you feel.  Getting away does takes effort, but then most things do.  The important point here?  To remember the pay-off:  rest, relaxation, rejuvenation.  Ahhh… Sounds good already.

So don’t despair.   You CAN do it!  The key is planning.  So without further adieu, let me reprise:  How to Take a Vacation.

I Can’t Afford It

“If I’m not at the office, I can’t bill.  If I can’t bill, I won’t get paid.”  True enough, but there is a solution:  budget for your vacation.  A bit of research and number crunching is in order here.  First, calculate your vacation expenses. This should be relatively easy.  Next, quantify the lost revenue you need to replace during your time out of the office.  Now that you know how much you need, begin setting aside funds every week to meet your financial goal.  If necessary, find little ways to cut back that can really add up: like bringing your lunch to work, deferring your daily Starbucks fix, using public transportation, or telecommuting.  Saving weekly will keep you on track and help manage expectations. If you’re just getting started, then your plans this year may be more modest.  Next year, you can begin saving for your summer vacation in January.

I’m Too Busy

Work will never go away, but I guarantee that if you look ahead in your calendar you will find a block of time with no commitments.  Even if you haven’t made plans yet, block the time out now before your calendar fills up.  If you have a habit of backsliding, enlist your family as enforcers.  This time should be sacred.  If you need an extra incentive, consider non-refundable travel reservations.

Preparation is Key

If you’re a member of a firm, going on vacation is a matter of meeting with other lawyers who will be covering cases during your absence.  If you are a sole practitioner, use the buddy system.  Find a colleague who is experienced in your practice area and willing to cover for you.  This arrangement is usually reciprocal and is helpful if you have an unexpected absence from the office due to injury or a medical condition.

Get a game plan in place:

  • Notify clients, opposing counsel, judges, or other appropriate parties that you will be out of the office;
  • Prep your files.  They should be well-organized and current, with status memos so your buddy can easily step in if needed;
  • Create a “Countdown Schedule.”  Identify what needs to be done when and whether certain tasks can wait until your return;
  • Allow for wind down.  As your vacation approaches, leave time in your schedule to finish up last minute work.  Reduce or refer out new matters;
  • Train staff.  Do they have a clear understanding of office procedures?  How will they screen client calls during your absence?  Give them parameters for contacting you or your buddy in the event of an emergency.
  • Resist constantly checking voice mail, e-mail, or text messages.  Technology is a God-send, but part of rejuvenation is taking a break from our instant Internet society. Checking in is okay, but stick to a schedule to avoid obsessing over what is going on back at the office.  Remember – you have an emergency plan in place.  If something happens, staff or your buddy will get a hold of you.
  • Avoid post-vacation overload.  Just as you blocked out dates to go on vacation, allow yourself time to get back up-to-speed.  Otherwise, you’re right back where you started.

Give yourself and your family a well-deserved break.  With a bit of organization, you can budget for (and enjoy) your time off.

All rights reserved – 2013 – Beverly Michaelis

Kick-Start Your New Year

new year.jpgIf you are among the 45% who typically make a New Year’s Resolution, I genuinely wish you the best of luck.

If your goals for 2013 include any of the following:

  • Reducing your stress level
  • Improving your office routines
  • Increasing productivity
  • Streamlining office systems
  • Balancing the demands of work and home

then resolve to get a head start by “spring cleaning” your office systems and work habits.  Remember, you can always contact the Oregon Attorney Assistance Program if you are feeling overwhelmed.  The OAAP can give you guidance on how to develop your own stress management program using deep relaxation, meditation, time management, and other proven stress-reducing techniques.  Best of all, OAAP services are free and confidential.  Similarly, the Professional Liability Fund Practice Management Advisors provide free and confidential assistance with office systems.  Give us a call!  800-452-1639 Toll-Free in Oregon or 503-639-6911.

The Year in Review – Useful Tips You May Have Missed

Thank you readers!  I hope this has been a fruitful year for you.  Just in case you missed a tip or two, here is a list of 2012 blog posts for your perusal:

January

February

March

April

May

June

July

August

September

October

November

December

All Rights Reserved 2012 Beverly Michaelis

Learning the Ropes 2012

Are you new to private practice? Then I have just the ticket for you!

Attend our three day conference – Learning the Ropes: A Practical Skills & Ethics Workshop – for a mere $65.  Attendance at the full program satisfies the MCLE requirements for new admittees’ first reporting period.

Choose from these concurrent sessions:

  • Creating a Firm (featuring yours truly) or Joining a Firm
  • Tort Litigation or Estate Planning, Guardianships, Conservatorships
  • Domestic Relations or Criminal Law
  • Civil Motion Practice or Bankruptcy

Can’t decide?  All tracks are recorded for later viewing at no charge.

Plenary sessions include:

  • How to Develop a Successful Practice and Avoid Legal Malpractice
  • Client Communication and Other Practice Management Survival Tips
  • The Ethics of Practice Management
  • Alternative Dispute Resolution
  • Recognizing Child Abuse and Fulfilling Your Duty to Report
  • Courtroom Do’s and Don’ts
  • Negotiation Tips, Tricks, Traps, and Tools
  • Bridging the Cultural Gap
  • Employment Law and Conscientious Communication (a new addition in 2012!)

Day 1 includes a “Meet the Judges” luncheon.  Day 2 features a networking luncheon with bar leaders and respected practitioners in the fields of Appeals, Criminal Law, Employment Law, Intellectual Property, Business Litigation, Debtor/Creditor Law, Estate Planning, Litigation, Business Transactions, Elder Law, Family Law, and Real Estate.

All meals, including the luncheons, are included in your $65 workshop fee.  The program is at the Oregon Convention Center October 31, November 1, and November 2, 2012.  Register here or visit the PLF Web site > Upcoming Seminars (under the heading Loss Prevention – CLE).  Sign up early.  Space is limited!

Copyright 2012 Beverly Michaelis

25 of the Best Tips from Twitter on Ethics, eDiscovery, GTD and More

This post is part of a continuing mission to share some of the best tips from Twitter.  Today’s topics: time management, GTD, financial management, ethics, and eDiscovery.

Time Management – Getting Things Done

Financial Management

Ethics and eDiscovery

Enjoy!

Copyright 2012 Beverly Michaelis

Get it Done! Mind Hack Tips from Lifehacker

Lifehacker is one of my favorite Web sites.  It is a little bit of everything, with an emphasis on tips, tricks, technology, and getting things done.  Two posts in May really caught my eye.  The first was about to-do lists.  Here is an excerpt:

To-do lists are just a nagging reminder of all the things you need to do, so actually inspiring yourself to do them isn’t always easy. Michael Pantalon, Ph. D, writing for Psychology Today, suggests that you’re more likely to accomplish these tasks by including why you should do them as well. Creating a “why do” list, as he calls it, can help you remember why you actually want to do something and avoid thinking that you have to do it. When creating your lists, just make a sublist under each item filled with all the reasons this is something you really want to do. Don’t include items for the sake of including them, but instead focus on the things that make you excited about this task.  (From If You Want to Actually Finish the Tasks on Your To-Do List, Include Why You Should Do Them.)

This advice may be more applicable in personal than professional life, since I suspect many would answer “why do” with “if I don’t, I’ll get fired or my client will sue me.”  And let’s face it, not many people get excited about drafting a complaint, summarizing a deposition, or working on an appellate brief.  Still, I like this idea.  If you are a busy person with a lot on your plate it is easy to get overwhelmed by your to-do list.  A little reflection and thought about “why do” might not be a bad idea, and if applied to your personal life, may help tremendously with prioritizing personal and professional demands on your time.

The second post that caught my eye was about a closely related subject, procrastination:

A study conducted by Michael J.A. Wohl at the Carleton University examined students who procrastinated and, specifically, whether or not they forgave themselves for it. Those who pardoned their procrastinating ways ended up better off:  The key finding was that students who’d forgiven themselves for their initial bout of procrastination subsequently showed less negative affect in the intermediate period between exams and were less likely to procrastinate before the second round of exams.  (From Want to Stop Procrastinating?  Just Forgive Yourself.)

Chronic procrastination can be debilitating.  I have witnessed lawyers who are literally in the red because they can’t seem to bring themselves to bill.  Others are removed from practice before specific courts or cut-off from valuable referral sources like indigent defense due to client complaints.  And – no surprise – these same lawyers end up with multiple disciplinary complaints and legal malpractice claims.  If you feel yourself slipping into chronic procrastination, or know someone who might be, getting help is essential.  In Oregon, it is also free and confidential.

Copyright 2012 Beverly Michaelis

Are You a Procrastinator?

Take this procrastination self-test from It’s About Time, by Dr. Linda Sapadin with Jack Maguire:

  • Do you put off taking care of important things, jeopardizing relationships, career, finances, or health?
  • Do you put off doing what you need to do until a crisis develops?
  • Do you put off doing tasks unless you can do them perfectly or until you can find the perfect time to do them?
  • Do you hesitate taking necessary action because you fear change?
  • Do you think too much about things you’d like to do but rarely get around to doing them?
  • Do you think that things will somehow just take care of themselves?
  • Do you commit yourself to so many things that you can’t find time for many of them?
  • Do you tend to do only what you want to do instead of what you should do?
  • Do you tend to do only what you think you should do instead of what you want to do?

If you answered yes – to any of the above – contact the Oregon Attorney Assistance Program attorney counselors.  The OAAP offers confidential assistance to Oregon lawyers and judges who are struggling with procrastination. Read more about the paralysis of procrastination here.