How To Plan Your Day and Be Organized


This is how I do it!!!!!

Who knew that it would take me so long to figure out how to get some control of my days. I say some because complete control of my day when there are so many moving parts is but a dream. No sooner do I think I have some control and everything is going smoothly when …. Well you know….. For some time I considered and even attempted to use two planners. For me this was more trouble that it was worth it. For you it may work and if you want to test it and need some help, let me know I will give you templates and show you how I organized my work planner. As I said, for me two planners are not a solution. After, all, I am one person, I have one life therefore I need one planner. Carrying two planners around or having to sync two planners became a hassle. Things started falling through the cracks. I found found myself playing catch up all the time because I hadn’t checked one planner against the other.

Fast forward a few planners and planner a few planner hacks and this is how I plan my days today ….. happy to report it’s been working. I will say that I’m still working through some project management issues and testing applications for project management but for my day to day planning and organizing I use my Filofax Malden in purple.

I only keep monthly pages (month on two pages) and daily pages (day on two pages).  I carry the full year in my monthly pages because I use that for forward planning but I only carry the current month on my daily pages for now.  Depending on where I land for the project management issue that may be changing…. Stay tuned for further developments.   My daily pages are my EVERYTHING. I plan on those, I track on those and sometimes I journal on those (short one liners) or at least I make sure I write down one thing for which I’m thankful that day. I keep both work and personal schedules and plans on the daily pages but keep them separate by designating one side of my right page for work and one side of the same page for personal. When I open the daily page I can see all my to-do’s for both aspect of my life … Same person, same life, different hats!

Color Coding

I thought about color coding the various aspects of my life.  One color for business and a different color for personal.  Although that achieved the goal I was looking for and, in fact, was one step closer to planner peace and making me more organized and productive. That too, was annoying and in a way almost the same as having to carry two planners. The only difference was that, instead of two planners I was having to carry a whole bunch of pens which made me nuts. There are days when I don’t carry a purse.   My planner is with me all the time, it’s also my wallet. I carry with me a black pen and a green pen (I’ll explain the green pen a little later).

I cannot take credit for my current method of planning.  I did not come up with it.   Maryanne Moll is the genius behind my planner peace situation and if you have a few minutes I suggest you go check out her channel on YouTube and her store on Etsy.

So… How do I plan?

Every night I sit with my planner and look at what I accomplished that day and move the things that didn’t get done to the next day. I also keep a running list of things I want to do on that particular week and when during this review I take those into consideration.  If I think I can fit more to-do’s on my next day schedule, I add them.  If not, then i don’t.  I am the boss of my life and I get to decide what I can accomplish.  All the entries done at this time are done in my normal black ink.  The pen I use every day…… It’s a fountain pen and I love it (minus the black fingers once in a while).  As each task is accomplished (on a good day most will be) I cross it off with green ink (which is the other pen I carry around with me). I also use the green pen to add any new tasks that get thrown at me in the middle of the day (we all have those).

Why the two colors? Well, you know those days when you feel like nothing at the top of your list got done and at the end of the day you’re wondering why you’re so tired but got nothing accomplished? Well, the different color allows me to see what was done that I had not counted on having to get done. It also allows me to remember tasks done, no matter how small, when management feels that I need to explain my existence. …. For some of you would imagine will help you with your billable and non-billable time. Hmmmm imagine you use black for non-billable and green for billable time…… Let me think about that for a minute.

During this nightly review I also fill in the left side of the planner.  The portion dedicated to tracking.  I don’t 100% believe that trackers are absolutely necessary, but I am a nerd and I enjoy looking back on my days and see things like; what made me happy (my gratitude), my mood, my steps, the weather…… it helps me connect the dots and to me life is all about connecting the dots. Sometimes, things that don’t make sense on that day will make sense when you have a full picture. Like, why didn’t I get much done that day…… Ohhhh yeah, I had a headache because it rained for three days in a row and I just wasn’t in a good mood.  Who knows….. all the dorky stuff that makes me who I am.

If you look at the top middle of the page you see something that looks like a Chronodex (a time tracker). I don’t have to bill my time …. Yeah, I know!!!!!! #blessed.  But I’m seriously not bragging. Entering time is not as bad as we feel it is. Come join me in my facebook group and join our chat.  I’m working on a few goodies that will help you slay the billable time monster. I have a plan to get training videos and templates on how to bill your time stress free….. but I digress. At night I go through the tracker side, fill in and color all the things that happened during the day.

The outside ring and second ring stand for the location, where was I? (home, office, outside, etc.). The larger outside ring is reserved for where I plan to be…. The second ring is reserved for where I actually was. The first ring gets colored in the night before while I’m doing my planning and the second ring gets colored in at the end of the day when I review the day and plan for the next day.  The third and fourth rings (the inside rings) are reserved for activities.  What did I plan to do at that time and what I actually did. Was I in a meting? Was I working on the blog? Was I working on the book? Was I with a friend or spending time with my husband or doing house work?  I know this sounds crazy and you may be thinking ain’t nobody got time for that but it actually helps me figure out how long it takes me to accomplish tasks.  It’s also a great way to relax for me for to fill in little squares with color.  Like I said, this is not something that I think you MUST do to stay organized but for me, it works and it makes me happy.

For example, if I tell someone I can do something in 1 hour and it actually takes me two do it.  I know that the next time I’m asked to do that same task I can better assess how long it will take me to do and, not only can I manage my time better but I can also give the lawyer assigning work to me a better understanding of how long it takes to do something and aren’t just guessing.  I’m a firm believer in under promise and over deliver…. This little hack helps me keep in line with my goals and keeps me productive through out the day.

For paralegals or anyone who has to bill time, being and staying organized is extremely important.  If you can go through your day knowing what you’re going to work on next and how long it will take you.  You can schedule your day in ways to take advantage of your best time of day.  You can feel more in control of your time and achieve more productivity without stressing yourself out…. and who doesn’t want that?

Do you plan your day?  What methods or hacks do you use to stay organized?  leave me a note.  I’d love to hear from you!

XoXo

 

Take Control of Your Paralegal Career


What Are you Afraid of?

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“Do one thing every day that makes you scared.” I am sure you’ve all heard this saying. I never really thought much about it until yesterday when I read it somewhere and started thinking about it. Turns out, I had just done something that I was petrified of doing. So much so that I had even thought of canceling it and toss it up to “ohhh it’s never going to happen.”So, what happened?

Bback in December I decided to schedule a meeting with the CAO of the firm where I work … Yep, I have a day job. One I actually enjoy but one where things are getting a bit overwhelming and if something doesn’t happen soon I will not have the energy to continue doing it and that would be a disservice to the firm. I am 100% sure of that but the trick is to convince the powers that be of that fact.The meeting was scheduled in New York for yesterday and as the day and time approached my mind kept telling me that I should just cancel…. Maybe I’m getting sick. the weather is really cold and I don’t want to make the commute to Manhattan. Nothing is going to come of it anyway!!!! These were all thoughts going through my mind. I stayed strong and didn’t cancel. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not that strong. I didn’t cancel it, not because I was strong but because I was afraid to upset the CAO. Turns out being a chicken is not such a bad thing some times.

At the time of the meeting I slowly walked to the corner of the building where his office is located and knocked on the door. I remained at the door waiting for an answer.  When he turned around he was on the phone. “Crap, (pardon the language) he’s busy and now he’s going to tell me he has no time for our meeting.” After all, who am I to think that he’s just going to drop his call and talk to me. He’s probably on the phone with the GC and without a doubt the GC is much more important than me any day.  I was prepared to motion to him some gesture that would let him know I’d reschedule or call him and turn around to leave. However, he smiled and asked me to come in. Wow….. ok, so maybe it’s not the GC.  Maybe it’s another paralegal and that’s why he can interrupt his call.

Gosh!!!!! Is that really all that important? What business is it of mine if he’s on the phone and who he’s on the phone with? I walked remained standing and he continued on the phone. He looked at me again and motioned for me to sit down…..Ok, this is getting serious. He’s really interested in what I have to say. I sat, I waited….. He was still on the phone. When he hung up he apologize for making me wait!!!! How nice but appropriate.

Looking back now, that I have taken a few breaths and have had time to think about it.  I am just as important as anyone else at the firm and I have ideas and thoughts and in this case suggestions and opinions that are for the good of the firm. He needs to listen to what I have to say and I need to tell him what I went there to tell him.The meeting lasted the full 30 minutes we had scheduled and actually went a bit over. The entire time he picked my brain about how I would go about implementing the suggestions I made and not once….. Not even once did it seem to me that he was being condescending.

I requested the meeting because I have ideas on how to make the department run more smoothly and how to engage the group of the population who is currently feeling left out.  I have metrics of how some of the things I’ve implemented have made a difference. Not just for the team but for the cost cutting goals of the firm. I had ideas to share of how we can go about training the population and have implemented some of that training without ever being asked to do it and have emails that show how well the program is going. I was prepared. For 30 minutes he asked questions and I answered. I told him that while still performing my full time duties I developed a network of paralegals and some administrative assistants who have volunteered their time to take on additional assignments outside of their own day-to-day in order to learn other business and help them grow their careers. I’ve managed to grow that network globally and continue to do my work even receiving a great review at the end of 2017.  I told him that there is a need and I’m the person he should be looking at to continue providing this service to that group of “forgotten” people.

He agreed….. Did you hear me? He agreed.

No, I don’t have a new job. I still walked out of his office with the same title and job I had when I walked in 30 minutes earlier but I managed to make it clear to him that we do need to keep this momentum going if we want our people to be happy and to perform. That can only benefit the firm. He agreed!!!!! Again!!!!!! But this time he promised me that he would call a meeting with me toward the start of next month so we could discuss in more detail a new role.

So….. there you have it. I said all this not so that I could brag…. There is nothing to brag about….. I was terrified. I was so afraid that I couldn’t even enjoy the weekend before the meeting. However, as terrified as I was I stood my ground and managed to quiet the voices in my head and not cancel the meeting.

I managed to face someone who is way above my pay grade (not more important than me) and tell him how I can help him make better use of his resources and in the process make those resources happy and more willing to take on more work. Saving the firm money and providing a service to our clients and employees. I managed to put my fears aside and ask for what I wanted and honestly……. I think I will be getting a call and will probably be in a new role at some point next month.

Let’s say it doesn’t work out (but it will)! Even if I am not in a new role. Even if nothing comes of this meeting. I am super proud of myself that I was able to quiet the voice within and do something that made me scared. What have you done that makes you scared? I would love to hear from you. It doesn’t have to be professional. What have you done in any aspect of your life that made you scared? How did it feel afterwards?Ok…. Back to work now. I hope you enjoyed this post and keep ideas coming. I can’t wait to hear from you all.

XoXo

Photo from Google Images

Associate or Paralegal


when you graduated law school and hung that proverbial shingle outside of your small office you hoped against all hopes that one day you would find yourself in the situation you are in today. There was a very small chance that your practice would grow so much that you had to face the decision of hiring some help.

Yes, you have a secretary. She’s great. You really lucked out when you hired her. You have a great relationship with her. You hear the horror stories about some secretaries and thank your lucky starts that yours is professional and always willing to help. However, there are things that she just can’t do. Not because she’s not intelligent enough to do them but that’s not what’ she’s been trained to do. Draft motions, review discovery, research and write memos, all the things you did before this huge client hired you to represent him. You really hit the jack-pot this time. You have arrived.

You need to find someone to do all those things. Otherwise you will be in the office 24 hours a day with no hope of ever seeing day light again and, worst of all, not being able to drum up business and keep the momentum going. There are business meetings to attend, conferences to prepare for and travel to and … horror of horrors, there’s that trial starting in a few weeks that may take a month or more in court. What will you do then? How will you work on your other cases? You have, after all, more than one client. Shhhhh don’t tell that one client. He/she doesn’t know that yet.

So now you have two choices. You can hire a first year associate and bill him/her out at $300. The clients will think it’s a bargain. After all, it’s less than what they are currently paying you. Sounds good doesn’t it? You’ll have to hire someone right out of school because you can’t pay them that much and after all, you’re running a business and the goal is to have more money coming in the door with both of you billing. Or you can hire a paralegal. You can’t bill her as high as you would a first year associate and you will have to supervise her work and still spend some time at the office. However, you can hire an experienced paralegal because paralegals make less than attorneys and with your budget you can pay a pretty competitive rate. You can then bill her out at $200, and all you have to do is review her work and supervise her activities in the office and with the rest of your time you can drum up more business.

Recently, while you were sitting in court you heard someone talk about the paralegals in their office. Even the guy down the street has one first year associate and two paralegals working for him. He seems to be doing well and his practice seems to be growing at a much faster pace than you. He also seems to have more time to go to seminars and meet with clients. You’ve always wondered how he did that.

Paralegals That’s how he did that.

Let me put into perspective for you. Let’s compare what you can do in both scenarios.

Remember when you first graduated law school? How many motions had you filed? Did you know how to navigate the court system? What clerks to call? Response schedules? Filing dates? You know, all the procedural stuff that you learned while working at that other law firm for the first two years of your career? Yeah, that’s what you’re going to get when you hire a first year associate. You will have to fully train that person. When you hire an experienced paralegal you don’t have to spend your time doing that. The paralegal already knows how to navigate the system, which motion to file when, what documents to sent with which motion, how to e-file and even, at times, which clerks are easier to work with.

Has your choice become easier now? How about this? The paralegal can prepare all the pleadings you need, reach out to clients and interview witnesses, draft your memos, organize your medical files, have all your discovery ready and organize before you come back from court at the end of the day. The beauty of that is that you will be paying this individual, with experience, probably half of what that first year associate would be asking.

Don’t get me wrong. I think that eventually you will and should hire that first year associate. Next year you can hire the associate and the paralegal can train him/her and the office will never miss a step.

Now, to develop a program where a paralegal can thrive? That’ll be my next post. Stay tuned.

Paralegals in New Jersey Taking Baby Steps


It’s no surprise that New Jersey rules for paralegal utilization are probably some of the most restrictives. On March 28, 2011, the New Jersey State Bar’s Advisory Committee on Professional Ethics (“ACPE”) and the Unauthorized Practice of Law Committee (“CUPL”) issued an opinion which lifts the long standing restrictions of allowing paralegals to sign non-substantive correspondence. Opinion ACPE 720/CUPL 46. For now this opinion will stand, unless the court overturns it. The opinion modifies the long standing ACPE Opinion 611, which goes back to February 18, 1988, and restricted paralegals to “…sign only routine correspondence that is not directed to clients, opposing lawyers or courts.”.

Although it may sound like Opinion 720 is still restrictive and not such a great cause to celebrate, if you live and work in New Jersey, this is great news and a step, albeit a baby step, in the right direction.