Today we're talking about prioritizing, especially when we feel overwhelmed. As a lawyer, we have many different kinds of tasks. We have casework with clients; we have business or marketing tasks (depending on your setting), and administrative tasks like timekeeping and billing. Also, you may be supervising other staff, other lawyers, or other non-lawyers. It is really difficult to figure out which is most important.
What's the most important thing you're going to do? Everything seems so important. And if you decide client work is the most important, that's a good option. Which client? We have lots of cases going on at once, lots of different tasks for the same clients. How can we rank what's more important? This is aside from deadlines and case management. You still have this big plate of tasks and how can we rank which is most important? And we don't want to!
We don't want to choose one task over another, and we don't want to choose one client over another. And that's not to mention future clients, right? So we don't want to overlook that these are the clients we are working on now, but there are other clients that may need our help in the future. So we have to put energy there. When we walk into a new day, everything looks important. And I'm going to tell you why. The reason is because everything is important. Everything is equally important. All of it. Everything down to the smallest admin tasks to the hugest case strategy session. All of it is important. Everything is in flow to make you who you are as a very successful legal professional, and to make your firm, or your position, flow. When we're in flow, all of those pieces are taken care of. We are hitting what we need to do. But often our flow is stopped. We might stop it ourselves or something on the outside might stop it.
And then we have to choose what's important to get back into flow. And a lot of times lawyers have told me that they freeze because they don't want to make that decision. They don't want to choose one thing over another, one client over the other. The secret to prioritizing is that since it's all equally important, instead of choosing what's most important based on values…. It's really a value judgment when we decide what's more important. We decide that this deserves more of our precious time than that. When we get caught up in that, we are not only just deciding what to do (doing some task management), we are actually making a value judgment. And that's heavy stuff. I would like to assure you that everything is important. Nothing is more or less valuable than anything else.
It is part of a whole thing, a holistic perspective for your workload. The secret is to not choose the most important project. Listen up. It is to choose the hardest tasks. Not the hardest necessarily intellectually or strategically. It's the hardest because you don't want to do it. And this may be because there's a difficult client involved. Maybe there's a task you let go for too long and you just feel bad and you don't want to look at it. Maybe you don't want to deal with something like your numbers, or you don't want to talk to that staff member because it's not going to be a fun conversation. I get it. Choose hard and start there. This is a very proven strategy. When you choose the hardest thing first instead of the most important, then you're unlocking the flow to your work.
And then other decisions become easier. Even when we feel overwhelmed, we might have an inclination to choose something easy and check it off the list - something mindless, something that's not hard, something that we enjoy doing. But that is not really the problem because at the end of the day, we still feel overwhelmed. We want to unlock the flow, so that we don't have that dark cloud over us. When you choose hard and you unlock that flow, your work will flow and you'll have a workflow. And you keep doing it. And in the beginning you might need to do it every day, every time you come in or every work session. “What's the hardest thing that I have to do?” And just do it, commit to it, make the decision. There will be short-term pain, but long-term benefits.
The secret to prioritizing is not choosing the most important task, because everything is important. It is choosing the task that is difficult for you, and has you locked in. And has you feeling all the not good feelings, feeling maybe incompetent, feeling behind, feeling overwhelmed. When we really look at that dark side, that difficult task (and no one needs to know this but you that you felt that way), you'll unlock your flow by prioritizing it. And by prioritizing, I mean doing it first, looking at it, and I think probably it won't be as bad as you think. I think that by unlocking that difficult area, you will flow to other areas and things will be easier. The value judgments won't get in your way. And making choices will be a lot easier. You do this; and you keep doing it. It's a practice. So unlock your flow by prioritizing the hardest tasks, especially when you're feeling overwhelmed.
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