Time Management

Commercial & Company Solicitors in the West Midlands

$250,000 Worth of Free Advice

I recently received a marketing letter offering an “invaluable half day seminar” in time management and avoid time-wasting habits for “only £119 + VAT”.

I set out below $250,000 worth of FREE advice. 

The best way to be the most productive and to manage your time is to plan your day in advance.

In that regard, I can do no better than to recite the following century old true story, that was almost synonymous with the invention of Time Management: –

Charles M Schwab (1862 – 1939) grew from an unskilled labourer to President of Bethlehem Steel, the world’s largest independent steel producer.  By the 1920’s, he was one of the first people to earn a million dollar salary.  Always keen to improve the productivity of himself and his people, Schwab engaged the services of Ivy L Lee, a well-known management consultant of the day.  “Show me a way to get more things done with my time, and I’ll pay any fee within reason”, said Schwab.  Lee, however, refused to invoice for his advice, commenting, “Only pay me if it works, and send me a cheque for what you think it’s worth”.

Shortly afterwards, Lee received a cheque for $25,000, estimated to be more than ten times that in today’s money ($250,000).  Asked how he could justify such an enormous payment, Schwab described the idea as the most profitable piece of business advice he had ever received.

This story and the daily planning method which derived from it continues to dominate today’s Time Management books.  In the 21st Century, research shows that the method still works, helped by some refinements which have been introduced over the last 30 years or so.

The starting point is: –

  1. Write a daily “To Do” list.

The important word in the above heading is “daily”.  This is not some days or even most days.  Highly effective people make daily “To Do” lists, while less effective people write them only sporadically.  The conclusion of this is that only a daily “To Do” list will do.

  • Prioritise by importance

The next stage is to prioritise the daily “To Do” list in order of importance.  There are two basic ways of doing this.  The first is to number every item on the To Do list in order of importance, i.e. 1, 2, 3, etc., where 1 is the most important and the last number on the list is the least important.

This ensures that the most important jobs get done first and if any of the jobs don’t get done, then they are the least important for that day.  The important thing here is to remember that if any jobs don’t get done on a particular day, then they need to be added to the “To Do” list on the next day, and there is an argument for these then becoming the most important on Day 2.  Otherwise, you are simply procrastinating!

The second way of prioritising by importance which is more sophisticated, is to create an Important Urgent matrix.  A sample is set out below.

Important and Urgent
Important but not Urgent  
Urgent but not Important  
Not Urgent and not Important  
  1. Start on the most important task first

This is one of the more important rules.  Never start with the quickest or the easiest, or even the hardest.  It is imperative that you start with the most important task first.

  • Complete one task before starting another

It is very easy in a busy day either to get distracted or to be pulled from one job to another, and never actually finish anything.

In order to be as productive as possible, it is absolutely essential that you always finish one job before moving on to the next.

  • Work through in order of importance

Having completed the most important job, you must then work through each of the others on the list in order of importance.

  • Don’t worry if you don’t complete everything

It is entirely possible that your “To Do” list may have more items on it than are capable of completion in a day.  Don’t worry about this.  Simply add those items not completed to the top of your list the next day.  If those items were important enough to put on your “To Do” list on Day 1, then they must be important enough to be at the top of your list on Day 2 if they were not completed on Day 1.

  • Last job of the day!

The last job of the day should be to write out your “To Do” list for the next day.  That means that when you start work the next day, your list is already prepared and you can hit the ground running!

Follow these basic principles of Time Management and you will increase your productivity by many times.

At SL & Co we use the principles of Time Management and Project Management to great effect in the management of your matters, to ensure that the right jobs are done at the right time and in an efficient and cost-effective manner.

Come to SL & Co for all your legal needs.

I would very much welcome the opportunity to discuss your needs entirely without obligation.

Stephen Lockwood
Managing Director
SL & Co.


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