After sharing my favourite iOS Apps for my knowledge management and legal work recently, I was asked if I would share how I structure my day for maximum efficiency and productivity and practical examples of how I use my favourite Apps and incorporate social media in my daily routine.
I’m not a morning person. Full stop. I struggle getting out of bed and love sleeping in. Unfortunately, these are not the inherent traits of an efficient and productive person. But what if you could overcome this set back?
What if you could combine staying snugly in bed and working?! Well, for me, technology, particularly mobile devices, is the answer.
My iPhone and iPad are always on my bedside table, in fact my iPhone has replaced my alarm clock. The trick is to use the ‘Do Not Disturb’ feature under ‘Settings’, and the ‘Alarm’ function of the native ‘Clock’ App. With the ‘Do Not Disturb’ feature you can set a period (say 23:00 to 6:00) during which all incoming calls and alerts will be silenced. You can set an exception to this rule if necessary for a specified ‘Group’ of people in your ‘Contacts’ list. You can also activate an exception for ‘Repeated Calls’ which will allow a call to ring out if the same person calls back within three minutes. Because my iPad also sits on the bedside table, its ‘Do Not Disturb’ setting is identical to my iPhone’s setting.
As for the ‘Alarm’ function, you can create a range of regular daily or weekly alarms that can support varying schedules. For example, I have a reoccurring alarm set for Monday to Friday at 6am. When necessary, I can also create random alarms for travelling and other specific occasions as needed.
The other beauty of using the iPhone as an alarm clock is that you are not forced to wake up to a jarring noise because you can set it to wake up to any music from your iPhone. My default choice is the ‘Flower Duet’ from Delibes’ Lakmé, a wonderful way to start any day.
When my alarm goes off at 6am, I start the day by reviewing news posted to my Twitter timeline overnight using my preferred Twitter App, Tweetbot. My sources range from The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Guardian, The Sydney Morning Herald to all the major law firms and industry and regulatory bodies.
Next I check the Reeder App, which syncs with my Feedbin RSS reader, for media that’s not available on Twitter or other social media, and review judgments handed down by State Supreme and Appeal courts and the Federal Court of Australia in the past 24 hours. Some of these cases will flow into the annual Contract Law Update published by my firm, and others onto our restructuring and insolvency blog.
If I see anything that needs to be actioned further, I add it to the ‘Reading List’ of the native Safari browser and attend to it after I finished my general current awareness review.
Next, I review my social media on Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn and respond to messages and posts.
Time to get out of bed, have breakfast and get ready for the office.
I consider myself very lucky because whether I drive or catch public transport I can get to the office and back home usually in about 30 minutes, each way.
I do prefer the public transport option from a productivity perspective, because it enables me to keep working. Usually this is the time when I check my websites’ statistics and start, or continue, writing articles for The Vue Post. Usually I do this using the WordPress App on my iPhone as I can do that standing up if necessary, and is far less hassle than pulling out the larger iPad on a crowded bus or train.
I have a nifty little App called ‘Beat the Q’ installed on the iPhone, which I use to order my morning coffee online, just before my train pulls in at my station in the city, and my morning treat will be ready and waiting for me on the counter of the coffee shop as I walk by on my way to the office. The App is linked to my credit card and it seamlessly tops up the balance when it becomes too low.
Usually I arrive in the office between 8 and 8.30am and set up my iPad as a second screen, with my professional Twitter feed open and updating breaking news throughout the day. The first item on my daily agenda is always email which arrived overnight. I operate on a strict ‘Inbox Zero’ principle (since 2008), so emails are:
- read and deleted/archived where no further action is required from me;
- read and forwarded to action by the appropriate person;
- read and actioned/replied to immediately, provided it’s possible to do so in under 5 minutes or so; or
- read and turned into a task and scheduled to be attended to on a specific date.
Throughout the day I will continue to monitor my email, but I only respond immediately to genuinely time critical emails. I respond to ‘lower priority’ emails only once the task I am working on at the time is completed. This is because, in my personal experience, I’m far more efficient and productive if I focus on, and complete, a task, or part of a task, uninterrupted. Of course this doesn’t mean that emails are left unanswered for prolonged periods. It means that I attend to non-critical emails every hour or so, instead of interrupting the completion of specific tasks which would create inefficiencies and reduce my productivity.
Next I fire up Chrome on my desktop and read the enterprise social updates posted by my colleagues since I was last logged on, and respond if needed. This tab will remain open throughout the day so I can monitor developments. I always open five further tabs in Chrome, which will all remain open throughout the day:
- LinkedIn; and
Feedbin is my desktop RSS reader of choice and another excellent source of breaking knowledge, legal and regulatory news.
Many still think of Facebook, Google+ and Twitter as places for baby photos, animal bloopers and needy acquaintances. For me, they are free and robust business tools for delivering news and competitive information.
The reality is that most, if not all, major news organisations, industry bodies, corporations, law firms, regulatory agencies and courts are on social media these days. Unfortunately, it varies which social media they use. Some are on all platforms, others are more selective and are present on only one or two social media services. However, it doesn’t take long to create the perfect mix of free updates from useful sources.
- the Supreme Court of Victoria is on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube;
- the Supreme Court of New South Wales is on Twitter;
- the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom is on Twitter, YouTube and Flickr(?);
- the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA) is on Twitter; and
- the Australian Securities & Investments Commission (ASIC) is on Twitter,
just to mention a few.
LinkedIn is also handy to have open throughout the day, because it offers useful, up-to-date business intelligence and instant access to my professional network.
Finally, Pinboard is an online bookmarking service I use instead of the crusty old native bookmarking function offered in browsers. Pinboard (which replaced Delicious for me after that service was shut down), allows for the complex categorisation of bookmarks using tags, and it is an excellent method of arranging a large number of bookmarks in a way that makes them easily accessible from any device. At last count I have over a thousand bookmarks on Pinboard and it would be very difficult to meaningfully manage such a large number of links in a browser’s native bookmarking function.
During the day this screen is open to my bookmarks tagged ‘Daily KM Research’, which is a collection of links designed to give me quick access to regulatory agencies, courts, judgments, legislation and client intelligence.
I look after the current awareness and knowledge needs of eight practice and interest groups, one of the largest portfolios at my firm. I couldn’t provide meaningful support to these groups if I were not fully immersed with each group to understand their strategic priorities and ongoing work. One of my methods of achieving this goal is attending all their regular meetings. All these groups hold regular local and national meetings at various intervals, ranging from weekly and fortnightly to monthly and bi-monthly. Once a week I attend one of these meeting at 9.30am.
When I’m in a meeting I no longer use a notepad and pen to take notes. Instead, I use the Noteshelf App on my iPad and my trusty ‘Pencil by 53’ stylus. I have a separate notebook set up in Noteshelf for each of my practice and interest groups, and my various projects, sitting on a virtual bookshelf. This means that all my notes are conveniently arranged and easy to find. If I need to share any of my notes, the App allows me to email single or multiple pages in PDF format in just seconds.
By 10-10.30am (depending on whether I had a 9.30am meeting to attend) I would have completed my review of all relevant resources for materials and updates that may affect one of my practice or interest groups. At this point I post updates to internal enterprise social channels to make sure that everyone is aware of the latest relevant cases and news.
Next, cases that have been identified as relevant for our annual Contract Law Update and popular restructuring and insolvency law blog are allocated to lawyers to be summarised. Earlier case summaries that have been completed and reviewed are forwarded to be published on the blog or added to our working document for the Contract Law Update.
At any given time there are multiple projects running, which I either manage, or contribute to, and I usually start attending to correspondence and tasks on those project during this period.
As part of my role, I am also on call to give advice to lawyers internally in the event they encounter any issues in the course of their work, whether legal, procedural or practical. As I work through my tasks list, I also attend to calls and emails requesting such assistance throughout the day.
Midday is another favoured time for various practice or interest groups to hold their meetings. If there are any such meetings scheduled, I attend; otherwise I continue my work.
It’s time to reveal a very bad habit of mine, which I wouldn’t recommend to anyone else, even though I find that it works for me: unless I have a lunch time legal forum or other practice or interest group meeting to attend, I usually eat lunch at my desk and work right through. This is usually the next period when I review the social media updates delivered to my desktop and iPad in the course of the morning.
In the afternoons, I tend to focus on project work and responding to queries from lawyers, interspersed by meetings and various administrative tasks. I also aim to conduct meetings in the early afternoon, to enhance my focus and productivity during the first few hours of the day.
This is the time of the day when I set aside about 20-30 minutes to conduct a continuous review of all materials in the various precedent collections to identify documents that need to be retired or updated and review new materials identified as a possible additions. I also consider what documents, process maps and other materials we need to develop to make sure the collections meet the strategic needs of the various practice and interest groups. During this phase I am also often seen to go on a ‘walkabout’, visiting the offices of lawyers in my practice and interest groups for brief informal chats, usually no more than 5-10 minutes, to get a feel for what’s happening at the firm, what knowledge is being acquired, what materials are being produced, and to identify what could, and should, be shared across the firm.
I am also involved in a range of our community and diversity projects, and internal and external meetings relating to such projects are often held during the afternoon.
I am a practitioner of ‘work/life integration‘ and, unless there is a late meeting or time critical tasks to complete, I leave the office each day around 5.15-5.30pm. Provided you are efficient and productive, and have a decent and sensible workplace culture, given today’s technology which enables you to work just about anywhere, you shouldn’t have to spend 80+ hours a week chained to your office desk under the fluorescent lights.
On the way home I usually engage in the same activities as during my morning commute: I check my websites’ statistics, start, or continue, writing articles for The Vue Post and respond to private social media messages.
I am a fan of healthy, home cooking and early dinners. So 6pm is usually cooking time, with dinner around 6.30-7pm.
I call the after 7.30pm, post-dinner period my ‘evening-shift’. It consists of settling down on the couch with my MacBook and iPad, next to my partner, in front of the TV, sometimes with a glass of red wine.
The evening-shift is my favourite, and a surprisingly productive, solid 3-hour work period. It is a combination of completing work brought home from the office, writing articles for The Vue Post and reviewing social media posts from the afternoon and early evening.
I usually wrap up around 10.30-11pm, ready to start it all again at 6am the next day …