A paralegal has a hectic day every day. All that busy-ness can make it hard to be productive as well as hard to take care of yourself. It is possible, however, to both increase your productivity and take care of yourself, increasing your output while decreasing your stress. It only takes a little planning and foresight to do so.
With that in mind, below are 10 tips to help you increase your productivity while at work while also being kinder to the person who matters most at the end of a busy day: you.
Tip #1: Indulge in ‘me’ time in the morning
Pencil in 15 minutes every morning to sit and simply enjoy your coffee and muffin (or the drink and snack of your choice) in peace. No emails, no phone calls—this is 15 minutes just for you so you can start your day centered and calm.
Tip #2: Take 12 minutes to plan your day
Every minute you spend planning your day saves you 10 minutes later. That means spending 12 minutes to plan your day can save you up to 2 hours later! Talk about increased productivity! And when the day is planned out ahead of time, you’re more calm as you know what’s coming next.
Tip #3: Become a list maker
Write down your tasks as a to-do list. Make sure to prioritize what needs to be done first so you can get to work. Although the purpose is the same and all lists should be prioritized, there are many ways to create lists, so use the system that works best for you. Some paralegals like to use calendar reminders for tasks, while others prefer a hand-written list, for example. You can even use an app for that!
Tip #4: Eat lunch away from your desk
Take advantage of lunchtime to give your brain a break so you can go back to work with renewed focus. Better still, take a walk during lunch. A lunchtime walk is proven to help people improve their moods and handle stress. It will also increase your energy level, helping you make it through the afternoon slump. You’ll both feel better and be more productive.
Tip #5: Get rid of desk clutter
It’s a fact: Clutter causes stress. (See eight reasons why clutter is stressful for proof.) By cleaning up clutter, you can both take good care of yourself by reducing stress, and be a more efficient paralegal. Start with your desk. Remove the extra paperwork from your desk by setting up a filing system so you can place important documents in one tray and less important ones in another—or use some other system. Stow away things that really don’t need to be there, like the cute note from your 3-year-old or the hand lotion that you use once a day. You’ll find 10 other extremely useful tips for getting rid of desk clutter here, including tips like schedule a regular cleaning time and never put trash down to deal with later.
Tip #6: Limit time spent on email
Research shows frequently checking email leads to higher stress levels. In addition, regular checking of email means regular interruptions throughout the day, and those interruptions take a toll on your productivity. It can take over 23 minutes to get back on task after being interrupted! Go through three interruptions in a day, and you will lose an entire hour of productive work. So lower your stress level and increase your output by only checking email in the morning, middle of the day and end of the day. Period.
Tip #7: Turn off your email notifications
You’re constantly on your computer doing research for different cases and sending and responding to emails. This constant activity would distract anyone, interrupting the flow of work, especially if you get a notification every time you get a new email. Turn those off. You don’t need to be told every time you get an email – you’ll check your email when you’re ready to check it. If something is urgent, someone will call you.
Tip #8: Develop file-naming conventions and label everything
If you’re using a sporadic system for naming files (or rather, no system at all), you’re likely causing more work for yourself later when you must look for files. This applies to both physical files and digital ones. Develop a file-naming convention, either on your own or with your colleagues. (Get advice on developing a file-naming system here.) Then methodically use this system on every piece of content that comes your way, whether it’s a digital file or a physical one.
Tip #9: Organize your computer
A messy desktop makes for inefficiency, whether that’s the physical desktop you’re sitting behind or the digital desktop that’s your computer screen. Just as you should organize your physical desk and workspace, so should you organize your computer. Keep a main file for each case and organize accordingly. Don’t keep all kinds of files on your desktop. Have both a file-naming convention (above) and a filing system for on your computer. If you let your computer get cluttered, it will impede your workflow plus cause undue anxiety later.
Tip #10: Meditate
Yes, meditating might sound cliché, but it helps to reduce stress. It can also help you to increase your energy level and focus, as you take a few minutes to quietly regroup. Meditating while at work might sound like a challenge but it’s not. You don’t even have to leave your desk to do it. And CNN reports work might be the best place to meditate, because that’s when you most need the benefits meditation provides.
You became a paralegal because it was work you wanted to do. Make sure you’re taking steps to be the best paralegal you can by being super productive but also super productive of your help and stress level. These tips should help!