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4 Counter-Intuitive Ways to Increase Productivity

By William Peacock, Esq. | Last updated on

For lawyers in firms of all shapes, sizes, and practice areas, you are measured by the bottom line -- oftencounted in billable hours. We're trying really hard to avoid the cliché about time and money, but it's especially true when your merit is measured by time billed.

"Cash Rules Everything Around Me." The words are as true today as they were back in 1993. So how do you maximize your productivity, and thereby maximize your firm's revenue?

This video is a great start:

The key points are:

Willpower is limited

The theory is called ego depletion. Your willpower is a limited resource. You can't simply will yourself to work on mentally-demanding tasks for twenty hours per day, seven days per week. So that leads us to: 

1. Start now!

The hardest part of a task is the first few steps. After that, guilt about not finishing will keep you on task. This self-nagging after starting effect is called the Zeigarnik effect. As the Black Eyed Peas would say, "Let's Get it Started."

2. Deliberate practice, regular breaks

Efficient mental tasks aren't a marathon, they are a series of sprints. For those of you who work out, think high intensity interval training. Or, for pop music aficionados, "Go hard, like real hard" for ninety minutes. Take a fifteen minute break. Rinse, repeat.

3. Deadlines and accountability

Ever notice that you're less likely to skip a task when you've made a To Do list or when you have a firm deadline? The video also recommends an accountability chart, which if you are tracking billable hours, is pretty much the same thing.

4. Multi-tasking is multi-failing

Study after study has shown that multi-tasking is a losing strategy. Every time you switch to a different task, your brain has to reassess the situation. It's also a great way to procrastinate. (Hmmm. Have to check my email, research my case, back to email, back to research, this search query is going nowhere, ummm, I'll ask for help on Facebook. Oh, look something shiny!)

For more from the brilliant mind behind the video, including the science-y stuff behind the claims, check out Gregory Ciotti's Sparring Mind.

And then, right after that, get back to work.

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