I was recently talking to a regulatory colleague who had done a calculation of the hours in 2013 that her team spent attending internal management (i.e. not “casework”) meetings. The total was 2939 hours. That equated to 391 working days in meetings or, putting it another way, the equivalent of 1.72 people out of her team of four doing nothing but internal management meetings all year. And if that does not put it in proportion for you, at an internal transfer cost rate of £200 per hour, that was cost of £587,800 to her business. And that is just one team.
There is a human cost too. Meetings are an important part of working together, but modern working life requires us constantly to go to meetings of one sort or another. When you add that to the pressures of emails, conference calls, travelling, special projects, crisis management, annual management initiatives, professional training, company training, completing internal corporate surveys and generally dealing with the increasingly bellicose demands of our internal clients (who are probably bellicose because they are subjected to the same stresses), the time for quiet analysis and creative thinking is extremely limited. Most of it is done on the train home or Sunday evenings when – I suspect – frazzled in-house lawyers are also burdened with the guilt of spending too little time with their loved ones. This is not why we joined the profession or how we should spend our lives.
Help is at hand. A new book “How to Be a Productivity Ninja” is just out and it makes compelling reading. Out of the window goes traditional time management. Author, Graham Allcott notes that those theories were put together when your mail came in letter form at the beginning of the day. Email was not even contemplated then on Star Trek (they seem to have very few management meetings on the Enterprise to delay them boldly going; but I digress). Instead Productivity Nijaism – to coin a phrase – depends on a combination of good health, self discipline, polite ruthlessness, the zen like quality of mindfulness and a good dose of common sense. Written in straightforward language and peppered with humour, Graham guides you through a series of simple principles designed to help you regain some control in your working life.
As a taster, here is a diagram of The Cord Productivity Model: it will help you make better decisions, manage your workflow and focus your attention. Adopting this approach helps you develop your own systems rather than prescribing one that you must rigidly follow. Whatever system you come up with does not have to be perfect; mistakes will never be completely avoided. As long as the system works for you and you use it – an important point – then that is fine.
So go out and buy this inexpensive book. Read, laugh and regain some control. Click here to read a sample of the book.
I am grateful to Graham for allowing me to reproduce his excellent diagram. Also, there is no conflict of interest here. I am not on commission, so there is no reason not to buy this book!