If you are a modern lawyer, you need help tracking things—it’s what those of us in the business call “task mastering.” For instance, like me, you may need a list of items to file when you need to change your name. Or a list of things to do to prepare for a client meeting at Starbuck’s. While you could use online apps such as Don’t Forget the Beer or turn to your Amiga computer for help, those things really seem like toys sometime. Which is why there is a better option for tracking and maintaining your tasks: pen and paper. Here are our top tips for working with these underutilized taskmastering workhorses.
Get a Yellow Legal Pad
A legal pad is called a legal pad for a reason. It’s legal. So, buy a packet of them at Costco or Hallmark to stock up. You’ll need them once you adopt a pen and paper approach for your daily or hourly tasks. If you need more room than a regular legal pad, you are in luck—there are actually “legal-sized” yellow legal pads. Try those if you feel constrained or if your handwriting is abnormally huge.
Get a Pen
We previously discussed avoiding pencils in the office, for security reasons. Another problem with pencil-related security is that your writing can easily be erased, presenting a possible security hole or an invitation to task-list fraud. Do the lawyerly thing: buy an expensive fountain pen that you don’t know how to use properly. It just exudes pedantry. Or tweed. So, if using a fancy ink pen is a problem, a Flair works just as well.
Make a List
To start a task list, title the top of the paper with “To Do” or “Tasks” or “List.” Remember, do it in ink. Then, along the left-hand side of the legal pad, close to the red lines, write down the things you need to do. If you feel that there are too many, break them up into categories, such as “Monday, Tuesday” or “Today, Tomorrow.” In our office, we typically break them down into “Do Now” and “Yeah, Right.”
Cross Off Things that You “Do”
The most awesomest thing about a pen and paper task list is that you can cross things off. Or doodle. Or throw it in a fire. Or make really cool coffee rings. Anyway, when you complete a task on your list, such as “Friend Dave on Facebook to get help with Empires and Enemies,” then cross that off. It’s that easy. If you feel that you cannot “do” an item, cross it off anyway because you’ll never get to it. Or, better yet, do something, then write it down and cross it off. That’s how task-management works. Got it?
With just a few inexpensive tools, you can take command over your tasks and easily make your practice more efficient. Try a pen and paper today and let us know what you think.