Getting things done: how to manage your to-do list
As lawyers, clients trust us to get things done. But do we
always know how to get things done ourselves? In the age of
overloaded inboxes, messy desks, and fleeting deadlines, it is
difficult to balance all the responsibilities that we owe to our
clients, our families, and ourselves.
In comes the dreaded "to do list." Many variations on theme,
both old-fashioned and electronic, involve some sort of list that
is sorted either by date or a level of priority for what needs to
get done. Overdue items may be in red, and something due next month
is probably not even visible.
In his best-selling book "Getting Things Done: the Art of
Stress-Free Productivity," author David Allen suggests that in
addition to the due date and level of priority, two other extremely
helpful characteristics of each task are the time needed to
complete it and its context. This comes down to not only WHEN
something must be done, but also WHERE it could be done. Face it,
one cannot write an appellate brief while sitting in traffic, but
that may be a good place to return some voicemails. While waiting
in court is probably not the best time to make phone calls, reading
through that deposition transcript might just be the perfect
Contexts could be as simple or as complex as one wishes to make
them. I use home, office, car, hotspot, email, and "anywhere" as my
contexts. Numerous high-tech tools, most of them free, exist to
help manage a to-do list David Allen style, which include context
as one of the factors to consider when deciding what task to
undertake. Some of these apps even analyze how much time you're
willing to devote to a block of work, and then come up with a
recommendation on what task or tasks would be best to tackle given
the interplay between the time available, the current context, the
priorities and the due dates of your tasks. Mobile apps designed
for this purpose can even sense the context automatically by using
your phone's GPS and motion sensors. To find these tools, search
for "GTD" or "getting things done" in your app store. My favorite
My task list, including all tasks on client files, has 382 items
on it, some with due dates three years in the future. But how else
would I remember to renew my driver's license? The context for that
task is "hotspot" -- hopefully we still have these in 2017.
Tip courtesy of Dmitry Lev, Esq. of The Lev Law Firm,
Law Offices of D. Lev PC in Watertown.
Published March 4, 2014
To learn more about the Law Practice Management
Section, which is complimentary for all MBA members,
contact LPM Section Chair Cynthia E.
MacCausland or Vice Chair Damian J.