Lawyers: 10 Steps to Overcome Procrastination
Procrastination for any lawyer can cause all sorts of problems.
Procrastination can be caused by depression. These depressed feelings can have the lawyer try to be perfect. Nothing is ever good enough.
Between depression and perfection, a lawyer can become paralyzed and unable to make any progress.
Procrastination has a root meaning, Pro-crastinus = (lat.) belonging to tomorrow. Do you find yourself either intentionally or habitually putting things off?
The legal profession has constant deadlines. When an individual delays or puts off an important task, it causes undue stress and anxiety.
Mason had problems procrastinating. He worked for a prestigious law firm. He had a heavy caseload and always felt like he worked in a pressure cooker. He was feeling depressed and overwhelmed.
He says, “I’ll know that I have an important task and a deadline. But I find myself getting distracted, allowing myself to do easier things. I get lost in my emails and social media.
All the while, I feel as if I have a lump in my chest. Dread and anxiety overcome me whenever I go into the office.
I may not be sure how to approach a case. I’ll work it out in my head without taking any concrete action to meet the deadline. Before I realize it, the deadline is near, and all I have are my thoughts. I haven’t written anything down. My mind freezes as I scramble for answers.”
Whenever Mason waited until the last minute, it made his staff work late to meet his deadline. Mason’s bad habit affected the morale of the employees in his section of the firm.
Mason reasoned that everyone worked better under pressure. When I spoke with him, I discussed with him how this additional stress affected his and his staff’s mental, physical, and emotional health.
“Mason,” I said, “it is like your staff comes into the office and begin to work, and then suddenly the rug is pulled out from beneath them. They never know what to expect. They are unable to gauge their workloads because you constantly ask them to meet your last-minute deadlines. Now everyone is behind on the other work that they had planned.”
Mason Overcomes Procrastination in His Law Practice
Mason had enough of this, and his headaches and indigestion were enough to motivate him to change.
Mason decided to curb his procrastination habit. Here is how we began.
- We began a “TO DO LIST” with only five items on it each day.
- He had to go over all of his caseloads and note key dates that required his immediate attention.
- He calendared all deadlines.
- He put his cases in order of deadlines and importance.
- He updated his caseloads in the firm’s management system.
- We began a morning routine with emails, administrative tasks, and projects outside of his caseload.
- He broke down each case into manageable tasks and listed each task and to whom he had assigned it to.
- He recruited and began to delegate work at the beginning of the case, and we created a follow-up system to stay on top of the work others were doing for him.
- We began an accountability system, and I was able to help him to monitor his progress.
- We established a reasonable time to end his day to help him come into the office refreshed the next day.
Mason found a new sense of purpose.
His depression and anxiety lifted. He also let go of his need for perfection and left the office at a decent hour. Mason felt healthier, began to take a daily walk finding a renewed enthusiasm for his law practice.