Manage Yourself, Not Time
by Dorene Lehavi
(County Bar Update, October 2004, Vol. 24, No. 9)


Manage Yourself, Not Time


By Dorene Lehavi, Ph.D., at the request of the Law Practice Management Section Executive Committee. Lehavi is principal of Next Level Business and Professional Coaching. She coaches professionals and business partners, and teaches teleclasses on techniques to break through barriers to the next level. She may be reached at or on the Web at The opinions expressed are her own.


Many lawyers want to learn how to better manage time. That’s impossible. You can’t manage time. It just keeps ticking away no matter what you do. With greater self-knowledge and self-acceptance, however, you can learn how to better manage yourself.


The following four basic principles will allow you to more efficiently and productively use the time that you have. Like all powerful work and management habits, they take practice to incorporate into your life. Don’t give up. The results are well worth the effort.


Avoid the Perfection Trap. Accept the fact that no human being is meant to do everything. We all have our unique talents, things we do better than others and vice versa. Perfection is not a human condition. Cut yourself some slack, and adopt the concept of “good enough.” You can rework a pleading 50 times -- Is it really so much better than a much earlier draft? You can shop endlessly for the perfect pair of shoes -- Wasn’t the first pair you tried and liked as good as the 15th? Ask yourself how much time you spent going past “good enough.” Demand higher standards of excellence only where it really counts.


Don’t Go It Alone. Delegate, hire, share, and partner with people who complement you or can fill your needs in areas you don’t enjoy or know that well. Concentrate on excelling in what you do well, in what you would enjoy doing better, and in new areas you would like to learn. Don’t ever berate yourself for not being able to do it all. Appreciate your talents and excellence while valuing and making use of the talents and excellence of others. The results will not only save time but also enrich your working relationships and free you for work you find more enjoyable.


Know and Honor Your Energy Levels. Are you a morning person? Do you have an afternoon slump? Your time will be best used if you pace your tasks based on this knowledge. Perform the most challenging tasks at your peak energy times. Build in breaks to reward yourself for finishing a formidable task or to refresh yourself at low energy periods.


Focus on the Present Moment. Limit distractions, and develop habits that help you focus on what you are doing in the moment. Don’t divert yourself with thoughts about what you have to do next. When possible, put a Do Not Disturb sign on your door, and do not take phone calls. By putting everything else out of your mind and focusing on the task at hand, you will use your time more efficiently. If you get stuck on something, take a break. Move on to something else, get the information you need to continue, change scenery, stretch, whatever it takes, but don’t sit there stuck.


Although there are a multitude of time management programs, don’t attempt to fit yourself into someone else’s plan. Self-knowledge holds the key to what will work for you. Even though you can’t manage time, you can manage yourself.

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