Five tips for making the most out of 24 hours in your day

By Paul Russell, Contributor

Lawyers struggling to fit everything into their day should change their focus and strive to create space in their lives instead, says Toronto health lawyer and coach Kate Dewhirst.

“There are only 24 hours in a day, and no one can change that, but there are activities that you can focus on that make you experience time differently,” says Dewhirst, principal of Kate Dewhirst Health Law and Law2Life Coaching.

Dewhirst says she frequently hears from legal professionals about not having enough time to exercise, to think creatively, to see family and friends or to do the best job they can do.

“Time comes up all the time,” she tells, adding that is to be expected since so much of their work involves billable hours, deadlines and filing dates.

“I go to many events so I can learn from other people, and one of the things I hear is that time is the great equalizer,” she says. “No matter who you are, or how much success you have, everybody has the exact same amount of time.”

Dewhirst says that lawyers need to focus on the experience of space instead of time.

“That opens up new opportunities for a more fulfilling creative practice because you can’t expand time, but you can expand your experience of space,” she says.

Dewhirst offers these five tips to achieve that.

Just say no

“Stop doing things that you really shouldn’t be doing, things that you don’t like to do or that you don’t want to do, and that will open up a great deal of space in your life,” Dewhirst says. “Just stop taking on other people’s deadlines, priorities, and tasks.”

Author Derek Sivers has a simple test to determine if you should be doing an activity outside of your work, she says. “He advises that if you are not saying, ‘Hell yeah!’ about something, then you should say ‘No.’”

Start delegating

“When you look at successful people who have expanded their impact and influence in time, many achieved it by working with other people,” says Dewhirst, explaining “including more people is a big way of creating more space in your life.”

In her practice, Dewhirst works with another lawyer and team members who handle various administrative activities, freeing up her time.

“One of the fictions lawyers embrace is that we have to do everything ourselves,” she says. “Instead, expand your experience of space and time by finding other people to work with, who can do things with and for you.”

Dewhirst says that could include team members, independent contractors or other lawyers who can be referred cases.

“Share the legal and administrative work that you’re not the best person to do,” she advises.

Embrace technology

“Lawyers are not known to be particularly tech-savvy, and practices can get by with basic email and document management systems since the legal industry is very document-based,” says Dewhirst. “Yet in every aspect of life, one of the ways humans have expanded time is using technology to speed up our activities.”

She urges lawyers to invest in technology, ranging from advanced email systems to videoconferencing software.

“One of the things that I have found hugely helpful is developing workflows and automated processes in my own practice, so that I have templates and cascading checklists that repopulate when I use them,” Dewhirst says.

“Many lawyers have been reticent to see their law practice as a business, but those who transition into using project management technology and workflows see unbelievable improvements in their time,” she says. “When you invest in technology to support your practice, you will find the space to be more creative, to be more impactful and have more time to do things.”

Create sacred space

Dewhirst recognizes that many lawyers find it difficult to talk about spirituality, but she says anyone can do this, no matter what they believe.

“Creating sacred space gives people an experience of elongated time, achieved through various methods, such as prayer, meditation, or just being outdoors in nature,” she says. “It’s not relevant if you are a religious person.”

The benefits of meditation are well documented, Dewhirst says. “Being in the moment creates an extra experience of space, where the deadlines and the due dates and the impending doom of your everyday life get put off for the time when you are in that moment.”

Change your environment

“Changing one’s environment is essential to expanding space, as it is a break from everyday activities, and gives you a new perspective,” says Dewhirst.

She recommends taking a trip, changing workplaces or even just taking the time to relax and read a good book.

“Those things add space to our lives, and our life takes up more room, as we have more things to reflect on and think about beyond regular mundane tasks,” says Dewhirst.

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