This article was originally published by Debra Bruce at Raising the Bar Law Practice Management Thoughts and Tips on December 13, 2011.  Debra is President of Lawyer-Coach LLC.   She draws on her extensive legal experience, as well as a degree in Psychology and well over 500 hours in training as a professional coach, to help lawyers improve their management skills, increase productivity and bring in more business.

The season is upon us! You know — the season of fa-la-la-la-la, holiday decorations, greeting cards, family parties, gift buying, travel plans, winter snow storms, and year-end business.  The list goes on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on….too much to do and not enough time.  If you make it to January 1, then your knee deep in a different set of tasks headed into tax season.

So what is a smart attorney or paralegal to do?  Organization is key, but who has time – or money — right now to implement complicated practice management software?

SOLUTION:  Pick one of these quick, easy and inexpensive online task management solutions.  Register for a free user name and pick a password.  Then start listing everything congesting your over-crowded mind.  Start with just the basics by listing the task and assigning a deadline.   That’s it!!  You can expand your vision and develop a more-rounded solution when the time crunch has eased.

  • RememberTheMilk.com: This solution has been specifically recommended for attorneys in several American Bar Association articles, and it is often referred to as RTM (if that milk thing bothers you).  It fits the above-mentioned criteria, but can be further expanded by building as many different lists as you can dream, assigning deadlines, priority levels, repeat intervals, tags and reminders.  The free version will get you started, but you might need to upgrade to a paid version to get the full mobility you want.
  • Todoist.com:  Easy integration with Gmail and Outlook, browser plugins and mobile access are all features which might lure you to consider this solution, but I suspect that the ability to create sub-tasks might be the one that snags you.  “Big things are composed by smaller things and smaller things are done by action.”  A call to action for incremental steps is critical to seeing completion of that large project.  You also might get a few more options on your reminders.
  • Toodledo.com:  Sub-tasks are also available here along with many options for customizing the alarms and reminders you want.  Folders, tags, contexts and sub-tasks help you zero in at the desired overview level.   Create your hotlist and analyze details to most efficiently complete similar tasks.  Set your alarms and reminders for email, iPhone, Twitter or sms.  This tool will also let you import tasks from other lists you have already created.
  • Todalist.com:    Making your list and checking it twice to see who is naughty and nice?  This one might be for you!  This handy tool’s claim to fame is being the easiest web-based to-do-list-maker. Make as many lists as you want, keep them or hand them out to your helpers.
  • Egretlist:  This i-Phone app is ideal for those of you having a love affair with Evernote.  Your to-do list syncs with Evernote to keep all your notes, memos and lists in the same place under the umbrella of one system.

Before you commit 100% by investing lots of time and energy, it is always wise to test the tool on a couple of projects.  If you see that it is making a difference in your perspective and the management of your workload, then go a little deeper.  If not, then try a different tool until you find the one that fits you like a glove.

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