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December 14 2022

Tips on stress-free productivity for paralegals

Legal Career Tips

JB Manning

JB Manning

Stressed paralegal looking at computer screen with head in hands

It’s no secret that the legal industry has a long way to go when it comes to managing the health and wellbeing of its legal professionals.

A study carried out by LawCare earlier this year revealed that 69% of lawyers were afflicted by anxiety, poor moods, and depression. Fast-paced work and tight deadlines were found to have been key elements which add serious pressure to the job, leaving many feeling disengaged and battling burnout.

As a paralegal new to the industry, it’s important to maintain a healthy workflow without feeling fatigue and burnout, but how can you achieve such a serene state of mind?

The GTD Method

David Allen’s Getting Things Done (GTD) method was conceptualised with the idea of experiencing stress-free productivity. In the GTD podcast whilst speaking with psychologist William Elliot, Allen emphasises how humility and accepting our limitations can improve our productivity and overall quality of life. He also discusses the idea of “background stress” when it comes to deciding what to say no to and the value of decision-making or prioritising. Finding out how to manage work and set boundaries is key to beating burnout whilst still being as productive as possible.

Here are our top 3 tips for improving your productivity as a paralegal:

Capture what has your attention

If you’re constantly trying to figure out and take care of what you must do, you’ll forget other tasks. You might get so caught up in interviewing clients that analysing a document slips your mind. Allen recommends collecting everything that has your attention and placing it into an inbox to address later. This creates an opportunity for you to focus on one thing at a time whilst keeping track of the other tasks on your plate.

You can write personal plans in a journal, then keep job-related to-dos in your email inbox specifically for work. Task managing apps can also help segregate the type of work you will need to do, making it easier for you to tick off what’s finished and what still needs to be done.

Reflect on your process

Many people undertaking the GTD method fail because they ignore the critical task of reviewing their methods. They organise their tasks, but forget to practise mindfulness to complete them in the most effective way possible. Many don’t take the time to reflect and make adjustments so that they can stay productive. Allen states that reviewing is a critical part of GTD, as it allows you to figure out how to better yourself and make the next move.

You can hold weekly meetings with yourself to gather your thoughts and tasks, and find new, better ways to manage them for improved productivity. Constant reflection can make the GTD system habitual, helping you streamline your workflow so that you can focus on that tricky case, or make the best recommendations. It’s also a good process to have for document review, as Flex Legal previously stressed — particularly the importance of double-checking and noting down pertinent information. In-depth reflection will ensure you’re soaking up all the details.

Prioritise the right tasks

Paralegal work can sometimes be overwhelming, even more so when taking on more than you can handle. PM Column notes that employing the four ‘Ds’ — Do, Delegate, Defer, and Drop — into your work system can help you to filter out what you can and cannot handle. “Do’s” are usually essential, urgent tasks that fall under your scope of work and must be prioritised. For work not in your expertise or job description, “delegate” the work to the right people who can help you. You can “defer” or “delay” things that are not urgent to avoid running off-track while you’re carrying out valuable tasks. And, of course, “drop” time-consuming work, such as social media, non-work-related emails, and other distractions for later.

The GTD system has a lot to offer paralegals to boost productivity. It’s equal parts sorting, clarifying, and getting tasks done that makes the method work. And in law, organising your tasks can make all the difference.

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