Make your workload work

10th Jan 2023

Work smarter, not longer, with these practical strategies to conquer your to-do list.

people pushing cubes and a sphere

That lawyers have a workload that just keeps coming is a truth universally acknowledged.

With so many competing priorities, it can be hard to keep on top of everything, and problems with your workload can have unwelcome consequences for your mental health, your team’s efficiency and client satisfaction.

That’s why we’ve gathered some practical strategies to help you approach your workload in a sustainable way.

1. Master prioritisation

Effective prioritisation can help you feel more in control. So compare tasks on your to‑do list in terms of their deadlines and impact.

Give priority to tasks that are both urgent and important; others can be delegated or have deadlines renegotiated. If a task is not related to your role’s purpose and objectives, deprioritise it or even remove it from your list.

Experiment with prioritising at least one non‑client task per day or week so that these do not get neglected. Remember also that priorities are relative and will change, so assess your list daily.

2. Get comfortable delegating

Knowing what to delegate and to whom, and ensuring tasks are completed by their rightful owners, is essential to keeping your workload under control. Delegation is about distributing tasks optimally among a team according to factors such as their strengths and capacity. This means knowing your team, and what’s going on with them, is essential.

3. Take back your time

To prioritise and delegate effectively, you need to create discretionary time in your diary to plan and review your work.

Reflect on the elements that steal minutes from your day (meetings, interruptions, travel, procrastination) and consider how you can adapt to reduce their demands on your time.

For example, start meetings at five past the hour or experiment with non‑negotiable chunks of uninterruptible focus time for specific tasks.

4. Be assertive

Asking for help before an issue becomes larger is essential – it doesn’t make you a “failure” or a “bother”. Be realistic about your capacity, what you can and cannot take on, as well as where you might need help. Explain yourself clearly and assertively but keep it brief and respectful.

Ensure you use confident and open body language; communicate honestly what you need and listen to what the other person says in response.

5. Make time for face time

Meetings with your manager are a time to check in about workload and can normalise the subject. Are you comfortable with the deadlines you’ve been set? Are the right resources available? Are you satisfied with your work‑life balance?

Don’t forget to review any implemented changes or support at subsequent check‑ins to assess their impact and adapt where needed.

6. Look after yourself

Finally, taking care of your mental and physical health will ensure you are feeling your best and boost your resilience reserves.

For example, regular breaks are essential to remaining productive. This will keep you performing and focusing at your best.