Managing Time: Don’t Let Life Get In the Way

By Kimberly M. Johnson

Last Saturday afternoon, my friend from college called me. Well into our gabfest, she mentioned that she was apprehensive about starting graduate school.

Let me pause for a moment. The last time we were in school, Bon Jovi was the coolest band around and “LA Law” was the No. 1 TV show. My response was positive. Her reaction was still lackluster. I asked her what was wrong. She lamented, “I have too much on my plate; you know, Andre (her husband), the kids, work, stuff like that. What time and space do I have for studying? Maybe I should put this on hold for semester or two.”

Let me pause again. Procrastination is not a good thing.

As a paralegal, there are times when the general tasks “get in the way” of completing an assignment. You feel pulled in many directions the minute you turn on the computer. Next thing you know, it is 5 o’clock and you haven’t put a dent in the assignment. It slides down the to-do list.

I checked the internet to uncover some ways to prevent assignments from free-falling down the to-do list. I found some time-tested ideas such as complete important tasks first, and turn primary tasks into a daily habit and focus only on the immediate task.

I embraced the latter: focus on the immediate task. I implemented a single-focus strategy at work by using Outlook to track my progress (color coding, pop-up reminders, etc.). I selected two assignments to complete — one in the morning and one in the afternoon. Then, I concentrated on the tasks associated with that particular assignment. I blocked out time so I could devote additional energy to complex issues. In between, I managed general tasks and was flexible for unforeseen activities.

Right now, I am adjusting this strategy to place the complex assignments in the morning to-do list (things that involve multiple phone calls, working with other departments, gathering additional resources). I spend my break and my lunch away from my desk. This weekend, I’m going to give my friend a call. And, I’ll let her know that life will get in the way; it is how you manage your time that sets you up for the finish line.