Don’t Try to Manage Time, Manage Your Activities

You can’t really “manage” time, which is why I’m not the biggest fan of the term “time management”. I use it only – and then only very reluctantly – because that’s the term most people are familiar with.

But in actuality, the only thing you can control is what you do with your time; you’re really managing your activities, not your time.

This may seem like a silly distinction, but this small shift in thinking can profoundly and positively affect your productivity. 

In her book Time Management from the Inside Out and other writings on the subject, author and professional organizer Julie Morgenstern advises that instead of thinking of time as abstract, you should think of time as something tangible – a container. There are only a limited number of things that can fit into the container.

Trying to manage your time is like trying to manage your closet. You know you can’t “manage” the closet; instead, you need to manage what is in the closet. Only a limited number of things will fit into the closet. Once the closet is full, you can’t keep cramming more stuff into it. If you want to put something new in the closet, you will need to make room by getting rid of some of your “stuff”.

The same is true with the “stuff” that fills your day – if you want to add something new, you need to make room. Just how do you do that? Stay tuned for more in my time management tips series.

Get Everything out of Your Head 

Most Lawyers are constantly pressed for time and feeling stressed about how much needs to be accomplished on any given day. Too many demands and not enough resources lead to increased stress and poor productivity. David Allen’s book Getting Things Done describes his process of organizing all of your stuff and reducing anxiety about it at the same time. 

Allen’s basic premise is that you are less productive because your mind is always trying to collect, process and keep track of all your commitments, or “open loops”. His process focuses on managing commitments so you can free your mind to concentrate on the task at hand – and be more productive in the process.

The first step to doing so is to “get everything out of your head”. That’s because when you try to remember all of the things you have to do, or if you don’t have faith that the systems you have created will ensure that all of your important tasks will get accomplished, it’s difficult to concentrate on the task at hand.

Essentially, this step is an information dump – writing down every single thing you can think of that you need to do. One of the things that you will notice as you do this exercise is that some of the items on your list will be single tasks that need to be accomplished. Others will be projects that consist of multiple tasks. Don’t worry about that too much during the initial exercise – just try to get everything down on paper first.

Allison C. Shields, Esq., is the President of Legal Ease Consulting, Inc. This article was originally posted on the Legal Ease Blog: and can be found here: