Law practice management can be overwhelming. Is it possible that making too many daily decisions has a detrimental effect on your ability to manage well?
It’s estimated that on average an adult makes a whopping 35,000 decisions each day! When an individual is confronted with too many daily decisions they experience what the social psychologist, Roy F. Baumeister, calls “decision fatigue.”
The New York Times article “Do You Suffer From Decision Fatigue”, discusses the findings from several significant studies conducted by social psychologists on the impact of the dramatic increase in the number of daily decisions required in modern living.
The ramifications of these recent findings are staggering for our culture and for legal professionals responsible for guiding people to make informed decisions that have a significant impact on their wellbeing and that of their loved ones.
So what happens when an individual hits decision fatigue?
Too Many Decisions Equal Poor Ones
There is a direct correlation between the number of decisions an individual makes in a given day and a decline in one’s ability to continue making good ones the more decisions they make. For context, more than 200 of those 35,000 decisions are simple ones about food according to a study by Cornell University. So even small and seemingly insignificant decisions can accumulate through the day and still have a big impact mentally and physically.
Have you ever had a day where you are exhausted and you have little to show for it? Responding to lots of small but persistent interruptions and distractions, or exercising self-discipline to avoid temptations (skipping the chips you’re craving or the nap you’re longing for) have a cumulative effect. “Regardless of how strong you are, your ability to make the best choices can eventually run out due to decision fatigue,” according to Healthline’s article, “Understanding Decision Making Fatigue”.
According to Tonya Hansel, Ph.D., director of the Doctorate of Social Work at Tulane University, when individuals have too many decisions to make they react in one of two ways:
- Risky decision-making
- Decision avoidance
So how can you cope when so many decisions confront you daily? Here are a couple of proven strategies to tame the chaos of managing your law practice and minimize the impact on your mental and physical well-being.
Get Proactive When Dealing With Interruptions
For the times when you expect to have lots of interruptions try using a strategy called “implementation intentions.” Here’s how. Before you stop to take a break and address the interruption, either say the following statement out loud or write it down three times.
I will _______ (action) when _________(trigger). An “action” is the specific and simple next step or task that you need to complete to get started again. A “trigger” is something that will remind you of the “action” you need to take once the interruption has passed.
Real-Life Example: ”I will work on the first paragraph of this document I am currently drafting when I sit down at my computer after returning this phone call.”
This trick is remarkably effective and based on scientific research about how our minds work.
Rely on Simple Routines
A powerful way to minimize the amount of energy you expend daily on small repetitive tasks is by building simple routines into your daily life and sticking with them until they become a habit. For example, you might have a set morning routine you like to follow. Have you considered completing the tasks in your routine in the same order and around the same time each day? If you already do, then you’re ahead of the game, so this next step will come more easily.
Create similar routines: the tasks you complete, the order in which you complete them, and set a time and/or day of the week you always complete them. This works well for completing simple or repetitive tasks, like filing—but with some planning, can be applied to more complex tasks like invoicing and balancing your accounts—tasks that can often be more difficult to get a handle on when you are overwhelmed with work.
Real-Life Example: Every first Monday of the month you start your day by sending invoices for the previous month. You always plan for this activity. You block the time necessary on your calendar. You never schedule over it. And for the next several months you keep track of your progress as you implement this small but regular routine making note of the reasons you were or were not successful in sticking to your plan. No need to formally track it unless that helps—try just to make a mental note to yourself for next time and adjust accordingly.
Interested in learning more about creating and sticking with routines that make a huge difference? Check out the following books:
- The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg
- Habit Stacking: 127 Small Changes to Improve Your Health, Wealth, and Happiness by S.J. Scott
Taming the Chaos of Law Practice Management—For Good
Implementing the strategies covered in this article will aid in taming the chaos of law practice management, but for lawyers serious about clearing the path toward greater success, having the right business model, systems and support will make all the difference in the world. That’s where New Law Business Model can help.
Are you tired of going it alone? That’s a great sign you are ready to take the next step. Schedule a call with one of our Law Business Advisors to learn more about our programs and how we can support your success.
Ready to Learn More About Our Core Program? Schedule a call with a Law Business Advisor today.