Greetings from Chicago! The next few days I will be attending the 30th Annual American Bar Association Law Practice Division TechShow Conference. I’ve been told that this is a must-attend for attorneys looking to take control of their law office and utilize technology to efficiently and effectively provide legal services. I’ve been interested in technology from a young age, having assembled my last two computers from scratch. As a new lawyer, it is exciting to see the wealth of new technology available to help us help you! I’m hoping to pick up at least a few new skills and products this weekend, and I will share them here with you.
I went to several talks over the 3 days that discussed ways to improve your ability to use Outlook. Why is this so important? Whether we realize it or not, most service industry workers spend a large part of their day reading and responding to e-mails. Moreover, a lot of important information arrives via e-mail rather than snail mail. We need to have a plan to deal with all of the incoming e-mails effectively and efficiently so they don’t control our lives.
Get rid of the e-mail distraction. I consider myself a moderately well-trained user of Outlook. I already have a bunch of folders and rules so that my incoming e-mail sorts itself, and for the most part my inbox is important e-mails that I need to deal with. However, I soon realized I had a lot to learn about improving the way I read e-mails. For one thing, I had notifications turned on for all my devices. This meant that when a new e-mail arrived, whether it was important or not, I would get a pop-up on my desktop screen, a pop-up on my laptop screen, and my cell phone would buzz. Sheesh! These constant distractions were totally interrupting my day. This conference was a good reminder that I needed to turn all of that off. At first I worried that I might miss something important, but if it was really that urgent, the sender would probably have called by now. A good way to think about this is how we deal with the snail mail: it arrives once a day and we make an effort to immediately sort it and get it to the right person in the office. We should treat e-mail the same way. Check it only sparingly (once a day is probably not often enough, but once an hour might be just fine) and when it arrives, make an effort to address it at that moment. Don’t let things linger in the inbox unsorted, hanging around in the back of your mind. Address the e-mail head on when it arrives so it doesn’t consume you. Most people realize that you are not going to reply to their e-mail immediately, so this strategy of checking e-mail sparingly can help you remember to address all of your e-mail without having it interrupt you during the day.
Send fewer e-mails. How often do you send one sentence e-mails that say “Thanks!” or “See you then”? If it is already taken care of or you already set the time for your appointment, then you don’t really need the follow up e-mail. We should get out of the habit of over-confirming everything, which clogs up our inboxes. And when you do receive those “Thank you” e-mails, do you delete them right away? Your e-mail administrator will thank you when you don’t clog up the server with all of those pointless e-mails. This is not to say we shouldn’t be thankful – just avoid sending an unnecessary thank you e-mail.
Read your e-mail and calendar at the same time. This probably won’t apply to everyone, but there are lots of times that I want to look at my calendar while reading or composing an e-mail. Typically this means flipping back and forth between the Mail and Calendar tabs in Outlook. I learned that by right-clicking on the “Calendar” tab at the bottom left, you can actually open it in a new window. Since I have a dual screen set up, the second monitor allows me to easily read my calendar and e-mail side-by-side. The new window feature is great, and works throughout Outlook when you need to open things side-by-side.
Hopefully you found some of these tips helpful. This is just a taste of what I learned at ABA Tech Show. It’s great to pause and see how we can improve our use of Technology. This confirms my belief that we are all tech-sector workers to some extent, and we need to spend time improving our tech skills to be able to deliver quality and affordable results for clients.