David Bryson, Senior Legal Counsel at Baillie Gifford & Co and co-Vice Convener of the In-house Lawyers Committee, provides some time management tips to help you get the most out of your day.

I was asked recently to present a CPD session on 'Using Time Effectively'. After spending just the right amount of time preparing for the session and completing the presentation exactly to schedule, here are my reflections on what I learnt from researching for the talk and more importantly listening to the contributions from the audience.

Some questions for each of us to consider

  • Do you ever waste time?
  • Where and when are you at your most productive?
  • Have you ever refused to go to a meeting?
  • Do you challenge a meeting if it goes off point?

Some excellent ways to waste your time

  • Office gossip (often labelled as ‘networking’ or ‘building relationships’)
  • Avoidable administration
  • ‘Drain’ meetings
  • Excessive use of social media
  • Writing long emails

Some top tips to avoid time wasting

  • Begin with the end in mind – what is it you are trying to achieve?
  • Plan your time and set goals
  • Apply the ‘law of diminishing returns’ to labour and beware of the dangers of perfectionism
  • If you delegate, empower your delegates and avoid being overly directional
  • If something is bothering you, deal with it and don’t let it fester
  • Invest in relationships and communicate with people to make sure you are solving the right problem
  • Choose your battles
  • Try not to solve every problem yourself: sometimes it is OK to be a signpost to the right source of help
  • Avoid trying to solve all of the problems of the world at once
  • If you have stuff that really needs done, considering getting away from your desk
  • Try to do one thing at a time, and do it properly rather than stopping and starting tasks
  • Identify time wasting activities and eliminate them
  • Be realistic about what you can feasibly achieve in a period of time
  • Try to clear your head of ‘mental clutter’ by using systems, eg diaries, notebooks and apps to record important actions and deadlines
  • Try not to let your inbox manage you, you should be managing your inbox

How to prioritise

Ask yourself:

  • Does the task really need to be done? (try Positive Purposeful Abandonment - PPA)
  • If so, do I really need to do it? If not, delegate
  • If I need to do it, do I need to do it now?

Some general rules to live by

  • Respect your own time and that of others
  • Seek to achieve balance in life over a reasonable period of time
  • Make time for the people you love and the stuff you love doing
  • Do not beat yourself up and accept that you will never get everything done
  • Acknowledge that rest is a good use of time
  • Accept that sometimes others will waste your time, no matter how hard you try
  • Share good time management practice with colleagues and learn from each other
  • Make sure you have fun (at least some of the time!)


My blog is now written in the thirty minutes I allowed for it, the challenge for you is what are you going to do differently now you have finished reading it?

Some further reading

  • Seven Habits of Highly Effective People Stephen R Covey (1989)
  • How to be a Productivity Ninja: Worry Less, Achieve More and Love What You Do Graham Allcott (2014)

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