When you’re on trial or your vacation’s booked, and someone wants to schedule a meeting with you, what happens? You offer times that do not conflict with these non-negotiable commitments. How about when opposing counsel or a key client presses you to meet on a day you’re already committed to an important deposition or a critical client site visit? Same thing. You schedule around what’s already booked.
Even in the worst-case scenario of a Judge setting a trial date that conflicts with a previously-set trial, you work it out, right? If you have no one to cover for you, the second claim on your time has to accommodate your calendar.
But what happens when you’re pressed to accept an appointment (e.g., a closing, a depo, a case status review) in the absence of a pre-existing, “non-negotiable” commitment?
All too often, you’re willing to accommodate whoever is making the meeting request – even if doing so winds up jamming you up and compromising your control of your schedule. It’s as if because you don’t have one of those immovable commitments in place, your time management skills temporarily evaporate and you feel guilty or fearful about saying No to the request. You want to say No, and you know you probably should say No and offer a time that works for you, for the sake of your effectiveness and sanity, but you accept the other person’s timing anyway.
Obviously, I’m not suggesting that you blithely disregard the urgency of the other party’s request. There are times when the urgency is mutual and in your client’s interest (or in the interest of your firm somehow).
But I am suggesting that you consciously practice looking at your calendar and your upcoming commitments and workflow, and be willing to push back on appointment requests in order to preserve your maximum effectiveness. As a lawyer, time management is a discipline that no one will exercise on your behalf. You have to do it for yourself. Take the extra few seconds to become aware of your mindset in the moment – and then negotiate the appointment from a place of confidence.
It’s very much like exercising a new muscle group. It will feel uncomfortable for a while, but with consistent use, you’ll be stronger for it. Remember, no one else has an interest in abiding by – much less protecting – your schedule. So you have to.