Our cell phones are our lifelines and, in many cases, we need them to communicate with clients and for other work-related tasks. It can become too easy to allow our phones to become the most important part of our workdays. But in actual fact, your phone should be used as a tool and not as something you’re a slave to. The time spent on calls can be reduced by properly planning your calls and by not allowing your calls to become a time crutch.

1. Turn Off Your Phone

You need your phone for communication, but you have to manage your phone, not the other way around. One thing you can do to avoid taking unnecessary calls throughout the day is by simply turning off your phone. Change your message to reflect your busy status so that callers are aware of when you will be checking messages and returning calls.

The same applies to your office phone. Use the “do not disturb” feature or forward your calls directly to voicemail for periods of time while you are busy with important tasks. This allows you to better manage your time without interruptions. Then you can return client phone calls at an appropriate time when you don’t need to rush through them.

Related post: If you are forced to share or send an important email over your phone, consider these “5 Rules for drafting emails on Your Smart Device”.

2. Stop Switching Tasks

Every time you stop a task in the middle and start another one, you are losing time. Most of the time is lost on trying to catch back up to where you left off on the original task. Therefore, switching tasks in the middle is a terrible waste of time. According to Law Technology Today, task-switching accounts for almost half of your wasted time during the day.

Luckily, it is something that you can prevent for the most part by setting some rules for how you manage your time throughout the day. Resolve to spend 20 minutes on each task without interruption. You can use a timer to help get you started. Allow yourself to focus on just one project for the entire period of time before doing anything else.

3. Block Out Time for Calls

Rather than taking calls and returning messages immediately when they occur, try to block out a period of time to do these tasks. For example, when you return from lunch, check your messages and prioritize them. Then make callbacks at a particular time in the afternoon. This gives you power over your calls rather than taking them one at a time as they come in. It also allows you to determine how to best handle each call ahead of time so you don’t have to keep stopping what you’re doing and switch gears. Making client phone calls when there is nothing to report or before you have enough information can be a waste of time that you can’t afford to lose. It is helpful to provide callers with specific information about when you will be checking messages and returning calls. Change your phone message to reflect your current status. For example, leave a message that indicates you will be returning calls after 2pm. This provides callers with specific information so they don’t expect a returned call immediately.

4. Manage Your Own Calls

If you are simply taking calls as they come in, you are allowing others to manage your time. Take control of your time by managing your own calls. A recent survey published by Mobile Statistics found that the average American spends the equivalent of 23 days a year on their phones. This equals almost 4 years in an average person’s life. You use your phone for a myriad of functions, including as a clock and alarm. With so many apps available today there are thousands of things your phone can do for you in any given day, but this is incredibly distracting. So…

5. Remove Distractions

When you have your phone sitting on your desk you tend to check it constantly. You will find that you end up becoming easily distracted by spending time doing personal things. However, your phone is actually one distraction that you have complete control over.

It is essential that you stop using your phone for other functions throughout the day. If you start viewing videos or looking at text messages, you can easily lose your concentration. All the time you spend looking at your phone throughout the day adds up, even if it’s just for a few minutes at a time. You’ll lose a lot more time than that as you return to your task at hand.

6. Screen Your Calls

When you’re working in the office, try screening your calls. Do not automatically take every call that comes to your desk. If you have an administrative assistant, instruct him or her on how to gather information on incoming calls so you can return client phone calls later. If a client insists on speaking with you, offer a callback time that is best for you. This gives you time to work on your immediate tasks without interruption.

7. Invest In a Smartwatch

In the interest of screening your calls, a new smartwatch around your wrist could help you greatly.

How often does this happen? Your phone buzzes, you take it out of your pocket thinking it could be an important message, just to discover a non-relevant office memo, spam mail, or a non-urgent text message? The natural reaction is to sigh in frustration, put your phone back in your pocket, and wait for the next alert.

When you are equipped with a smartwatch, these alerts show up conveniently on your wrist. This allows you to screen the messages you get at a glance. Rather than pulling your phone every few minutes, you will only take out your smart device when it matters. You’d be surprised how much you will appreciate removing this seemingly innocuous annoyance.

Related post: Today’s mobile lawyer rely heavily on their smart devices. See how you can extend your phone’s battery life in this blog.

8. Follow the Rules

Most workplaces have rules in place for cell phone use. The rules are usually more relaxed at law firms because you often have to use your device for client phone calls. However, if there are rules in place for cell phone use during the day, each attorney needs to be accountable for his or her time during the workday. While this can’t always be monitored, expectations should be communicated. Limiting cell phone use to eliminate personal calls and texts can help lawyers better manage their time and avoid using the phone as a time crutch.

Time is a resource that lawyers simply do not have enough of. It’s important that we make the best use of our time. More more helpful tips and tricks to manage your time, stay tuned to the Infoware blog and learn more about how our suite of legal document software products can help increase your overall efficiency