Why Your To-Do List Isn’t Working: How to Get Things Done with Task-Based Management


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Are you looking for systems to manage your tasks better? In this episode of the Maximum Lawyer podcast, Ryan Anderson discusses the concept of task-based management in law firms. 

A lot of people run their business using calendar and email based management. It’s so easy for most because many people use their calendar and email frequently. But, Ryan shares how these methods are not efficient to manage your to do lists. He shares how using task based management systems are the way to go when it comes to staying organized and on top of all your tasks. 

Ryan shares its own platform, FileVine. FileVine is a task based management system that allows you to know what you have to get done for the day and what you have assigned to other people. So many lawyers have a million things to do from meetings to research to court. Having a system that lays everything out is ideal for this type of work. What makes FileVine and other project management systems so great is you remove the “email me” from your language. Most times, people will say “just email me”, but that can get lost in a flurry of other emails and priorities. With these systems, you can say “task me”. This allows you to task things out quickly to other people. If not, you are emailing, calling and messaging multiple people to get things done.

Ryan shares that people should be able to use case management systems with no more than their voice. He announces the creation of a voice interface that FileVine will have. With a voice interface, more tasks and communication will get onto the platform. What this feature does is allow someone to make a call to the platform where an AI bot will answer and ask what you would like to do. Let's say you realize at 10pm that you have to do something right when you get into the office, but you are worried you will forget. Call into the platform and let the AI bot know to leave a task for you and have it added to whatever case file. That way in the morning, you will get a notification that the task is waiting for you.

Listen in to learn more!

Episode Highlights:

  • 00:24 The concept of task-based management
  • 6:31 The benefits of using a task-based management system
  • 11:27 Using task-based management to keep track of important information

🎥 Watch the full video on YouTube here.

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Transcripts: Why Your To-Do List Isn’t Working: How to Get Things Done with Task-Based Management

Speaker 1 (00:00:01) - Run your law firm the right way. The right way. This is the Maximum Lawyer podcast. Podcast. Your hosts, Jim Hacking and Tyson metrics. Let's partner up and maximize your firm. Welcome to the show.

Speaker 2 (00:00:24) - Good afternoon, everybody. I realize I stand between you and the weekend, so I'm going to try and be efficient and effective with my time. And we're actually talking about uses of time today. So this makes a lot of sense. I've decided I want to talk about something I call task based management. And we'll get into it in a second. But before I tell you what I believe task based management is and the way to employ it at your law firm and why it's so important, let's go through some of the things that are not task based management. Some of the ways that I think we currently manage our tasks that are definitely not optimal. First, let's talk about calendar based management. Now who here has said I need to get something done? So I'm going to put it on my calendar.

Speaker 2 (00:01:10) - That is happened to a lot of us, but of course a calendar is an optimized for a to do list it shared, others can see it and it can wind up looking a lot like this. This tells you nothing about the prioritization of your tasks. It tells you nothing about what you need to do next. It tells you nothing about how important the things you maybe don't need to get done that day. Ah, it tells you absolutely nothing about the most important things in your life that day. And yet so many of us default to a calendar based task management system. I'm going to tell you that is a very poor way to run your business and your life. Appointments are not tasks, they are distinct and they are different. A task might come from an appointment, but an appointment is not the same thing as a task. The next is email based management. And my oh my, do lawyers love their email based management? It's easy. We're in our emails a lot of the day. It can be very easy to kind of shoot off an email to somebody else.

Speaker 2 (00:02:15) - There's at least a little bit of context in an email. There's whatever is in the email, plus the subject and the other people involved. And email is the least common denominator. So if you are in this room and you use email to manage your tasks, congratulations, you are doing it in the least good way possible, because everybody can at least do that. If you can't manage your task via email, like at this point, it's 2022, there are some issues going on, but everybody manages their tasks to some degree this way. And it is a problem because what you're doing is you're attempting to manage your tasks again in a place that it wasn't meant for. We have all seen this reply did this get done? The did this get done or what? I like to call the hey, did you get to that thing email right? You send an email to somebody who works with you. Maybe it's a paralegal, maybe it's a partner. Maybe the paralegal is sending you an email, maybe an associate is.

Speaker 2 (00:03:17) - And there's some back and forth. You don't know if it actually got done. And days later you think, oh my gosh, I have no idea if this thing actually happened. And then you get the, hey, did you do this thing email? This happens all the time. The problem with email is not only does it not tell you very much about the context of everything, you need to make the decision, but it doesn't tell you what hasn't been done. In fact, it's one of the key reasons that I built File Vine. I wanted to know not only what do I need to do today, but I want to know if I've assigned something to somebody else. Have they not done it? Because not doing something in law can almost be as important as the doing of the thing. Here's one of my least favorite the first in first out method. I see a lot of lawyers. I talk to a lot of lawyers. The thing they wind up handling is the thing that is right in front of them.

Speaker 2 (00:04:11) - The call that they just took, the email that just came in, the phone call, the text message. Even for some of us, the facts that just came in and all of a sudden we're handling things as they come in. We're not handling things strategically. The first, first in, first out method is a reactive way to handle your tasks. It's not triaged and you will never make progress on your objectives. But still, a lot of us do this. We sit in our office and wait for somebody to approach us with something to do. Which leads me to the last bad way to manage your tasks. And this is the superhero associate partner paralegal firm admin way. Some of you have a firm admin that is special, that you believe can remember all the things that he needs to remember. And so you're constantly saying, just tell Alex and it'll get done. Just tell Alex we need to respond to the interrogatories. Just tell Alex we need to respond to the rfas. Tell them that we should handle this process differently.

Speaker 2 (00:05:17) - Tell them that we need to hire this person or that we need to do this thing. And then the task is out of your lips. It's gone and hopefully it's sitting with Alex and hopefully he will do it. But often Alex does not. And then you are faced again with the situation where you have made a task and the thing that you thought would happen didn't happen. As a lawyer, we are dealing with an incredibly complex set of things to do. Our tasks are important. They are high stakes, and yet we often think through very little about how we assign these tasks out. So what are the features of a task based management system? Well, I think for so many of you, when you're digging out something to do, we've talked about this. You say email me, of course, or all emails somebody else and ask them to do something. For those who are file blind customers, I know that they have picked up task based management when they change the language that they use, instead of I'm going to shoot you an email, or instead of email me when somebody needs you to do something as a partner or a manager at your law firm, you don't say email me, you say task me.

Speaker 2 (00:06:31) - I see this all the time. The very best users. It doesn't have to be file mine of a project management system. Don't say email me. They say task me and why? Why are they saying task me? Because they don't want that email sitting at the top of their email inbox. Because then all of a sudden you'll be you'll have the exact same problem you just did. You will have an email based management problem, a very low context way to understand the problem. You have to handle so great law firms that use their case management software well should be saying task me. And the reason this is true is because there's so much going on in our day. We have to triage the inputs that come in, right? There's email, there's text, there's phone calls, there's pop ins from somebody who thinks that what they have to do matters. Right now. There are so many different things going on, and you can't possibly take in all that information. And so you need to be able to task it out very quickly.

Speaker 2 (00:07:28) - Now, some of you know me, a lot of you know me, and I don't know how many of you know, though, other than these two sitting right up front, just how disorganized I am. So I'm going to tell you a story about me. This is how disorganized I am. I truly believe I might be the most disorganized person you've ever met. Maybe. Maybe the entire world. I fly a lot. My wonderful wife, who is very patient, will sometimes take me to the airport, and she took me to the airport about a year ago. And I get there and I've got my backpack on and I leave. I walk into the airport and then I realize, oh my gosh, I forgot my suitcase. Now that's pretty bad, right? Most people, when they walk into the airport, they forget their suitcase. Like, that's a rare thing. You're going somewhere, you're staying overnight. You need the suitcase. So I call my wife. She comes rushing back to the airport.

Speaker 2 (00:08:20) - I get the suitcase out of the back of the car and I go in. Then I get through security and I realize, oh, I'm going to Canada. I don't have my passport. So then I literally run through security, back out, call my wife. She goes all the way to the house, grabs my passport, and comes back to the airport to give me my passport. That is how disorganized Ryan Anderson is. I built an entire case management system because I am so personally disorganized. So what I have to do, because I have such a hard time organizing the very important tasks that are in my life, just like you all have in your life. I need to make my tasks appear in a trusted system where I know they're going to be there when I need them. If you're using task based management and you say task me in file bin, that task is going to show up in two places. It's going to show up on your task list when you define for it to show up, and it will show up on your feed immediately so you can do something with it.

Speaker 2 (00:09:23) - You can say, okay, I need this information in order to fulfill this task, or I need this person to look at this before I fulfill this task. And I see so many people in file vine making notes, putting their emails in file Vine. But I don't see a lot of this kind of behavior. So here is Austin. Austin is sitting in front of me. We are looking at getting a data scientist for vine, for some AI that we want to apply to some of the data that is in file line and makes make some predictions about things that we do. And so Austin is saying, hey, we've got the data scientists, we've got some people here that we're looking at. And then Austin attaches a job description. I then approve the job description, and then Austin gives me an update. I think in most firms that back and forth discussion is handled in an email. Let me tell you that is a problem. And it's a problem because six months from now or a year from now, instead of that discussion being in your.

Speaker 2 (00:10:22) - Management system. It's going to be in an email and you'll have to go find it. And hopefully that email has enough context for you to remember why you did the thing you did. So if those rfas or those interrogatories have responses in them that are somewhat abnormal for some particular reason, and all you did was go back and forth in email. If you can't find that email, you might not know that reason. But if you went back and forth in File Vine, you will be able to see the history of why you did that thing, why it was important, and why you handled that particular issue in that particular set of interrogatories the right way. So preserving context is incredibly important. Lawyers are often required to go back. Why something happened matters a lot in the law. We have all had a case where we're reading through a pleading where perhaps a claim gets dropped and your client says, hey, why did you drop this? My lost wages claim. And you think, oh my goodness, I don't know, I don't know.

Speaker 2 (00:11:27) - The last lawyer that was handling this case, my associate was handling that issue. I have no idea. Did that lawyer make a note that the employment claim was dropped? Did that lawyer say anything? Is there any record of this? You won't know if it's all sitting in email, if it's sitting in file line, if you use task based management, you will know and it will come back to you when you need it. But for me, the most important thing is just that you use it to begin with, and using a case management system or a project management system can be challenging. It's really challenging. It's challenging for me personally. I know that throughout the day I think of things that need to be done. We're all thinking of things that need to be done in the middle of the night. I have woken up and thought, oh my hell, I have got to file this document by tomorrow. Has anybody ever had that happen to them? I got to file this by tomorrow. You're in bed.

Speaker 2 (00:12:27) - You've got to file something by tomorrow. If you don't file it by tomorrow, your client could sue you. That's a problem. What do we do in that moment? I've done all sorts of weird stuff. I sent myself a text message. I've sent myself an email. I have sent myself a timed slack message. I have written a little sticky note and put it on the fridge so that I know when I grab my drink, it's actually a Diet Coke. Let's be honest, when I grab my Diet Coke in the morning, I see the sticky note and I think, okay, I'm going to file this thing. But it doesn't just happen at night when I'm in bed. It happens when I'm in my car and I think, oh my gosh, I've got to do this. And there's 20 other things going on and I forget to do anything about it. I even have I'm fortunate to have an e.R. But I don't want to call my E.R. at 10:00 at night. I'm not a monster.

Speaker 2 (00:13:17) - I don't want to call my E.R. on the weekend yet. Those kinds of things happen to us all the time. So I have always thought for years, when we started a file vine, that we needed a way to get what was in my head into a trusted system very, very easily. And so at File Vine, we've thought of a lot of ways to do this. We thought. Should we use an app? Should we make file Vine easier? And to be honest, this is a problem that lawyers have been dealing with for a long time. In fact, dictation and digital assistants are a hundred year problem in the law. In fact, I bet some of you in this room still use a dictaphone. There's a reason that you see doctors get out of their offices, and they hop on that dictaphone and say everything that was in their head the minute they get out. Why do they do that? Because they also, just like us, have a high stakes job with big problems that have to be solved and they cannot make a mistake.

Speaker 2 (00:14:28) - But for us, it is very hard to do that kind of a thing. So I has gotten better than it ever has been in the past, and it continues to get better. For a very long time, I believed that you should be able to use your case management system with nothing more than your voice. And today we are announcing in front of this group and nobody else this. You will be the first people to hear about it. The very beginnings of the voice interface we use with File Vine. We think that this will change how you use File Vine because it applies to your tasks. More tasks will get in file vine, which will mean more communication will get in file vine, which will mean that your clients will get the result of better decisions that your paralegals, that you're associates, that your partners will make better decisions because the most important information will be in there right when you need it, when you need it. So we're going to test this live right now. Are we ready? All right.

Speaker 2 (00:15:35) - Okay. So File Vine has developed an AI that you can call again. We thought about this a lot. An application might have worked, but we think a phone call is best because you can do it from anywhere.

Speaker 3 (00:15:51) - Hi, Ryan. Welcome to John. How can I help you.

Speaker 2 (00:15:54) - Make me a task?

Speaker 3 (00:15:57) - I can do that for you. What project should I add this to?

Speaker 2 (00:16:01) - Max con 2022.

Speaker 3 (00:16:05) - I have located the project Max lock on 2022. Who should I leave this task for myself? What task would you like to lead?

Speaker 2 (00:16:16) - Have Jim bring Diet Coke next year.

Speaker 3 (00:16:20) - I have added the following task. Have Jim bring Diet Coke next year. There we go. Sorry, I didn't get that.

Speaker 2 (00:16:28) - All right, there it is. The task in. File in. We hope. For those of you who are Five9 customers, you will use this. And if you're not following customers and you're really adamant about not being Five9 customers, fine, then you should talk to your own case management systems and figure out how they can get this kind of functionality in.

Speaker 2 (00:16:49) - But I'm telling you, the more your tasks are where they need to be, and the closer you can get your brain into a trusted system, the fewer mistakes you'll make and the better your decisions for your clients will be. Thank you everybody. I have a deep appreciation for Max Law con. I want to tell you, I think I told this group a couple of years ago, we negotiated the lead docket purchase at Max Law Con. I was at Max Law Con, I think in the very, the very first one that ever happened. And today to be able to announce it at Max law con means a lot to me. This is an incredible group of people. Jim Tyson my goodness, what an incredible community you've built. Thank you all so much. Have a great weekend everybody.

Speaker 1 (00:17:35) - Thanks for listening to the Maximum Lawyer podcast. Stay in contact with your host and to access more content go to Maximum lawyer.com. Have a great week and catch you next time.

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