Time Blocking for Firm Communication


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Is your firm struggling when it comes to communication? In this episode of the Maximum Lawyer Podcast, Tyson delves into the practice of time blocking for efficient firm communication. 

Many people who work in law firms deal with constant communication. Whether it be through slack, emails or text messages, there are multiple routes that are used to communicate. Staying connected is great, but the non-stop messages can be a problem for productivity. Tyson provides a few tips for using time blocking to help with communication. One tip is for law firms to block time for office hours. If you have one hour a day dedicated to office hours, this allows for staff to drop in and ask whatever questions they need instead of sending constant messages throughout the day.

Time blocking can be used for focused work as well and can be adjusted to fit how you work best. If you find you're more focused in the morning, block a chunk of time from 9am-12pm. That way you can reserve the afternoon for meetings or other tasks. Some people work better in smaller blocks in which blocking a few one hour blocks throughout the day is better. It is important to communicate and enforce time blocking to your team so your firm can be more efficient.

Listen in to learn more!

Episode Highlights:

  • 2:15 Designated three sets of office hours to manage communication
  • 5:11 Providing flexibility through designated office hours
  • 9:27 Scheduling structured meetings for detailed discussions 
  • 10:11 The benefits of time blocking for focused work time


Transcripts: Time Blocking for Firm Communication

Tyson (00:01.354)
Hey, it's Tyson. I'm back with another Saturday episode and this one's going to be a good one. Not that all of them aren't good ones, but I do like this one. We're going to be talking about time blocking for firm communication. So it's another way of time blocking, a way that many of you may not have thought about, but we're going to talk in a little bit of detail about that and the inspiration about that. But before I get into that,

I want to remind everyone that if you've not yet gotten your hands on maximum lawyer and minimum time, make sure you do. Time is running out on that, but this is typically exclusive only to our Guild members and we're going to give it to you for free. We're going to give you stage one for free. If you just text the words stage one, or you can text stage and then number one, either one of those will work, but text stage one to 314501.

9 2 6 0, and you'll get that right away. All right, so the main challenge that we saw at our firm was the constant communication and those of you that have Slack or something similar, we use something called Click, it was a massive problem where you're getting inundated by information.

And it's not just, we'll use Slack as an example. It's not just the Slack message that you would get every five minutes or so, but you're also getting text messages, you're getting phone calls, the emails are coming in, people are interrupting you in your office. There's a lot of different things that are going on and it is just a constant barrage, it's like you're putting out a wildfire and they keep popping up all over the office, it can be extremely.

disruptive. And this is the same problem in any law firm. It's that constant communication. And it is really that double-edged sword where staying connected is absolutely vital. And it's great to be able to connect with each other, but it's the nonstop messages and interruptions that fragment your work and prevent you from being productive and getting the work done that needs to be…

Tyson (02:28.874)
be done. For those of you that know Cal Newport, he wrote deep work, but he also wrote the genesis for why we started implementing office hours, a world with that email. You're unable to do that essential work, that deep work, because you're so distracted all the time. You're not ever able to really get into it and get the work done. And that's why we…

went to our approach that we've taken, and that is office hours. Okay. So what we've done is we've designated three sets of office hours. We've practiced with this a little bit before we just had one block. And it's not even an hour. We have it set for 15 minutes. It's a 15 minute block. We've expanded that a little bit.

it's because we wanted to give people a little bit more flexibility. This is in addition to our huddle. We also have weekly meetings and all that. So this is in addition to that, but this is a time where we allowed everyone to communicate. We also had it where initially, and I think that this was a mistake, but we had each team had their own set of office hours. And the thinking was that, oh,

That way that team will always be available at that time and people will know to get to them. But the reality is it just didn't work because sometimes people had court and depots and they'd never be able to talk to the people they needed to. So that's why we switched over to the one set office hours. We have that because we have people all over the world. We have that at 1245 central time is the main, we call that the mandatory office hours. Then we have two sets of optional office hours, one at 845, which is right after our huddle and that's till nine o'clock. And then.

one at 3.45 PM central time. That's for another 15 minutes. And those are optional. You turn your light on and we have a little option and click that shows you're available, so you make mark yourself available. And if you're available at that time, people can reach out to you. If not, then you don't. But it's been just absolutely just a change in workflow. That's been fantastic. You tell them about bringing stress levels down substantially.

Tyson (04:50.066)
productivity has increased substantially. We have since implementing this started selling 25% more cases. So if you just use that benchmark alone, it's been a massive success. So it's pretty good. All right. So why, let's talk about into the, get into the why a little bit about this. Cause you might be wondering why would we just have the one block mandatory? Why would we even do this in the first place? Let's talk about the mandatory block. It's really simple.

It's just the one, just having the one block, right? Not multiple blocks that are mandatory. And it really is simple. It comes down to providing that flexibility for our teams that they can have that at least one guaranteed time a day where they can reach out to people that they need to. But it gives them the flexibility that also they can schedule around that. Everyone knows those times are, it's a sacred time. You can't put anything over the top of it, but it gives them flexibility to

have those other two times as options to meet if they need to as well and collaborate whenever they need to. But that is having that set time, it's crucial because then everyone knows that's a guaranteed time that they can reach out to me or someone else to get an answer on something. And you might be wondering, well, what about urgent issues? My response to that is most issues are not urgent, but sometimes there are things.

that do come up, for example, a client is looking for the office for her deposition. Things like that, you can reach out. Items like that are absolutely okay to reach out about. Most everything else, you hold onto it. And what we've found is that most of the issues that come up, so if you have something that comes up, people figure it out. So, you know, I'm thinking I need to talk to Tyson about this.

And so, oh, I can't, I'm not going to be able to talk to them until 1245, or they can schedule a message for me is what they can do. So you can click, you can schedule messages, same thing you can do in Slack, you can schedule a message. But what normally happens is people say, oh, let me see if I can figure this out now. They figure it out, the work is done. And if they can't figure it out, they put it on the list of things to bring up to me during that office hour. I usually get a couple of messages a day. It is…

Tyson (07:16.726)
It is, you have to create a little bit of friction and this is something that Cal Newport talks about in the book. You got to create a little bit of friction between the person that wants to send the communication and the person receiving the communication. And this is our little bit of friction. So it doesn't prevent them from sending it, but it makes them pause and think about it because a big part of the problem is this wasn't a problem before email came about.

And the reason why is because people would have to walk down the hall to talk to Jerry or talk to Joe. And they no longer have to get up and walk down the hall to talk to Jerry or Joe. What they can now do is they can send off an email or a message. And when it comes to Slack or Click, they can send off a message, it takes them 10 seconds, but it takes the other person an hour of work to complete. And you want to create that friction.

so that doesn't happen. It's a very, very powerful tool. It's something that has been very, very effective for us. So here's how, let's get into a little bit more about the details. We want to, we always encourage with these that you try to reach out to do either a video message and you can, there's a few different ways, but the best…

is obviously in person for the people that are in person. If you want to go talk to that person in person, that's great. Because you lose a lot of the context and you want to prevent the actual just the text. So just sending a text message where, what I mean, a text-based message via Slack. Because what happens, as many of you all know what I'm talking about once I start to explain this more, when you send that…

The other person says, well, they don't quite understand what you mean because maybe your message isn't so clear. So you then spend the next 10 minutes or more messaging back and forth and back and forth to get context. Instead, so if you kind of look at the hierarchy, you know, best is in person so you can get those context clues, but context clues. Below that, you'd say, okay, you do a video call with them. Step below that's a phone call. Step below that's a video message.

Tyson (09:34.026)
step below that's an audio message, and then step below that's an actual text-based message. There are some downsides when it comes to video messages and audio messages, the downsides are you can't search them, they're not searchable. So keep that in mind if it's something that you think that they need to have in there that they can search for, that's one of those things you're gonna wanna factor in. But during the time they reach out, if they're able to get ahold of you, maybe you're talking to somebody else, that's fine, they can call you back. But in click it tells us if we missed a call from someone

and you'll call them back when we're done. But it's great. It's a very effective tool that during the office hours, we can get what we need to, boom, that 15 minute block's done, and then you can get back to doing your work. It's really, really effective. And if it's something that takes, if we think it's gonna take longer than five minutes, you schedule a meeting with the person. That way, the person can be ready for it. It's gonna be a structured meeting, and you can get more done. They can, because if it takes more than five minutes, that means it's…

probably something that's fairly detailed that needs to be thought out a little bit. And whenever the meeting's scheduled, you put in the calendar what it's about, what they need to prepare for, and they're ready for it. It's a really handy tool. So hopefully some of you all will get something from this. There are several advantages. You got that focused work time. Outside the time blocks, everyone can really do that deep dive into the work that they need to get done without having to worry about getting interrupted all the time. You don't have to worry about those dings and the…

a little blurb showing up in their, on their icon that says that they've got a message. There's efficient communication, you know, having those specific times, making sure that you're able to reach out to someone and they're going to answer at that time really handy instead of, you know, making phone calls back and forth and just you got a lot of flexibility and the, and the availability of people. Cause you do have those designated times. I personally attend the office hours. I can tell you firsthand that they are way faster.

or they're faster at allowing us to communicate as a team. They foster a culture of respect for each other's time and the work that they're doing. And it really helps strike that balance between being accessible and maintaining that uninterrupted work time. All right, I will just tell you, just to kind of wrap things up, implementing the office hours and time blocking for communication, it's something I highly recommend. I don't always recommend everything that we tried.

Tyson (12:01.198)
There's many times things that we've tried that have not worked, but I can tell you this, we've gone through a few different iterations of this. We'll never get rid of it. It's something that we'll always keep. We may adjust it more to make things better, but it is one of the most important things you could do. I promise you that. It's really, really effective. You just have to make sure you're very ruthless about it and enforce it. You got to tell people, the ones that aren't abiding by office hours, you got to call them out for it. But.

Otherwise it is just absolutely amazing. So give it a try in your firm. Hopefully you'll get something from it. As a reminder, if you want me to cover something on the Saturday show, just shoot me a text message. I'm happy to cover it if I can. 314-501-926-0. And I would love to hear from you. Until next week, remember that consistent action is the blueprint that turns your goals into reality. Take care.

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