Managing client demands, meeting deadlines, and maintaining work-life balance can feel like monumental tasks during the “most wonderful time of the year.” It may be tempting to let certain admin tasks slide, but it’s actually more important than ever to stay organized and efficient.
How do you thread that needle, though? You can start by tracking your time.
Don’t let it be a drag on your schedule. Track time quickly and easily with the tools you need to maximize your efficiency and minimize headaches as you head into the new year.
How time tracking helps you get your billable hours in
You might already know that tracking billable hours helps you streamline invoicing, set profitable rates, and correctly allocate resources.
But it can do more—time tracking can also help you manage your time better during this season with proper time management.
Estimate time for matters: When time is at a premium, you need to know how long tasks will take to complete. Accurate and consistent time tracking gives you a historical view of how long matters take and how to prioritize billable hours.
- Reduce unnecessary tasks: If attorneys are managing heavy caseloads and still trying to get quality time with their families during the holiday season, don’t overload them with additional tasks. Time tracking can identify unnecessary processes or tasks (or simply ones that can wait until later), especially ones that aren’t billable.
- Set expectations: Don’t get overwhelmed by a busy schedule. Knowing how much billable time is required for different matters helps you set and manage your expectations for your workload. Establish time budgets for projects to make expectations clear across the board.
- Manage time creep: It happens to all of us. You start out on what seems to be a simple project, and before you know it, you’ve lost hours. But when you track time (especially against time budgets), you can set up reminders to keep you on target with billable and non-billable hours for different client matters.
Three steps for using time tracking to get in your billable hours
Make billable hours easier to fit in during the holiday season with these three proven strategies.
1. Categorize billable and non-billable tasks
Time tracking isn’t just a straightforward log of billable hours—it provides a comprehensive understanding of how time is distributed across your entire workflow. But you only get that comprehensive view if you track non-billable hours, too.
Tracking your billable and non-billable tasks alike offers insights into all your firm’s processes. For example, if you’re feeling a crunch with end-of-the-year accounting tasks, you can review how much time it took last year to complete. If you see a trend, consider outsourcing parts of the work to free up time for billable hours.
It can also help to make a list of all the non-billable tasks typically required and prioritize them. While non-billable hours are essential to running a law firm, you may be able to delay some projects until after the busy season.
2. Use integrated time-tracking tools
While it’s possible to track time without a software solution, doing it the old-fashioned way often leads to extra hours spent at the end of the week logging your time instead of focusing on billable tasks.
If you’re still tracking time manually, you run the risk of losing hours in the shuffle or making mistakes on invoices that could lead to a loss of client trust and valuable business.
Instead of dealing with client confusion and other headaches, try leveraging integrated time-tracking tools. The right time-tracking solution will provide tools that seamlessly integrate with your current tech stack to help you keep time in real time.
Make a firm-wide policy on time tracking and make it known to all team members, with regular refreshers to remind everyone of best practices.
3. Create a plan for time management
Beyond simply tracking billable and non-billable hours, law firms need a concrete plan for optimizing their overall time usage and keeping their teams on task and moving forward.
Be sure to follow these steps to create a great time management plan for your firm:
Prioritize tasks based on urgency and importance
Identify tasks that require immediate attention and those crucial for long-term goals. Consider using a priority matrix to categorize your tasks into quadrants based on urgency and importance.
Set realistic deadlines
Create achievable deadlines for each task, and be sure to account for the complexity and priority of the work. Communicate deadlines clearly to your team to ensure everyone is on the same page when it comes to understanding when the work needs to be completed.
Encourage effective communication
When creating your time management plan, you and your team must have consistent, clear communication for any tasks that may be assigned so that nothing slips through the cracks.
You can do this by fostering a culture of open communication within your team and using legal-specific collaboration tools to create the ability for the rapid exchange of information and reduce the possibility of delays or missed deadlines.
Regularly review and adjust strategies
The saying “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” isn’t something any law firm should have as its mantra for tracking time and workflow strategy.
It’s vital to regularly review your processes so you can see what’s working and what needs to be improved. Involve your team members in the conversation so that you can benefit from their feedback.
Finish your year in the clear with Tabs3
If you’re looking for a solution that will take the heavy lifting out of tracking your billable hours and keep your law firm on the path to success, Tabs3 should be at the top of your wishlist.
Tabs3 Software has the tools your firm needs to succeed, including:
- Legal billing to help your firm get invoices out quickly and easily
- Credit card processing to streamline payments
- Trust accounting with compliance safeguards
- Dashboards to monitor your accounts payable and general ledger
- Legal client relationship management software to help you track leads and gain clients
- Matter manager to keep your team organized