It’s a Newsletter!!!


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Hello all.  There is no post this week only because I’m working on getting the newsletter set up to go out on the 28th of February….. Not much time left and I want to make sure I dot all my i’s and cross all my t’s (easier sentence to say than to write).

I am also working on some research regarding how the paralegal profession will be impacted by all the machine learning that we keep hearing about.  The past couple of months this has been the topic of conversation around the office and recently, while working with one of the paralegals on my team to set up her goals for the year this question came up.  Let me ask you, is this something you are thinking about?  What is your number one concern?  How are you preparing for when the time comes?

Anyway, the newsletter comes out on the 28th and the next post will be out on Saturday.  Sorry about the confusing schedule but I’m hoping to get things back to normal as I get myself ahead a bit.

Have an awesome week and I will see you soon.  Please if you are not subscribed to email list, do so now so you can get the newsletter in your inbox.

Thanks again

Ana

 

What is Calendar Blocking


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Last week I published a post about my travels into calendar blocking.  It’s been a struggle but one that I am pretty sure I’m going to win… or better yet that I AM winning.

I didn’t realize, until I was speaking with some of you on Facebook last night that some of you may not be familiar with calendar blocking and I think it’s worth sharing here what it is and how I use it.  I hope you try it and if you do please let me know how it’s working out for you.  I’d love to hear.

what is calendar blocking?

Calendar blocking is taking the things you have to do and putting them on a calendar so as to give them a designated time to be done.  I know we all have heard that the only things that should go on a calendar are events.  If you really think about it, aren’t to-dos or tasks things that need to happen?  and if they need to happen, in my mind they are events.  If I need to get something done I have to make sure that I have time in my schedule to get it done.

Things on a to do list are great.  I love my to do lists and I love being able to cross them off at the end of the day.  I feel so productive when I look back and see all the check off marks.  As great as I feel about looking at my checked off items on my to do list at times I can make myself crazy with the amount of things I think I can actually get accomplished.  Having a very large to do list makes me overwhelmed and honestly drives my husband insane because I can be very compulsive and feel like I need to accomplish everything on the same day.  Some things are more important than others and not everything on that list needs to get done….. Get a grip Ana…..

By taking those things on the list and placing them in time slots on my calendar/schedule I can actually see how many things I can actually accomplish.  It also makes me assess the list and actually figure out what it is that I NEED to do and what are things that perhaps can wait a few more days or sometimes even months.  Figuring out my priorities at the end of each day help keep me productive and keep the needle moving forward without driving myself and those around me completely insane.  It also helps me with making sure that I don’t burn out….. and in a way keep some sense of work/life balance (if that’s what you call it).

How I calendar block!

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On a weekly basis I review my goals and my calendar both for work and personal and begin plugging in things that I know are going to happen.  For example, I know that every Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday, I have to get up at a certain time and be out of the house in order to catch the train by a certain time.  So that goes on my calendar as recurring appointments.

  • Wake up
  • shower and get ready
  • coffee and morning pages
  • leave the house
  • Train

I also know what time I have to catch the train at night and what time I get home.  That also goes on my calendar as a recurring appoint.  Then I add any hair appointments or doctors’ appointments that may be coming up.  At this point the calendar is a bit fuller and I can see where I have time to plug in other things.

I know I want to read and review at least one book per month so I try to schedule reading time.  I also know that I want to make sure I have time with my husband so I schedule time with my husband.  I know that part does not sound very romantic but honestly it’s less romantic if you wind up not having time for your husband if you are all over the place trying to get through your to do list.

On a daily basis I review my schedule at the end of each day and prepare for the next day.  I know it sounds a bit much but doing this at the end of each day allows me to reschedule anything I know I won’t be able to get to as well as make sure that any appointments that were originally scheduled in the beginning of the week have not been canceled or changed.  We know things change often so having this time at night to review makes sense to me.  It also allows me to get things out of my brain so that I’m not thinking about them when I’m trying to sleep.  I really like sleep and if I can help not have that interrupted you better believe I’m going to do whatever it takes to achieve that goal :).

I also have a full-time job and as we all know meetings and court dates get rescheduled often which in turn may mean that doing that one thing tomorrow may not make sense anymore so why not replace it with something that may be more urgent?

Why Calendar Block?

Calendar blocking is not new.  Ben Franklin actually used it.  Maybe he wasn’t as anal as I am and kept things more general, but nonetheless he saw the importance of scheduling things.  If you want to keep things more general like Ben and if that’s what makes sense to you, by all means.  You should arrange and develope your own form of calendar blocking.  The goal is to help you achieve your goals and be happier and more relaxed.  Hey, it worked for Ben!

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Have you heard of Parkinson’s Law?  it’s not really a law but it might as well be.  The “law” states that “work expands to fill the time allotted.  To me this means that if I don’t schedule a time to complete a task I’m going to be working on that task for as long as I want…. or as long as I allow myself.  When will I know that I’m done and I need to move on?  I don’t so I just keep going.

Have you sat in a meeting that seemed to go on forever?  That is the perfect example of the law in action.  Digressing for a bit here.  I have started scheduling my meetings for only 30 minutes.  if we need more time then I find time on the calendars for another 30 minute session but I have realized that if I schedule an hour we will talk in circles for the full hour and other work is not getting done.  We can more often than not accomplish our goal in 30 minutes.

The same is true for your to do list.  When you allow yourself all day to do the things on the to do list more often than not the tasks will take longer because there’s really nothing telling your brain to stop the task.  Your brain, at least my brain, feels like I can just take my time.  By putting that task/appointment on my calendar I know that I have a limited amount of time to get the thing done.  If I want to achieve a goal then I’m going to make sure that I get that done because right after that there will be other things on the calendar that are just as important to me.

Yes, I schedule time for a bubble bath, relaxing time and television time and I make sure I stick to it by setting alerts to remind me that it’s time to get to the next task.  Go ahead, laugh….. my husband does so far this is keeping me on track.  Calendar blocking has helped me greatly in being able to achieve my goals and I’m sure it’s going to help me achieve my goals in the future.

Some things I’ve achieved with calendar blocking (just for your reference)

  • I began working at one of the largest financial institutions in the world;
  • Received a promotion within two years;
  • Started Paralegal Organization at that institution in 2016;
  • Expanded the Organization to our international offices in 2017;
  • Started working with non-profits to organize local events for fundraising;
  • Another promotion and lead a team in 2018;

I am not saying all this to impress you.  Believe me, it’s been a whole lot of hard work. I am sharing this to show you that if you want to make things happen the best way to do it is to make sure it’s on your calendar and that you are dedicating as much time to it as you can possibly do.  If it’s important to me, it’s going to be on my calendar.  You better believe that.

How do you achieve your goals?  What’s your secret?

Thanks for reading!

Ana

 

 

 

Calendar Blocking or To Do List?


I do both — How do I do both?  Well let me tell you how it works?

Calendar Blocking!!!!!

Are you sick of hearing about calendar blocking?  It seems like everyone is talking about this these days.  When I first started hearing about this I was sure it was going to be great.  I immediately took out my calendar and began blocking time to do things.  It was great.  it was like my to-do list came to life.  It felt as if everything I needed to do completely fit in one day.  By the end of the day I had realized that maybe I had put too many things on my calendar and I felt as if I was running like a chicken with my head cut off and to accomplish everything.  I felt rush most of the day and even though I think I was very productive I really didn’t have much to look back on.  There were things that had been moved and now I didn’t know if they would have been crossed off and there were things that just remained but I really had not finished them.  It was a mess and my brain felt tired.

I gave up and went back to my tried and true method of having a to do.  Which If I’m going to be truly honest it is not ideal either but it seemed to work for what I needed.  I like to see how much I accomplished.  I get a sense of accomplishment from crossing things off.

In the midst of this frustration I had an idea……..

It doesn’t have to be one or the other

What a concept!!! Just recently I realized that it does not have to be one or the other.  The calendar blocking method works with the to do method perfectly well.

This past month I have been keeping a master task list where I jot down all the things I want to accomplish and then on set times (weekly and daily at the end of the month I plan on doing a monthly review as well) I open up my calendar and the to do list next to each other and start figuring out what will fit in my schedule for that week or for that day.

Why I use both the “to-do list” and the calendar blocking methods?

The To Do List:  I like to cross things off and know what I did throughout the day.  one of the downfalls of the calendar block was that if I did not get to something I would move it forward to a different day or a different time but there was never that pleasure of crossing it off it was done.  It began to feel like I wasn’t doing much.  I know I can go and look back at my calendar is see all the things but that just wasn’t enough for me.  If you are like me and you like not see things crossed off, the calendar method can feel anticlimactic.  It doesn’t have to, though.

The Calendar Blocking Method:  The thing I found most frustrating about the to do list is that I was not able to figure out how much time I would have each day and sometimes I would start with things that I thought would take less time in order to get more things done.  Good plan right?  But what if the thing takes longer than expected?  what if you misjudge and then the most important thing doesn’t get done because it was actually the thing that was going to take a bit more time but because you thought the other thing was going take less time you prioritized that one other thing first not leaving you any time to complete the one thing that was really the most important?  Ugh!!!! did this make any sense?  let me know if this doesn’t make sense and I will try to clarify it.

How do you do it?  How do you plan and organize your day?  What is working for you?  Do you use a calendar blocking method, a to do list or both?  Or none?  Let me know.  I would love to hear from you.

In the mean time, be well and I will see very soon, I hope.

Ana

Promoting Others in the Field and Other Changes on the Blog


I know it’s been a long time since I got on here and chatted with you all.  My days at the office have been really long and by the time I get home the last thing I want to do is turn on my computer again and write more.  Most nights I feel like I don’t even have the brain power to put a coherent sentence together much less a whole new article.

I have been working with some of my readers to put together a series of writings by you, the readers.  In a few weeks there will be an article posted written by a paralegal at a law firm in Florida.  My goal with this blog has always been to promote the profession and the professionals.  As paralegals, we can use all the help we can get to tell others about us and about what we do.  So, if you want to be featured and and tell others about you, what you do, what you like or not like about the profession, please send me an article and we can work together to highlight you and your achievements.

This blog is written for you and now it’s also written by you.  I’m super excited about this new series and look forward to learning about each and every one of my readers.

Thank you all so much for your support all these years and for you patience when life gets the best of me and I go missing for a few months.  I will try to be better but right now I’m not sure I can promise an article every day.

Another thing I’m thinking about is to do a new feature about how manage my time, plan my day and organize my crazy busy life.  Between my fundraising (I am currently working on a non-profit for women and girls), my day job (working at the legal department of the financial firm), my personal life (which honestly has taken a back seat) and this blog (which is so far list) and my planner creations (I’m a paper person and I really love planners and planner functional decorations) I have a lot of balls up in the air.  Sometimes things fall through the cracks and I’ve learned that I cannot beat myself up for allowing that to happen once in a while.  All I can do is make sure that when I do something I do it well and I’m providing a benefit to someone.  If I can accomplish that I declare it a win.

So, the next couple of weeks you will some changes, some additions in the format of the posts and maybe some added pages to encompass all these areas of my life in one spot.  I think that will make it easier.  I will ensure that I keep them all in separate categories so as to not make you read things you are not interested in reading.

Looking forward to being back more often and engaging with you all more one on one basis.  I do hope you get involved.

Thank you

Ana

Work Life Balance – My Thoughts on it


Let me just get this out of the way…… THERE’S NO SUCH THING.  Work life balance is a pretty statement someone made up to fool us into chasing something that will forever elude us.

I realize the above statement is a bit negative.  Not meant to be at all.  There is a balance but it is not what we have been thought to believe.  No one is saying that if you are a working woman or man you will never have a life.  Of course you will.  Work is life…. it is part of life so right there it is part of the juggling act we all have to do.

As a working woman, for the most part of my adult life I have learned that I can find happiness (another term that annoys me) but that it’s not going to be a 50/50 outcome.  When something is going on outside of work which demands my attention, work will have to wait while I finish whatever it is that I’m doing.  Then I need to focus on work and other things will have to suffer.

Both my parents worked.  My mother chose to not be a stay at home mom and my father was super supportive.  They went to work every day but weekends were dedicated to the family.  We spent all vacations together – there was never a time that my mother went off on her own, although I’m sure if she needed to do it we would have all support her decision and she would have done that in order to bring balance to herself so she could be the best mom – and she was.

So here is my view….. Be the best you can be in everything you choose to do.  If you are a stay at home mom or wife (not everyone has children) that’s fine.  You, also have a life outside of that home and outside of the family.  Know that in order to be the best mom and best wife you can be, you have to put yourself first.  It’s not selfish, it’s the truth.  Even on airplanes they tell you to adjust your mask first.  Without taking care of yourself you are in no condition to take care of anyone else.  If you, instead, choose to have a career outside the home, know that the decision is yours to make and you are not taking anything away from anyone (i.e. your husband and/or your children).  Also, realize that you are also not forced to give your job your best and save the rest for the family.  We always say that family comes first – true, family should come first and if there is a life or death situation you should pick family first but like everything else – depends on the family right?  In my mind, it never depends on the job!!!! Just saying.

Sometimes work must come first.  For example – let’s say you and your family have just gotten home from an amazing vacation away.  You’re back at work and you have to catch up on emails, that report that waited until you were back – My view is that work, that week would take precedence over my family.  I would, obviously, let everyone know that if something happened or they needed me for some special reason I would put work aside to be with them, but under normal circumstances, that week was a dedicated “work comes first” week.

Nothing in life is 50/50.  I think the balance is in knowing when to let something take second place in order to focus on the issue that needs to take first place in our lives.

This is the lesson that has taken me years (50 to be precise) to learn.  Let go of the fantasy that I can be the best wife, sister, employee, manager, etc. all at the same time.  Sometimes I will suck at being a wife and sometimes I will suck at being a manager or an employee.

The thing that I can never suck at is at being me.

Paralegals – How to Organize a File


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Being organized is one of the things paralegals are called upon to do well.  We have to be able to find all things at a moment’s notice.  So to have a place for everything and everything in it’s place is a must for all of us.  In the  February Newsletter  I am starting a “Being and Staying Organized” series so make sure you sign up for more tips and tricks.

Most offices where you will be working or are currently working, have file cabinets labeled from A – Z along a wall in the hallway or sometimes inside a file room.  I even worked in an office where each paralegal kept a file cabinet in his/her own office with the files they handled.  The file cabinets are filled to the brim with large files which are also known as red wells,  in alphabetical order, by client name.  This is usually consistent across the industry and good thing too, because it makes it easy for everyone to know how to find the files and most of the time, unless the filing gets backed up, how to find the documents needed within a particular file.

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A red well is a large cardboard folder/pocket where you keep all the STUFF that goes along with a particular subject matter.  Think of a folder that you carry with you in school where you store all the syllabus and documents you receive from the professor.  When you open up a red well, you should be able to quickly find all the paper which relates to the subject matter you’re working on…. In the case of a paralegal in a law firm the red well should contain all the documents relating to a particular client.  Making sure these “pockets” the red wells stay organized and up to date is your job in most law firms.  A great way to ensure you are not going to get a call on your day off when your attorney or the paralegal taking over for you while you’re on vacation need to find something is to keep these files up to date and organized.

It’s important to keep in mind that there are things that never change from file to file.  Meaning that no matter where you’re working or what type of law you practice, there are things that you will always be able to find in a file.  However, there are nuances about filing systems that each law firm will have and to which you will have to adapt but those will be, or at least should be, part of your on-boarding and therefore nothing for you to have to worry about right now.

A typical file will have the following contents:

1. Correspondence folder
2. Notes folder
3. Memos folder

Then, depending on the type of law you practice, there will be other folders with which you will have to be familiar.    For example if you practice litigation you will need a pleadings folder, a motions folder.  Personally I like to have a folder for each motion – I will explain this in detail during my upcoming Paralegal Master Class  in a few short months.  For now feel free to subscribe to the Newsletter and I’ll make sure you get all the updates regarding the newsletter and my upcoming Paralegal Master Class.

Let’s put aside the type of law you practice and let’s instead look at the typical file, which is half the battle.

Correspondence Folder

I like to keep this file in chronological order starting at the bottom.  Eventually, you will probably have more than one correspondence folder so I like to number them “Correspondence 1 (date from – date to)” and then start a “Correspondence 2 (also with the dates).”  This helps me make sure that when I’m looking for something within a particular date range, I don’t have to pull all the files out of the red wells.  I can go to the one that I’m looking for and search in there.  Also, the reason I like to keep the oldest correspondence at the bottom is because more often than not the stuff you will be looking for is not going to be super old so it’s just easier to flip through less pages.

So what do I consider correspondence?  Anything that is a communication from one party to another.  Not sure letters from the client to you or from the experts or the court.  I consider anything that communicates one party’s actions to another party to be communication.  See my February Newsletter for reasons further tips.

The Notes Folder

This folder is pretty self explanatory.  Here you should keep anything that relates to any notes you take.  Who knows, you may be reviewing a report from an expert and find something that you think may lead you to something you want to add to an interrogatory question. Write it down and put it in the notes folder.  Make sure you add the date on the note and, again, file everything in chronological order.  Maybe even put a little tab sticking out so you can be reminded when drafting your interrogatories.

Did you just sit down with the lawyer to talk through some ideas and strategies about this particular file?  Make sure that once you get back to your desk you take out your notes and clean them up and insert them in the notes file, again with the date so you can be reminded.  I also use these notes to create my to-do lists on the various files.

Did you just get a call from an expert or from a witness and wrote down some notes?  Make sure you insert the date and put in the notes file…. You get the idea….. Any time you create a note, make sure you add the date and put it in the notes file.

See my February Newsletter for more information and tips on Notes Files

Memos Folder

Sometimes things that we do generate memos. For example, if you attend a deposition with the lawyer you will probably be asked to summarize your thoughts and what happened in the deposition so that the lawyer can get a view from a different perspective.  Most of the time that’s why paralegals attend depositions.  As someone who does not have to be asking the questions, the paralegal is able to see things that lawyers may not see because they are busy asking the questions and trying to follow up with another question.

Anything with write up for your lawyer’s review about the case you should date and include in the memo’s section.

When I drafted a summary of a medical record I would print out two copies and one copy would go into my memos folder and the other into a folder for that particular medical provider.

See my February Newsletter for more information and tips on the Memos file.

 

Top 5 Books I want to Read in 2018


Non-Fiction Edition

I know it’s a bit late in the month to do a Top 5 books I want to read in 2018. Before it gets even later in the month, let’s get started with my Top Five Books. These are in no particular order.

the Success Principles

The first time I heard of Jack Canfield was when I picked up a copy of Chicken Soup for the Soul. I didn’t buy it then and I don’t think I’ve ever read it (need to do something about that) but for some reason I never forgot the name of the author. The next time I heard the name was during the movie The Secret. I immediately became fascinated by his story and began looking for books by him. For some reason I never picked up Chicken Soup for the Soul (maybe I should). However, I picked up The Success Principles and immediately read it cover to cover. It’s been a while now. Recently I heard about a new publication of the book in celebration of the 10th anniversary and since I had a credit on my Audible account, I thought I’d get it. Considering my 2.5 hour commute to work and then again back home……. I figured I could at least be doing something productive so, why not listen to how to be successful. The book is not a how to be successful, per se. It is instead about how you can improve certain aspects of yourself which in turn will allow you to open yourself up to success. I’m really looking forward to starting this book soon. I’m ready to be a super success :).

Judgement Detox

Judging ourselves and others is a waste of energy. I am guilty of both, more often than not I’m my worst critic and tend to judge myself much more harshly than others do. A perfect example seems to be every year at the time of my annual review I’m always the first one to comment on areas to can work on to improve. On the other hand, others seem to acknowledge my accomplishments and my successes much more readily than I. . I will be honest, I have another another book by the same author that I haven’t read yet The Universe Has Your Back. This year I’ll get to both of these…… Promise to myself.

Time Management Magic

We all have 24 hours at our disposal. Why is it that some people tend to get so much done and seem to have the energy to go on for another 24 hours and I’m feeling depleted at the end of the day and I feel as I didn’t even scratch the surface of the to-do list? I would imagine that the answer would be choices but….. I haven’t read the book so I’m not going to guess. This book was written by an ex-Disney employee who, while working at Disney and managing 100s of people developed time management and life hacks to take control of his time and succeed. I’m sure you all know by now that I’m a sucker for a good time management hack. This is at the top of the list, for sure.

The Slight Edge

One of my many goals this year is to make the choices that will ultimately bring me to my happy place. This year I’m going to concentrate on TheParalegal and make create something we can all use. I want TheParalegal to be your go-to place for your paralegal life. This book speaks about choices that we all make that lead to that much elusive happiness. I am looking forward to this read.

Build Your Dream Network

I feel like this book was tailored just for me and all other introverts like me. As an introvert, sometimes it’s really difficult for me to create the networks that everyone seems to have no trouble surrounding themselves with. This year, as mentioned above, I am focused on making connections. On helping others achieve their own successes. I am looking to this book to open some doors and help me develop the connections I need to bring you the connections you need.

So that’s the list

From the list above, it looks like this year is going to be very much a year of growth for me and for TheParalegal. I am determined to make things happen for all of us. Don’t be fooled though. I have a few fiction books on my list too but I’ll let you digest this list for now. Look for my Top Five Fiction Books I want to Read in 2018.

What about you? What do you want to read this year? Is there anything you would like to suggest I include on my list? what about a book about paralegals? I’ve been looking for something like that and haven’t been able to find a good one. Do you have any suggestions? Please leave comments below.

On a totally separate note…. I’m not sure if you’re aware, but I’ve created a Facebook page and Facebook group and I would love if you went to visit me there. I will be posting my tips and tricks that I learned in my 20 years of being a paralegal in law firms and in-house. I will be putting up training videos as well as templates I used and still use to make my life easier. It’ll be a bit until I can do all that but the goal is to provide you with as many resources as possible to make your day-to-day easier. I’m also working on launching a newsletter in February and if you’re subscribed to my email list you will receive a FREE copy of the newsletter where I will also be featuring up and coming legal issues, paralegal tips and tricks, books I want to read, new things I learned and when able to I will have some interviews. I am serious about wanting to make this a place where we can all come to for answers with no judgement. I want to be able to provide you with all the information and resources I wish I had when I was starting out.

Please go say hello at @ThisParalegalLife and say hello and if you’ve subscribed to the blog via email, look for the newsletter announcement soon. I’m so excited for 2018!!!!!!!

I cannot wait to see you and start working on my networking goals.

XoXo