5 Tips To Avoid Getting Hacked

A recently found out someone I really respect got majorly hacked -- and there's really no happy ending to the story. Tens of thousands of dollars spent dealing with the issue. Ongoing panic attacks. Loss of data/domain/etc. and, equally if not more important, her sense of security.

My heart breaks for her -- and I'd like to try to make sure we all avoid this happening to us.

Data security is not my area of expertise. But here are tips/steps I'm taking:

🔒Use a secure password repository. I use LastPass. Enable two-factor authorization for LastPass.

🔒Change your Gmail account passwords -- and use LastPass to generate new passcodes full of random letters and numbers. DO NOT USE THE SAME PASSWORD ACROSS APPS/SITES.

🔒Calendar reminders to change Gmail/bank/other important passwords at least once a year.

🔒Enable two-factor authorization/Google Prompt for Gmail access. It's annoying - but better annoying extra steps than devastating, violating loss.

🔒Put tape or a post-it note over your computer camera when you're not using it.

Especially because this isn't my area of expertise, please comment below with any additional security measures you take to protect yourself online. Stay safe out there, kids.

"Inbox Zero." It Doesn't Mean What You Think It Means.

Most hear “inbox zero” and think of having 0 emails in our inbox. And most of us are so far from 0 that it stresses us out just thinking about it.

But - here’s a fun fact: the “inbox zero” concept was originally NOT ABOUT HAVING ZERO EMAILS IN YOUR INBOX.

It was about spending ZERO TIME - i.e., as little time as possible - in your email inbox.

Now that's something I can get behind because email interruption is a major obstacle to using your time efficiently and in a way you feel control over.

I work with clients on email management A LOT because of this. Here are some tips:

  • Stop letting email interrupt your whole day. Check it 1-4 times a day as needed at predetermined times. Then do focus work the rest of the day. And turn off all notifications (phone and desktop). Close out of your email software entirely. If it’s urgent, they’ll call. Promise.

  • Stop treating your inbox like your to-do list. Before you open your inbox, decide what you need to do today -- and block the time for it! (And this is implicit, but to be clear: don't check your email first thing in the AM!) Reminding yourself of what’s important will make it less likely you’ll devote your whole morning to what someone else considers a fire but doesn’t align with your goals/projects.

  • When you process email at your predetermined times, if something will take less than 2 minutes, do it now. If it’ll take longer, block time in your calendar to do it and, if you can, snooze the email until then. Then move on to the next email.

So what about you -- what are your favorite email management tips to help you protect your focus time from constant interruption and from email-takeover?

To-Do Lists Don't Get It Done

To-do lists are a great way to get everything out of your head.

But does this sound familiar: You do a TON during the day, crossing off so many to-do items, but still feel defeated when you see the dozens of tasks left on your list? You even start writing things down just so you can cross them off because you need the confidence boost? You reference your to-do list multiple times a day, spending 2-5 minutes deciding what to do every single time? You’re not sure if each item on the list will take you 3 minutes or 3 hours - so deciding what to do next requires some calculations about time, energy and substance — all before you even start on the task?

If so, this post is for you — and I’ll nudge you to consider this approach: to-do lists are a great first step, but don’t stop after you’ve created your list. Take it and block time in your calendar for each task.

Don’t be afraid to push things out a ways. I often calendar things for 4-6 weeks out if I can, freeing up time to deal with more urgent tasks in the meantime. If I’m not sure I’m even going to do something, I just calendar “Consider taking course on XYZ” or “Consider reaching out to Jane re XYZ” on a date 1-6 months from now.

And don’t overthink the date and time. As you plan your next week during your weekly planning session, you can always move things around. You’re just placing the tasks generally when you need to do them to remind yourself to find the time to do the task.

Give it a try. And get ready to actually feel accomplished at the end of the day once you got all your tasks scheduled for that day done 👌And, when there's white space in your calendar, it means you’re actually FREE - not "go look at your 3 to-do lists and 15 sticky notes." Excellent.

Where do you stand? Love to-do lists? Or find that they don’t really help you get the things done or feel accomplished?

If what you’re doing right now isn’t working for you, I strongly encourage you to give it a whirl. And I’m here to help if you need it!

Ego's a Funny Thing.

Let's talk ego. When I practiced law, I didn't realize how much I found confidence in saying, “I’m an attorney,” when people asked what I did.

Then, I left law, mainly due to being sick of dealing with overly aggressive male opposing counsels who didn’t get that our clients would be better served if we creatively found a compromise instead of wasting our clients' money on legal fees fighting about dumb things only to get some form of the same end result. (Wow... apparently I can still vent about this…)

But I had no idea what to do next. I’d wanted to be a lawyer since 6th grade when I read my first Grisham book. Slowly, I realized that I’d always enjoyed bringing order to information and deadlines in my legal cases and in life outside of law. And I loved learning how to do it since it hadn’t always been natural for me. And I realized a lot of people - particularly women trying to hold down a career, home, family and social life - struggled to bring order to tasks and information. And they didn’t want to read books on time and information management strategies like I do — they understandably just wanted the results.

So here I am. In my odd little world of helping women bring order to their life’s information, time, tasks, and email so they can attack life feeling more in control and with a lot less stress.

When people ask me what I do now, I gotta say, the ego isn’t as bolstered by saying “I help women with time management skills” as saying “I’m an attorney.”

At the same time, as an attorney, no one ever told me that I was “in the business of changing lives,” as one client recently did.

So, despite the lack of instant credibility, I’ll keep my odd job, knowing I’m helping women accomplish their goals, find confidence in how they’re spending their time, and truly enjoy their lives a bit more each day.

Ego’s a funny thing — it doesn’t always lead to happiness. Sometimes, leaning into the odd interests that some people don't understand leads to something far more fun.

"Time-Blocking Clutters Up My Calendar."

Some people don’t want to “clutter up” their calendar with time-blocking.

But here's the thing: the blocks of time just represent how you're already spending your time. If it looks overwhelmingly cluttered, it's because your schedule is too cluttered, disorganized or chaotic -- which is why you feel the same way.

Let's solve that problem by getting a visual understanding of how you're using your time so we can declutter and experiment with your schedule to make it better for you.

Think of it like cleaning out and organizing a closet -- you have to pull everything out to see what you're working with, decide what to keep and toss, and then organize it in a way that lets you have space for what you want. I basically want to #MarieKondo your calendar 😉Let's get you feeling confident about and in control of your time.

When it comes to your schedule, IGNORANCE IS NOT BLISS. Don't nix time-blocking just because you're scared to see what it'll look like. It'll give you a whole new way to take control of your time.

Willing to give it a go? Let’s start you off with a couple of quick wins to show you the amazing power of time-blocking. Use the link side panel to your right to download (for free!) the three things you should time-block right now to make your life run smoother. Let's do this!

For My Litigators: How to Organize A Legal Case File

Likely because there was no "how to stay organized during the day-to-day grind" class in law school, many attorneys suffer from disorganized case files.

Disorganized case files mean last-minute scrambles to meet deadlines, twinges of mild panic when clients request information that we can’t find quickly, and - most importantly - a lack of mental clarity regarding case strategy and status.

Initially, I was right there too. As a new attorney straight out of law school at a big law firm in Boston, I had no idea how to keep my case files organized and important information accessible (in any one case, much less the numerous ones I had on my plate).

Over time, through experimentation, observation of some impressively organized attorneys and research, I figured out systems to help me keep important documents handy, discovery and electronic files under control, and deadlines met without undue stress or scramble.

Given the lack of information on this front for new attorneys (and experienced attorneys, for that matter), I wanted to pass along my system in case it’s helpful to you.

A note: There’s no “right way” to do this. But it is important to have one way you do it for every case, which keeps you efficient and helps you (and your team) quickly find information when you need it.

Here are three of my biggest tips:

Tip 1: Have a “case bible.”  For each case, you need a binder that houses the most important documents in your case (e.g., underlying patents/contracts, complaint and answer, simple chart with case deadlines, your judge’s chamber rules, and other critical documents). You could call this your “case bible” or your “case management notebook.” Whatever you call it, this puppy should hold the foundational documents of your case that you’ll be referencing all the time. Having all critical documents in one binder lets you grab it quickly while dashing off to a partner’s office or jumping onto a client call, confident you have all important information with you. Plus, no more looking for that copy of the complaint you marked up with all of your important ideas.

Tip 2: Organize by category, not chronology. Obviously, chronology has its place in legal case files. But I’m always surprised how many attorneys organize all case documents by chronology and only chronology (usually breaking out correspondence and pleadings). When they need a particular document, finding it requires remembering the date it was received - and that’s just inefficient. Plus, you can’t cart around alllll those documents when you only need certain critical ones most of the time.

Instead, organize by category. Broadly speaking, keep documents divided and stored in these categories:

  • Foundational documents that you’ll refer to frequently (see above),

  • Discovery documents (requests, responses and related correspondence),

  • Documents relating to a particular motion (briefs, cited case law, exhibits and related correspondence), and

  • A redweld of miscellaneous other documents that you don’t need to refer to frequently but don’t want to shred.

This structure mirrors how your brain works and will allow you to find the documents you need quickly — and have a better understanding of the issues in your case.

Tip 3: Embrace time-blocking. Don’t just calendar your brief deadline and call it a day. Figure out internal deadlines for how you’ll get that brief filed on time — e.g., research, drafting, editing, editing by the partner/client, polishing, filing. Schedule those internal deadlines, block the time it’ll take for you to meet each deadline in your calendar, and make sure the internal and final deadlines work with anyone else who’s involved (e.g., colleagues, client, the assistant who will file). Not only will this give you a game plan to get it down (reducing your stress leading up to the deadline), you’ll also see how all this work fits together with your other cases’ work. You can move your blocks of time around to accommodate other work and personal events, which helps you avoid conflicts and makes your life run smoother. Win-win-win.

Want more detailed step-by-step instructions on how to get and stay organized?

If my system sounds appealing to you and you want detailed step-by-step instructions on how to set up your case management and discovery binders (down to the cover pages and tables of contents), how to structure your case deadlines chart, how to organize your electronic file storage depending on your document management system, and get some guidance on managing your calendar, then check out my guide, How to Organize Your Legal Case Files.

If not, and you like the sound of this time-blocking stuff, explore around to my other posts. I help busy people like you reclaim their time and energy from their to-do list. If you want some time improvement and work-life balance improvement tips, explore and stick around!

What’s your favorite organizational trick when it comes to your case files? Comment below.

And please share this article with anyone you think would find it useful!

Confession: I'm a Paper Junkie.

Confession: I am a paper junkie. More specifically, a paper planner junkie. All through high school, college, and law school, I used a paper planner. That Target paper planner aisle sings to me with its sweet siren song.

And yet, as you know by now, I’m convinced most of us should run our lives on electronic calendars (I have a whole blog post on this so I won’t go into why here). But … I still can’t totally kick my paper planner tendency. So this is my middle ground approach...

Before I continue, let me be clear: my electronic calendar governs my life. EVERYTHING is in it. You absolutely need one calendar where you see everything you have on your plate (and, at the very least, a phone app that lets you see you work and personal calendars together).

That said, for some of us, something magical happens when we put pen to paper to write out our schedule. My solution? My life is governed by my Google Calendar, but I have two month-view @botanicalpaperworks’ free printable calendars on our fridge (this month’s and next) that list out the main events — travel, my husband’s ever-changing work schedule, doctor’s appointments, and childcare. All of these appointments are in my electronic calendar (and my electronic calendar governs), but writing out the month view big-event schedule and being able to scan it quickly while grabbing the milk is so helpful and lets it sink into my brain a bit more.

I tell you this to give you freedom to make your systems work for you. There’s no “right way” to do this. My only strong recommendation: have one place where everything lives (for me, my Google Calendar) — and if you want to supplement with something that makes you happy and that won’t confuse you, great!

Anyone else a paper lover and sometimes struggle in this digital age??

3 Tips for Dealing With Your Email Problem

My guess is you're not surprised when I tell you that you have an email problem. We all do. We spend way too much time living in our email inbox. There, we feel “busy,” but at the end of the day, we usually haven’t really moved the ball forward on our important projects.

This is likely because, as Chris Sacca put it:

Your email inbox is a to-do list created for you by other people.

Let that sink in.

Your inbox contains requests for your time from other people. Some of these requests are totally legit. Some align with or are part of your important projects. Others are not. Some are panicked emails shouting "fire!" because the sender dropped the ball and now wants you to bail them out -- and that panic can be contagious. (Sidenote: we should all have post-it notes that read "a lack of planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on mine" stuck to our computers as reminders).

So here are three tips for dealing with email.

1. YOU decide. Before you dig into your email inbox, YOU must decide what tasks are most important for you to accomplish that day. I encourage clients to have weekly planning sessions where you do this planning ahead of time. But even if you don't do weekly planning sessions, you must take the time to decide what you need to get done each day -- before you check your email and get inundated by other people's ideas of how you should spend your day.

Don’t relinquish that decision-making power to whoever emailed you last night. Obviously things may need to shift based on what you see in your inbox, but getting clear on what YOU believe you need to get done will help you understand that other person’s request in the context of your priorities. For example, you may let that "fire!" email dominate the next two hours of your day if you're not clear on what else needs to get done, but won't if you've already reminded yourself that you have a big brief/report/grant/etc. due in three days that you must work on this morning.

2. Reduce the volume of email. There are many ways to do this, but I'll share three quick tips now:

  • Use Unroll.me to quickly unsubscribe from tons of junk mail. It takes less than 10 minutes and serves you well forever.

  • Send less email. You’ll get less email. This sounds so simple and obvious, but it's true. If you often engage in 15-message long back-and-forths with someone to resolve an issue, try calling instead of emailing – it’ll take less time and lets you put that issue behind you faster. I dread non-social phone calls too, but it really does pay off. We can be brave together!

  • Tell people not to respond unless there's an issue. Especially if you're emailing a group of people, put an end to the 15 "thanks" emails that serve no real purpose and just distract you throughout the day as they roll in. Write something like "No need to respond unless there's an issue" at the beginning and end of your email.

3. Stop letting email interrupt your entire day. Get intentional about when you check email - and turn off your notifications so you're not tempted to check at other times. If email is not part of your core job description (and it's usually not) (i.e., a customer service rep's core job duties include a quick email response time, but a doctor’s typically doesn't), you should NOT live in your email inbox. That's a very reactionary and interrupted homebase from which to attempt to focus on a project. You need distraction-free time to get your work done. If it’s appropriate in your role, check email only 3 times a day: morning, before lunch, and about an hour before you leave for the day. If that doesn’t work for you, find 2-3 blocks of time (each 2-3 hours) in your week where you go dark to ensure you get that required focus time. No email. No distractions. Just real work. Get creative and make sure you have no-email/no-interruption focus time in whatever way you can get it. (On a related note: get creative on where you have it. If you know people will interrupt you at your desk, work from home, at a coffee shop or, as one friend did it, find an empty office in your building and hide/work there. Get creative!)

Good luck! Let me know which tip works best for you.

3 Reasons To Put EVERYTHING In Your Calendar

Anyone who hangs out here for a minute knows I’m a huge proponent of putting everything in your calendar.  Tasks, time you want to protect for yourself to read that book, everything.  “What?!,” you may think, “That’ll clutter up my schedule, not give me more white space in my calendar!”

Yes and no.  Hear me out:

  1. You want to be able to trust the white space in your calendar.  Whether that stuff is in your calendar or not, you're already spending your time doing it.  In other words, if you currently don’t put everything in your calendar, you can’t trust the white space in it.  Instead, the white space means, “go look at your 3 to-do lists and 12 post-it notes to find out what to do during this window.” 
     
    Putting tasks in your calendar and planning out when to do them means that where there's white space, there's actually free time!  What a novel concept.  
     
    And when you know when your free time is (and sometimes can move things around to move that free time to when you want it), you can plan to use it doing something you love.
     

  2. Get Real.  Putting everything you spend your time doing in your calendar means you have to get real about how much you can do in a day.  
     
    And that's great news! It forces you to prioritize and helps you feel accomplished at the end of the day (instead of disappointed that you didn’t get everything done even though it was impossible for you to do it all in the first place!).
     

  3. Just say no.  Saying “yes” to a new invite/project from your boss/etc. means saying “no” to something else.  Always.  Even if the “no” is to a quiet night in by yourself with a glass of wine and your favorite show/book.  
     
    Once you start calendaring everything (tasks, internal deadlines for work, time protected for yourself), you see in black and white (or fun Google Calendar colors) what exactly you’d be saying “no” to if you took on another project, went out for that acquaintance's birthday, etc.  I’m not saying you have to say “no” to everything or can’t adjust your calendar to make a new opportunity work. I adjust my calendar all the time! I’m just saying you'd be able to make more informed decisions about how you spend your time, and that gives you confidence and ownership (which feels a lot better than uncertainty/feeling lost).

When you can trust the white space in your calendar, set more realistic expectations for yourself about what you can accomplish in a day, and say “no” to protect time for yourself, you’ll see your free time better and can plan to use it in ways that make you happy (instead of stumbling upon it when you don’t expect it and frittering it away on Instagram because that sounds way more fun than checking those 12 post-it notes for something you “should” do).

Give it a try. If you want to learn more about this, download my free guide: The Busy Woman’s Game Plan To Getting It All Done.