Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Forward Progress

One of my professional goals is to be "on top of things" at work.  For me, that boils down to the following:

  • Doing reports on time (managed on a white board in my office; as soon as I started using the whiteboard to manage the 10 or so rolling 3 month deadlines, I locked this down)

  • Listening promptly to voicemails (I've posted before about how much I hate doing this)

  • Keeping my inbox at under 40 unread/need attention messages (usually this means it's an email containing records and it's going to take me some time to review)

  • Promptly reviewing defense counsel invoices (90% of the invoices are easy and painless, the other 10% usually require sending a nasty-gram email about excessive time spent on a motion or some other reason I am going to reduce the amount I approve).

  • Managing new cases as they come in (an average of maybe 1.5 per week, but it never works out that way, instead I get 4 one day and then none for 2 weeks or something). 

  • Monthly reviewing all my active cases (I have a good handle on this, setting about 1/4 of my cases for review on each Friday, and rolling each one forward one month when I check it). 

And in general, the part that causes me the most stress about getting backed up is the email inbox.  So pretty much every day, I can look back at the day as being one of three things:

Treading water.
Getting sucked down deeper.
Making forward progress.

Back in mid-April, I jinxed myself.  I was totally on top of everything and it was crazy and made me a little nervous.  I actually told the VP to whom I report that I was worried about running out of work.  He never did anything about that comment because the gods of litigation heard me and sent out a curse. 

My inbox flowed over, my voicemail light was constantly on, I felt totally buried.

I've generally been treading water since that happened.  Getting things done without getting much further behind, but also not making a real dent in my workload. 

Usually, a work trip will help me to dig out a little.  I never use internet on the plane, but I am able to load up my last synched email, and I start plowing through messages.  Writing out lengthy notes to put in the file, reviewing voluminous records, preparing detailed responses, etc.

But last week's trip ended up so delayed on the flight home that we took off past my usual bedtime and landed in the early morning hours, so instead of working, I slept (since the 70 kids were doing the same).

So I was thrilled yesterday to actually be in the office and feel like I made net progress.  Actual forward motion!  Woo-hoo! 

My unread emails needing attention went from somewhere in the mid-60s to the low 50s.  Ahh.  No contended sigh, but progress is progress, and at this point, I'll take it! 


  1. I love those three descriptions, and totally get it - I was so excited the end of last week when I felt like I was all over a series of experiments and had sent out some analysis ... only to find out on Monday afternoon that the engineer made changes to how things were run mid-experiment (for valid reasons) but never notified anyone ... so suddenly all of my stuff had to be re-done, just after I had laid out a bunch of new work for the week and gotten a new technician started ... ugh, dragged in deeper :)

    As of this morning I am feeling like I am above water again ... like you say, still treading, but I'll take it!

  2. In my work, some days feel like the post office, where the letters just keep coming in and all you can do is get them out. Sure the letters are different each day but its the same crap. Then other days involve creative thinking, problem solving, technical expertise, all things I love. I need to learn to appreciate and celebrate those fun days more, and just go with the flow on the "postal" days.

  3. Your inbox is my ungraded essays, and I know exactly how terrible it feels to have them hanging over your head. I've made a vow that for next year, I'm going to do the impossible, for me, and get my essays graded within one week of them being turned in. It will take organization and discipline,but I know I have it in me. I've never, ever graded essays that quickly before, so this will be a huge challenge, but one that I think I'm up for.

    Here's to both of us not only treading water, but making it out of the ocean!!

  4. Have to tell you that since I read this I've been trying to clean out my email in-box at work. Such a struggle to keep up with, but so important.