Paralegals have a tough, often unforgiving job. On top of research, paperwork, clerical work, errands, and courtroom time, a paralegal’s job is fraught with schedule conflicts, appointment tracking, follow-up research, and so much more. With all of this on his or her plate, a paralegal must be the most optimized, organized, and punctual person in the law office.
With that in mind, we’ve come up with 30 organizational tips, tricks, and tools for paralegals to make it look like you’re the master of time, space, and business lunches!
1. Enjoyable Me Time
Start every morning with some me-time. Get to the office a little early, have a cup of coffee or green tea, play around on social media, and answer some emails. It really helps to organize your mind before you tackle anything else for the day. Think of things that will put you in a good mood for the workday, and take a half-hour to an hour and do that every morning.
Some people find that just getting to the office before most people, really helps give them a sense of calm. That’s definitely understandable. Being one of the first workers in the door gives you time to decompress. Others find just the simple ritual of sipping on a nice morning beverage while reading the newspaper, helps get them in a headspace to organize their area. Whatever works for you is great. There is no wrong way to have “me time.
2. Get Rid of Desk Clutter
Some think that a cluttered workspace leads to a cluttered mind. There is definitely some truth to that. Even if not, it’s super hard to find important things you need, when you’re desk is covered in unnecessary stuff. Workers spend so many hours a month being unproductive because of an unnecessary amount of stuff on their desks. Nobody really needs those Taco Bell receipts from three months ago.
Many people allow old papers and junk to pile up on their workspace. Take a long hard look at your desk. Is it as tidy as it should be? Does it serve its functional purpose? If the answer is no, you have to do a purge. No, not a purge like the movie. A purge that takes all the clutter and extra stuff off of your desk. A clean workspace will save you both time and money, and allow you to focus on the real important aspects of your work.
Sometimes we not only need help with organizing our spaces, but we also need help organizing our thoughts. That’s where Mindnode comes into play. It’s a fantastic mind mapping tool for Apple product users. When you hear mind mapping, you might think of some new Sci Fi technology, that shoots a colorful web of lasers to map out your ideas, all through mind control. While that sounds fantastic, Mindnode is a bit simpler than that, albeit just as cool.
The program is used to be a visual representation of ideas. It is a great way to capture and organize your ideas. At first, you start with writing your ideas into the program. You don’t have to think about formatting or anything like that, just get the ideas out. Then, you can start to add your own style and add images. It essentially allows you to see and make connections with your ideas that you wouldn’t be able to do with another kind of outline. If you need help organizing your ideas, Mindnode is a great organizational tool for paralegals.
Time is something most of us can use a little help organizing. How many hours do we spend looking at pictures of people’s food or kittens on Instagram? What’s the amount of time we spend locked in fruitless political debates on Facebook? How much time are you spending making excel spreadsheets? Wouldn’t it be handy to know exactly how much time is being spent on productive and unproductive ventures? Now you won’t have to wonder or make rough estimates.
RescueTime is the ultimate tool for monitoring your digital day. It is a program designed for computers to help you see exactly how you are spending your time on your PC. It will give you an easy-to-read overview of your daily activity through the use of tables and graphs. RescueTime even has settings that gently remind you not to use social media at work. You can only use the applications during “social emergencies. This is a type of restriction that really cuts down on unnecessary scrolling. It is a very helpful tool, if used with the intention of really organizing and planning a more useful workday.
If you are looking for an app to help you keep schedules straight, CalenGoo is a great organizational tool for you and everyone at your workplace. A neat way to keep you and the entire office connected and running smoothly is to coordinate your schedules. The app allows people to set up and sync collaborative schedules. That way, nobody is ever blindsided by an important deadline, briefing, or court date. Additionally, you are able to set private events, such as personal appointments, birthdays, and anything else you don’t wish to share with coworkers.
The ability to connect schedules with so many people really makes organizing work and life schedules much easier. In your work life, you will never forget to file paperwork or make an event. In your home life, you will never miss an anniversary, or dance recital again. Life can get hectic. Everyone has so much to deal with in their professional and personal life. There is a certain pressure that comes from trying to remember everything that needs to get done for the day. Why not alleviate some of that pressure? Use CalenGoo to get rid of the doubts in your schedule.
5. Work Zones
I’m sure you’ve heard the expression a place for everything and everything in its place This expression takes on even more importance in the workplace. Dedicated workspaces are a must. First of all, you must have a room you can easily control. Some people need to listen to trance music to get in the work zone, others need complete silence. Whatever works to get your creative juices flowing, you must do. Anything that is overly distracting has to go. Having a place where you can go and just be left alone is the key to a productive workspace.
You should also pay importance to the type of lighting used in your workspace. Believe it or not, the type of lighting used can actually have an effect on your mood as well as productivity. Use natural light or anything that doesn’t give you a headache after a few hours. Let’s be serious, who wants to work and get organized with a raging headache all day? Everyone will have lighting different lighting needs, but a great place to start is with a light diffuser. We highly recommend trying one of those bad boys out. It helps make the work space more workable.
The most important thing to remember about workzones is to have a set space to work. You won’t be overly organized if you use three different computers or four different desks around the office. Pick a spot that makes the most organizational sense and is also conducive to getting work accomplished.
6. Pomodoro Method
Another great way to organize your time in the Pomodoro Method. The technique, which was created by Francesco Cirillo in the 1980s, is a time management tool to help you stay productive and free from stress. Everybody has different needs. This method might be just what you need to stay organized and productive, or you might hate it. Either way it is definitely worth a try.
So, what is the Pomodoro Method? Well, quite simply, it’s a philosophy in time management aimed to give the user maximum productivity. It is meant to give the person using it the least amount of mental fatigue possible while also remaining productive. It’s thought to bring a mental freshness to the workday. You are supposed to break your work times up into twenty-five-minute segments with a five-minute break in between. After one hundred minutes, you get a twenty-minute break. These 25 minute work times are called a Pomodoro, or tomato in Italian. The funny name came from the creator’s kitchen. He used a tomato timer to time his work sessions, and thus the name Pomodoro was born.
Whether or not this will work for you is all dependent on your working methods. Some people feel it keeps them motivated with an invigorated sense of purpose. Others find it to abrupt to stop work because of a timer. There is really no right or wrong answer. Just do whatever works best for you.
7. Command Center
Having a command center is a stylish and functional way to keep yourself organized. A command center is a space on your wall where you can keep items in one central location to keep your important stuff in one spot. Being that it is on the wall, it also helps to maintain a clear desk. There really isn’t a bad way to create a command center, in fact it’s the perfect way to let your personality shine through. It might be a highly functional tool, but because it’s up on the wall, it also doubles as art. So, put a few pictures in there, or inspirational quotes. Whatever you think represents you as a person.
A good start of things to include in your command center include a Whiteboard, a physical calendar, a hanging shelf for incoming documents and outgoing, and a space for sorting mail. Although this blog is meant to organize homes using command centers, there are some really translatable ideas for a paralegal’s office. Additionally, there is nothing saying you can’t implement a command center at home as well. Organization at home certainly carries over into the workspace.
8. Storage Boxes
Storage boxes and bins not only add a tidy look to an office, they also serve a functional purpose. Getting rid of items and documents that are not used on a regular basis is essential. Items that can’t be thrown out, or that rarely serve a purpose are prime candidates for being stored inboxes.
There are tons of different ways to execute the storage of unused stuff. Some people really love a storage wall. They dedicate the space of one wall to the storage. An efficient yet pleasing way to execute that option is to get shelves for a cubby space (like the ones used in kindergarten), and fill them up with classy-looking containers. Other people like to store them in baskets with gingham liners. That adds a more country feel to your office. While some just like to keep it simple. They use plastic bins with tops, and call it a day. There really isn’t a wrong way to use your storage containers. Just be sure to thoroughly check that you aren’t storing important files that you use on a regular basis.
9. A Comfortable Chair
You might not think of a comfortable chair as an organizational tip, trick, or tool. However, we promise that it really is. A comfy chair will keep you sitting in your designated workspace, concentrating on work instead of back pain, and generally keep you in better spirits.
Having a work chair that is meant for comfort and designed to avoid back injury is also a great way to manage your time. Lower back pain is one of the main reasons people visit doctor in the United States. If you are missing workdays to visit the doctor or chiropractor those are days you lose productivity. Not only that, when you use days off from work for things that can be prevented, you cheat yourself out of time as well. Wouldn’t you rather spend your days off at the beach or at a matinee movie, instead of a pain management doctor.
An ergonomic chair will also help you manage your money. In addition to saving time on doctor visits, you can also save money. Visiting a pain management doctor can really add up. Investing in a good chair can save you money from having to visit the doctor two or three times a week. We recommend taking a look at the Markus Chair from Ikea. It’s an amazing value for the chair you get, and can really pay for itself very quickly.
10. Make Lists and Prioritize
Making lists and prioritizing is a fantastic way to avoid becoming overwhelmed. You should always have a running set of tasks in order of greatest importance to least importance on hand. This will prevent you from forgetting any tasks that you must perform. In addition, It gives you a physical representation of your day, so it makes it easier to plan how your workday will go.
Create a list with the most important items on the top, ending with the least important items. Once you are done with an item, you can tick it off of your list. In today’s society, you can make lists on your phone or computer to reduce paper waste. Or, if you like to keep it old school, you can keep a paper list in your pocket. Just be sure to put recycling on the bottom of your list each day. To-do lists are essential if you want to get through a heavy workload. They free up valuable brain space, so you can focus on working, not thinking about what work needs to get done.
11. File Documents
Never let your papers pile up! If you do, it will totally derail any hope of organization. Papers should get filed weekly, with unfiled papers waiting in a dedicated to file folder. First and foremost, the main reason to file a document is to keep is safe. Paralegals have an obligation to keep their files secure and confidential. Documents that are cared for properly won’t get lost, torn, or dirty.
Filing documents is the central record-keeping system for you and your firm. Be sure to file documents in a way that are easily accessible if they need to be, or safely tucked away if you don’t need them any longer. You might want to consider the type of filing system you use, such as a filing cabinet, a steel cabinet, the use of timestamps, and much more. Whatever system you choose, be sure to never lose files. Whenever you take a file out, be sure to return it in its proper place. A good way to do that is to have a registration. When a file is taken out, you must mark that down, and then again mark the file as returned when it is refiled. This is an easy way to ensure the safety of your documentation.
By Poolcode – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0
The poor endangered Rolodex. People just don’t use them as much any longer. Getting a Rolodex used to be a sign that you had an important job, and had to have a quick way to find all of your contacts. Now, it has been replaced with apps and other technologies. But what happens when the electricity or internet goes out. You might not be able to look up your contacts so easily then.
We think the mighty Rolodex should make a comeback. It’s a great little tool, where you can physically look at the numbers you might need throughout the day. It’s also a handy place to put notes about certain people, to remind you of key information before speaking to them.
Alternatively, you can also use a Rolodex as a place to store website logins and other computer passwords you might need. There are really very few limitations of what you can do with a Rolodex, and because it is a compact piece, you don’t have to clutter your space to use one. So, dust off the old Rolodex, and give it a chance.
13. Cable Turtles
Do you ever take a look around your space and see a jumble of cords laying around everywhere? Everyone has had that moment where they have gotten so anxious over their massive spider of cords, that they’ve felt like packing it in for the day. Well, now there’s a solution to that problem! Cable Turtles are a much better look than cable spiders. These little devices are an absolutely genius way to fix the dreaded cord problem. They hide and conceal excess cords, while also protecting them.
The Cable Turtles are quickly becoming an office essential for anyone who wants to keep a tidy and organized office. Actually, these gems are perfect for use in any space, including your home. you won’t have to deal with unsightly cords ever again!
Location, location, location. The same way prime real estate is all about location, the same holds true for the stuff in your office. You will need to get a sense of what makes a great office layout truly great. Do a quick google search for examples of a well-designed office, or take inspiration from some of your colleagues. However, only you can truly know what you need where.
An organized office is one that is well thought out. If you want everything in your office to make sense where it is placed, you should consider proximity. You should really think about the things you use, and how frequently you use them. Do you make coffee three times a day? Put the coffee pot close to your desk, so you can have easy access to your caffeine fix. Do you have to make phone calls on your cell throughout the day, but find you’re frequently left with a dead battery? Keep a charging port on your desk. Conversely, was the last time you used your
laminator when the original Ghostbusters came out? It is time to find it a new home.
15. Label Everything
While you might not like to label people, labeling things around the office is a must. Labeling is a great way for you to stay organized, and for others to work more independently in your workspace if need be. Labeling allows you to color code files, keep track of equipment, and even keep overenthusiastic borrowers at bay. Let’s face it, many of us have had important pieces of equipment walk away without ever being returned. It’s not because your coworkers hate you, or because they want to steal from you. It’s more likely they borrowed something, and don’t remember where it came from. That can easily be solved with a label bearing your name on your beloved equipment.
These tips can help you out to avoid being late to a meeting because you’ve been running around looking for your stapler or your hand dandy hole punch. Labels help you keep track of your stuff. So find yourself a label maker, and get label making!
16. Use Expiration Dates
Much like spoiled milk, expired work files stink. Use expiration dates on important files with upcoming due dates. Have you ever put very important paperwork aside, only to forget it had an upcoming deadline? Well, if you slap an expiration date (both digital and physical), then you will have a better time remembering your deadlines.
Remember that label maker you are going to buy? Well, put that sucker to use. Go nuts and slap everything with expiration dates. It’s kind of a fun way to remember work has to get done, and a reminder to prioritize your workload. If you see an expiration date on work that ends on Wednesday, and another one that ends in two weeks, it will give you a visual cue to work on the one that’s due on Wednesday.
Use Ice cube trays can come in handy in the workplace. You can make virgin margaritas for your co-workers, keep your drinks nice and cool all summer long, and even make soap on your breaks. Did you also know ice cube trays are a great way to keep your workspace organized? Think about it, they are the perfect shape and size for many of the things floating around your desk.
Do you have a sea of paper clips, rubber bands, and other tiny objects just floating around inside your desk? When things are scattered all over the place, it’s hard to find them when you need them. Almost everyone has an abundance of paperclips at their fingertips, but whenever they actually need one, they are nowhere to be found. Well, bring a few ice cube trays into the office. You can organize your change, clips, hair ties, basically anything that will fit in there. This little trick has saved many workers tons of frustration. Plus, ice cube trays full of all of your trinkets will look awesome.
Binders should be used to keep up your papers organized. Binders help keep everything all in one spot. You don’t have to search around for paper to write on, or documents that you are working with, because they will be in their place. There is also a sense of accountability when you have a binder full of documents. It’s not like you can ignore the binder sitting in its place. Frequently checking the contents of the binder, filing what needs to be filed, and completing tasks is much easier when there is a binder staring in your face.
We like these because they come in many different patterns, ranging from very professional to light-hearted. Since these items will only be at your desk, you can choose which binders fit your personality and needs best. Just be sure to pick products that have different sections, so you can maximize your organizational efforts.
18. Charging Station
Having a charging station really helps organize your life. We even recommend having one at home. It will allow you to keep all of your electronics in one place, so that it would be difficult to misplace any of them. So many people spend a lot of time searching for their phone, iPads, and notebooks. With the use of a charging station, you will get in the habit of charging these items when they aren’t in use. If the items are always put back in one spot, it not only helps you from misplacing them, it also helps the workspace look tidier. When there are electronics strewn about, it looks messy and leads to further clutter.
Furthermore, the very fact that you have charged devices will help your organizational efforts immensely. When a person allows his or her phone to drain battery constantly, it becomes difficult for them to communicate, use organizational apps on their phone, and so much more. Having charged devices is a must for an organized paralegal.
19. Switch off Pop Up Notifications
Constantly checking messages, social media, and weather updates every time there is a notification ding, is death to organizational efforts. It might be tempting to see what meme your friends are putting up about Kim Kardashian or what your best friend is doing while skipping work, but it really halts all progress. There is plenty of time for checking your notifications when your organizational efforts and workday are over. Plus, think about how much fun it will be to check them all at once.
Sorry, but you have to shut off the notification alerts. You will be less tempted to check your various social media outlets if the notifications aren’t there to taunt you. Just think of all the time you will save during the day without checking social media. You might be surprised to find that the numbers might be measured in hours, instead of minutes.
20. Limit Email Use
The conversation is a dying art form. Everyone is quick to email at the office instead of having an actual interaction. Sometimes, because we have to power to edit ourselves over and over again in an email, a simple question turns into a half-hour-long email session. The time it takes to get through the endless email threads can be mind-numbing. While emails are definitely a modern miracle and totally a necessity, there are times when other forms of communication would be best.
Pick up the phone and call someone, or better yet, walk a few feet away and ask your colleagues questions. You might be surprised at how much real social interaction other people are craving as well. However, for times calling or in-person visits are not reasonable, using chats might even be a better alternative to emails. Chats are a great way for everyone to get their points across, and also receive near-instant responses. If chats aren’t implemented in your office, maybe you can make a case for them.
You might be thinking what in the world is chunking? It sounds like it might have something to do with chocolate chunks in cookies. That might be a good idea, actually. Chocolate Chunk cookies are delicious. Chunking is breaking a big task into a bunch of little ones. As we all know, large amounts of work can be downright intimidating. For some, the more work they have, the more they procrastinate. It’s definitely understandable that the human brain works that way. A huge amount of work compounded by a large amount of stress can lead to extremely overwhelming feelings.
The solution is to chunk your big tasks up into little pieces. Set miniature goals for your work, that way it feels like you have a small amount of work to accomplish. Additionally, it helps your sense of motivation when the smaller tasks are completed. Chunking will keep you having productive, stress-free, and organized work environments.
22. Make Your Space Cozy
Imagine an office with stark grey walls. Nothing is displayed that allows your true personality to shine through. Would this be an environment where you feel motivated to be productive? Would you want to spend a lot of time here? Probably not. There are several studies that show certain colors have an effect on people’s moods. People should make their office reflect happy feelings.
Work on making your space warm and inviting. You spend a lot of your day at work. Make it a place you actually want to be. While you may not be able to paint the walls any color you want or go crazy with knocking out walls, you certainly have the power to hang a few pictures.
23. Organize Your Computer
Some people may not automatically think of computer organization as a priority, however, it is paramount in today’s society. As technology has progressed, so has our need for it in our daily life. Most of us live in the digital space. Paper files are now downsized into computer files. If we have so many files and programs on the computer they need just as much organizational attention as things in the real world.
When your computer files are in places you can’t find, you waste a lot of time, money, and stress. Of course, you are bound to have a few unmet deadlines as well. If you want to better manage your time, you should start by clearing out files that are no longer relevant. Then, find a system that best suits your needs to relocate files where they are easily accessible. You should also consider deleting programs that are no longer used. This will free up space on your computer, and might even make it run faster. When you decide to reorganize your computer, your time organization will shift drastically. Stress levels will reduce, time will be better spent, and an overall sense of accomplishment will take hold.
Sometimes we all just need a little inspiration to give us ideas and to get us started. Browse different blogs, pinterest, and different offices. Don’t be surprised if inspiration comes from an unusual source. Embrace whatever inspires you. Use organizational ideas you get from others and adapt them to fit your needs as a paralegal. While there may be a few universal tips you might be able to follow, only you will be able to know your personal needs for your space.
In addition to getting inspiration from different sources, see how many original organizational tips, tricks, or tools, you can come up with on your own. When you have thought of something that really works for you, take those tips and turn them into art. Maybe take a quote that inspires you to stay organized, and have it framed to hang on the wall. There are so many ways to go about making the space yours, while also staying focused on organization. Some people were just born to be organized. They love finding spaces that fit just the right object. Others need a muse. No matter what end of that spectrum you’re on, a little inspiration never hurts.
25. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle
Reduce, Reuse, Recycle is a great philosophy to live by. We live in a time where climate change is a real issue facing the world. If we try to reduce our waste, reuse materials that can be repurposed, and recycle items, we can help the Earth heal. We have to be proactive for the future. However, selfishly, living a greener paired down lifestyle isn’t just good for the planet, it’s also amazing for organizations. The less stuff you have, the better it is to keep track of everything.
If you look around among your possessions, there are probably tons of things you don’t use anymore. If they are in good condition, donate them to a charity. You can also try to use things in a different way. For example, an old Rolodex container can be used to store recipes. There really isn’t a limit to what you can do.
Before you start to organize anything, you must first organize your mind. If you think about a cluttered mind, it will be crammed full of to-do lists, birthdays, work events, and much more. Meditation is an amazing start to relieving stress. Study after study shows that meditation is a great way to focus your mind. That means if you meditate, even for a few minutes a day, you will be able to concentrate better on the tasks at hand.
A great place to start is the Headspace app, which gives you a free 10-day, 10-minutes-per-day trial period right on your smartphone. If you see results, you can upgrade to a paid version from within the app!
Our world and work-life run at such a fast pace, that sometimes we forget to just stop and live. When you decide to meditate, start off slow. Take a few moments every morning where you get to catch your breath. Try to clear your mind of all worries and just relax. Once your mind is cleared of the worries that are weighing you down, you will be able to clear the mess at of your office as well.