A friend sent me some ideas Steve Prokesch posted on April 21, 2008 for the Harvard Business Review site. I have slightly edited them.
Compare your calendar with your priorities. Label the purpose of every regular or recurring activity on your quarterly calendar and highlight those activities that further your top five priorities. This simple exercise will reveal where you’re squandering time (See my post of Sept. 3, 2008: general counsel lose control of their calendar.).
Be ruthless. Instead of persuading yourself why you can’t give up the time you’ve been devoting to [minor legal tasks and risks] that seem important even if they aren’t connected to a strategic priority, start with the attitude that you simply cannot deal with them anymore. In some cases, you’ll realize that you’ve been treating the symptoms of the disease and should finally cure the disease (See my post of June 26, 2008: priorities with 6 references; and May 23, 2008: core competencies with 12 references.). In others, you’ll discover that the task will provide a growth opportunity for someone else.
Ask your team to do the same. Then discuss together how jobs could be recast and how the [legal department] could better spend its time. Make it clear that everything can be challenged—down to the PowerPoint slides presented regularly at meetings. Do you really need 20? If you could only have, say, two, which ones would they be?
Make time for your people and yourself. When you’re rebuilding your calendar, be sure to include quality time for your team to get together to brainstorm about the strategy, the organization, and new opportunities (See my post of Dec. 31, 2008: brainstorming with 5 references.). Last but not least, absolutely include time to pursue personal priorities that will help you grow and make you more valuable to your organization.