Tag Archives: Productivity

Microsoft Outlook: Time Saving Tips & Tricks To Get You Home For The Holidays

These days there is an app for everything: Uber for taxis, Tinder for dating, Washio for laundry, and WhatsApp for texting. BigLaw has caught on to this trend and delivered its own range of legal services at your fingertips.

  • Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman has a global sourcing app that helps users calculate costs in outsourcing contracts.
  • Baker & McKenzie has an app summarizing legal and tax issues for public companies granting employee stock options overseas.
  • O’Melveny & Myers provides an introduction to the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act in its app. The app also reports on related enforcement actions and settlements.

Among those attorneys attune to the app age, 60.8 percent are accessing them on an iPhone (66.8% of the 91% of attorneys who reported using a smartphone), according to the 2014 ABA Legal Technology Resource Center Survey.

In addition to smartphones, lawyers are tapping away at tablets. From 2011 to 2013, the number of attorneys using a tablet increased every year. In 2014, roughly 84 percent of attorneys who use a tablet reported that they use an iPad, according to the 2014 ABA survey.

If Apple is dominating the app and portable device market for lawyers, MS Office still reigns in, well, the office.

The 2014 ABA Technology Survey Report suggests that Microsoft software programs are among the most used office productivity solutions within law firms. Law firms use Outlook for email, Word for documentation, and Excel for timelines and timesheet management.

Work with multiple time zones?

You can easily add a second time zone to your Outlook calendar. Although it varies by version of Outlook, go to File >Options /Microsoft Bubble > Options OR Tools > Options. On the Calendar tab, under Time Zones, select the Show a second time zone check box. In the Label box, type a name for the additional time zone. In the Time zone list, click the time zone that you want to add (read more here.)

Need to add a new person to your Outlook contacts?

Create a new contact in your Contacts folder from an e-mail message you have received by right-clicking directly on the senders name or e-mail. On the shortcut menu, click Add to Outlook Contacts.

Need to schedule an email to send later? No problem. In the email message that you wish to delay, find and click the Options button. Under Delivery options, select the Do not deliver before check box. Next, click the delivery date and time you want.

Finally, sometimes e-mails are more useful on your calendar than in your Inbox, emails such as payment reminders, conference call details, or docketing-related e-mails. Outlook allows you to drag and drop e-mails from your Inbox onto the Calendar folder to convert that message into an appointment

Now there’s one more way to use of Microsoft Office products.

LexisNexis Firm Manager, the cloud-based practice management solution for small law firms, has been integrated with Microsoft Outlook and Microsoft Office 365 since August this year.

The synchronization of these services streamline services for the computer-savvy attorney. For example, if a new law firm client is added to the practice management system, the contact and any associated calendar items will appear in Outlook.

“Microsoft continues to attract more users to using Microsoft Office 365 productivity solutions and with more independent attorneys using mobile and tablet devices such as the Apple iPad, we see an ever increasing demand for seamless integration between Microsoft technology and the LexisNexis Firm Manager solution,” said Susan Harman, vice president and product champion for the Firm Manager team, reported the Law Practice Advisor.

Further initiatives by the two companies include:

  • an integration that will be a bi-directional synchronization between Microsoft Outlook calendar and contacts and those stored in the Firm Manager product. For example, if a new law firm client is added to the practice management system, the contact and any calendar items will appear in the Outlook client of the attorney working on that client’s matter, and vice versa.
  • an app that will enable users to save documents generated in Microsoft products to the LexisNexis Firm Manager application and attach these documents to the relevant matter or client contact, as needed.
  • the ability to save emails and email attachments directly to a LexisNexis Firm Manager contact or matter. These integrations provide additional simplicity and ease-of-use enabling independent law firms to keep their legal matters on track, from anytime, anywhere and on any device.

Need a little help navigating this new integration for better law office productivity? Take C4CM’s audio course called, “Microsoft Outlook: Unlock E-Mail, Calendar and Time-Saving Secrets” on Monday, January 19, 2015 from 2:00 PM To 3:15 PM EST.

You will learn faster and better ways to conquer your biggest time traps and regain control of your time. This is your hands-on road map to Outlook, and how it can send your productivity skyrocketing.

You will learn:

  • Turbo-charge Outlook with powerful, little-known tips and tools
  • Strategies to keep the Inbox clear and email under control
  • How to track appointments, contacts, due dates, and tie them all together
  • Build and maintain an Outlook database and improve business communications
  • Ways to prioritize your daily tasks and long-term projects using Microsoft Outlook
  • Helpful tools to manage your contacts and calendar

So whether it’s via your iPhone, iPad, or the new tools available through MS Office, you can shorten your work day to ensure you get home on time for the holidays.

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Bad Food Combinations & Whetting Your Appetite With Law Firm Data

Advantageous Uses Of Info You Already Collect

Some combinations go together but can’t act like substitutes: like orange juice instead of milk in your cereal, or egg yolk instead of syrup on your pancakes.

When you do force matters to go together, they’re often hard to handle. Take, for example, the hybrid Zebroid, which looks like a horse with zebraesque stripes, but is a particularly difficult animal.

Humans, too, experience advantages and disadvantages to hybridization. At first, certain combinations of seemingly unrelated skills can create the ideal career option.

Take, for instance, the lawyer-CPA.

“I think an accounting background gives somebody the opportunity to take a more global approach to the representation of a business,” says Stephen Kantor, who is both a CPA and a partner at the law firm Samuels Yoelin Kantor Seymour & Spinrad LLP.

He explains, “I stick to the law, although a lot of what I do involves accounting.” From the perspective of an attorney, Kantor is confident that a CPA designation provides additional insight into the industry of law.

And, with new tax legislation up for debate in Congress, it’s time lawyers brush up on their tax code.

Others, however, work better as compliments than hybrids or substitutes, for example, the allusive data scientist-lawyer. Like a mythical unicorn, never has nature seen a naturally occurring IT Expert comma Esquire.

Yet, in today’s high-tech society, failing to use data appropriately is one of the worst mistakes a law firm can make.

Law firms don’t just collect clients or cases, they collect data. Data that can be the key to unlocking how your business works—and more importantly, succeeds. Whether it is “hours worked, hours billed, top clients, revenue and profit attributable to different representations, [law firms] often fail to use this data to help improve their business operations,” writes David Lat for the Above The Law blog.

Law firms can no longer rest on laurels and ignore the business side of their firm.

“Law firms are project managers now,” Craig Budner of K&L Gates said to Lat.

“Data has been underutilized in terms of predictive pricing. We can use data to figure out how to price our services.”

The problem usually lies in familiarity with how data can be properly collected and analyzed. Either you get an expert in tech or an expert in the law, never both.

Enter, the data scientist.

Data scientists are proficient in all things numbers and patterns. Not only can they tell you the average time to trial for you cases, they can also tell you which judges grant your firm the most motions, or when the best time of year is to woo new clients.

With the right tools and craftsman behind them, law firms can create alternative fee arrangements based on historical data about the real value of a case to a firm and accurate projections of how much time it would take to litigate it.

In addition, data can tell your firm tell what time of day your employees are most efficient and help your firm identify which employee incentives work best to boost profitability and productivity.

Pricing, fee arrangements, employee satisfaction, and policy efficacy, and many more, can be measured—and the data is at your fingertips! It’s time you find the right person to unlock it. The wrong combination can, unfortunately, waste even more time and money.

Consider The Center For Competitive Management (C4CM) for the job. Using their comprehensive audio conference, “Law Firm Data: Using Legal Project Management to Increase Profitability and Attract Clients,” your firm can more effectively:

  • Manage transactions,
  • Improve communication,
  • Manage costs, and
  • Meet client’s growing expectations

In just 75 minutes, expert faculty will delve into the essential ingredients of a well-implemented LPM program, including:

  • Best practices for aligning the interests of the firm with those of the client through LPM
  • How LPM works for cases billed hourly or as alternative fee arrangements
  • Best practices for goal setting, and resource allocation
  • Why LPM works, even in a legal landscape ripe with surprises
  • Real life examples of LPM success
  • The challenges of incorporating LPM and how to overcome them
  • Coding best practices and how to implement them

Don’t do everything in-house. Before you pour coffee into your cereal bowl, consider a more appropriate pairing: business consultant expertise on data management alongside your legal services.

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Stop Monkeying Around! Court Says Chimps Not Human (& Why Your Employees May Need A Vacation)

Feeling trapped at work? You’re not the only one. Just talk to Tommy, the chimpanzee living in a cage in upstate Fulton County, New York.

The former entertainment chimp has been going stir-crazy for upwards of a decade, about when he was given to his current owner, according to the BBC. Unfortunately for him, this Thursday, a New York court ruled that Tommy did not have the same legal protections as a human and must remain in captivity.

And you thought you had it bad.

The decision was handed down on Thursday, after the animal rights group Nonhuman Rights Project sued Tommy’s owner last year claiming that chimps had similar characteristics to the humans and thus deserved basic rights. One of those rights includes freedom.

Chimps “possess complex cognitive abilities that are so strictly protected when they’re found in human beings,” Nonhuman Rights Project president Steven Wise told Reuters last year, according to the International Business Times.

“There’s no reason why they should not be protected when they’re found in chimpanzees.”

Caged chimps around the nation (or, at least, the State of New York) are saddened today by Judge Karen Peters ruling:

“So far as legal theory is concerned, a person is any being whom the law regards as capable of rights and duties… Needless to say, unlike human beings, chimpanzees cannot bear any legal duties, submit to societal responsibilities or be held legally accountable for their actions.”

So, at roughly 40 years old, Tommy is trapped.

But you don’t have to be.

Law offices can feel sterile or stifling, which is why you need to get out once in awhile. Surveys find 40 percent of Americans leave three to seven days of vacation per year unused, according to the New York Times.

It’s time to break out of your cage. In fact, those Americans who do unchain themselves from their desks and decide to take regular vacations end up happier, say surveys.

A new Nielsen poll commissioned by Diamond Resorts International finds that 71 percent of American workers who regularly take vacations are satisfied with their jobs, according to the New York Times. Of those that do not take regular vacations, less than 50 percent report being satisfied with their jobs.

As a law firm manager, you should ensure that your employees and associates take their much-needed holiday hours. Rested, relaxed, and satisfied employees stay at firms longer and are more productive. Employees who take regular vacations have also have better overall job performance, writes OpenView (via Huffington Post).

Law firms are increasingly tightening their belts when it comes to salary and attorney partner-track promotion, so now is the time to provide compensation in other ways. If your firm can’t afford bonuses this year, try giving extra vacation days.

You’ll find that employees will return to work with better attitudes and even work longer hours as a result. Plus, a boost in office morale has no price tag.

However, every monkey needs a banana. You may find employees are reluctant to take time off. Employees sometimes feel that their employer does not really want them to leave the office, or that—in their absence—they will be replaced or made redundant.

This is why some companies have created oddly innovative incentives to push employees to take vacation, according to OpenView (via Huffington Post):

  • FullContact, a Denver Software company, pays employees $7,500 to go on vacation, disconnect entirely and not work at all.
  • Evernote gives employees a $1,000 to take off days in at least 1 week increments.
  • Netflix offers an unlimited vacation policy as long as employees get their work done.

If your firm can’t offer more days off, then consider implementing a telecommute policy. Sometimes just working from home can feel like a stay-cation.

In the end, companies need to find a policy that fits its unique corporate culture. Poll your associates to find out why, exactly, they’re not taking all of their vacation days off.

Sometimes the only bars that imprison us are the ones we put up ourselves.

Check out more creative ideas for employee compensation with C4CM’s audio course, “Associate Compensation: Leveraging Hybrid Methods that Combine Lockstep with Merit-Based Tiers.”

In just 75 minutes, our expert faculty will examine the key factors in associate compensation that contribute to firms staying competitive and profitable in this rapidly shifting environment, including:

  • Why change? How client demands are fueling the rapid fire changes to associate tracks
  • Details on the types of alternatives to pure lock-step compensation models and how these alternatives compensate associates
  • Ways to develop and manage meaningful criteria for promotions outside of lock-step
  • Crucial performance review criteria to include in your merit-based compensation system
  • Beyond compensation increases, what matters most to associates, mid-levels and partners
  • Where firms have failed when it comes to associate compensation overhauls and how to avoid their compensation mistakes

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3 Black Friday Purchases That Will Put Your Law Firm Books Back In The Black

Black Friday gets its name from the fact that most business’ bottom lines will go from in the red to in the black on this post-Thanksgiving shopping bonanza.

Your law firm is no exception. There are at least three Black Friday purchases that your firm can make today to ensure a profitable tomorrow.


Nest Labs is a home automation company based out of Palo Alto, California, that designs and manufactures sensor-driven, Wi-Fi-enabled, self-learning, programmable thermostats and smoke detectors. According to Nest, you and your firm can save up to 20 percent on its electric bills.

Most people leave the house at one temperature and forget to change it. But, it’s no different for offices. Businesses can leave signs on the door saying, “last one out, switch off the lights,” but when was the last time your employees listened?

With Nest, you can control your thermostat remotely via mobile app. The thermostat will also learn your habits and adjust accordingly. This way, as your thermostat realizes that the last employee leaves the office around midnight, Nest will modify its program to turn itself off at this time.

Now you save on energy spent from six to eight hours overnight. Don’t underestimate the savings of controlling your heat in the winter and air in the summer.

Tablets/ iPad

Buy your employees iPads. Yes, that will save your firm money.

Whether it’s an iPad or Kindle or equivalent e-Reader, make sure your office goes paperless. Lawyers waste so much paper when they print out documents for DocReview or other administrative tasks.

There already exists a myriad of apps designed for legal case management for the smartphone, tablet, or computer. It’s not the technology that has fallen behind, it’s your corporate culture.

Gift tablets to your employees. Make it clear that this is a replacement for paper copies. Keep employees accountable by gifting the iPad only to lawyers who show a marked reduction in their paper usage.

You’ll be surprised at how a small investment in technology can change the entire working strategies of your employees toward using more efficient, more innovative tools for delivering legal services.

Create a training program that introduces such technology to slow-adopters in the office. With a small upfront fee, you can lower long-term spending on paper by lawyers, in addition to creating a more productive workplace.

Other tips on going paperless can be found here. Tips on using iPads in the law firm office can be found here.

The Holiday Party

Many firms cut back on hosting a holiday party when times are tough. But, it is exactly that times are tough that your firm should throw one.

Holiday parties improve morale, which—in turn—increases employee retention. The younger generation of associates, especially, is looking for more than just a job. They’re looking for a place to belong, a community.

In addition, holiday parties allow different departments and different generations of employees to network and mingle. Consider inviting neighboring businesses to participate.

Don’t skimp on a few bottles of champagne when the confidence of your employees, and their attachment to your firm and its clients, is at stake.

Instead of New Year resolutions, this year, on Black Friday, make a commercial commitment to profitable new business practices.

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Why Multitasking Associates Are Costing Your Firm Money & How To Stop It!

Did you stay up all night working? Were you busy answering emails on your phone while trying to tuck the kids in bed? If so, you may consider asking for a proofread on that brief you’re turning in this morning, or take a quick glance at the “sent mail” folder from last night.

It turns out that multitasking is as bad as, say, staying up all night or even smoking marijuana, on your cognitive ability. Research shows that multitasking both slows you down and lowers your IQ, reports Forbes.

According to a new study by Stanford social scientists, multitaskers—people who regularly switch between several streams of electronic information—do not pay attention, control their memory, or switch from one job to another as well as those who prefer to complete one task at a time.

“They’re suckers for irrelevancy,” said communication Professor Clifford Nass, one of the researchers whose findings are published in the Aug. 24 edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, to the Stanford Report.

“Everything distracts them.”

Wait a minute. I know what you’re thinking: But I have a special gift—I’m good at multitasking!

Wrong. Students who regularly multitasked performed worse on tests of attention, organization of thoughts, and memory–despite thinking they would do otherwise.

In one experiment, the test subjects were shown images of letters and numbers at the same time and instructed what to focus on. So, for example, when they were told to pay attention to numbers, participants had to determine if the digits were even or odd. When told to concentrate on letters, participants had to say whether they were vowels or consonants.

Multitaskers performed worse at this task than people who prefer focusing on a single task. Even the so-called light multitaskers performed better than the heavy multitaskers.

“When they’re in situations where there are multiple sources of information coming from the external world or emerging out of memory, they’re not able to filter out what’s not relevant to their current goal,” said Wagner, an associate professor of psychology, to the Stanford Report.

“That failure to filter means they’re slowed down by that irrelevant information.”

Ok fine. Maybe it’s true that multitasking is bad for productivity. Even still, you’re thinking: But I don’t have a choice!

The practice of law does not require multitasking. Yes, there are multiple tasks to complete. But, you’re not obligated to think of, or work on them all at once.

Multitasking is a state of mind. Multitasking is watching your child’s theatre performance while thinking about work. Multitasking is listening in on a conference call while simultaneously proofreading a legal brief.

Multitasking is composing an email on your phone while you’re listening to an associate update you on a case matter.

If you do these things, you’re severely sacrificing quality for quantity. And the negative effects of multitasking on cognitive ability and IQ have been shown in studies to last long-term.

So, to prevent huge losses in productivity, eliminate multitasking. That means changing the way you work and the way you think. When you have to finish up writing a motion, then turn off your phone and close your email for an hour while you do so.

When you are on a conference call, really ruminate on what is being said—take notes to keep focused.

It sounds elementary and it is! The problem is most people don’t do it.

If you’re a law firm manager, lead by example. Create electronic-free zones in the office. When somebody stops by your office, turn off your devices and turn on your attention to their question.

Consider “e-mail free” hours of the day. For example, from 6pm to 7pm (let’s face it, you’ll still be in the office) when there’s limited (or no) response to email.

If you don’t, your multitasking associates will cost you and your clients money in poor-quality work product and slower deliverables.

Take back productivity at your firm by turning off its multitasking mindset.

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Phone Calls Vs. E-mail? Why Picking Up The Phone Makes A Better Law Firm Professional

Phone calls are out, e-mails are in. At least, that’s what one business writer at Forbes would have you believe in his article, “10 Reasons Phone Calls Are A Waste of Time.”

Now, in some professions–technology, medicine, or education–perhaps this may be the new way of the world. In law, however, it’s the opposite. In many ways e-mails are ruining the good practice of law. Using the article’s same 10 reasons, here is why:

1. They demand immediate responses (which aren’t always the best responses).

This is pretty self-exlanatory. Are you a patent lawyer filing an appeal for a patent? Then you pick up a phone to call the patent examiner for advice. An e-mail will certainly get you nowhere.

Lawyers are looking for immediate responses in their deadline-driven work product.

2. You can’t go back and review phone calls later.

“Email, on the other hand, has the distinct advantage of being permanent, archivable and searchable, and allows prior conversations to be referenced and reviewed for accuracy or to refresh your memory,” writes Jayson DeMers for Forbes

Great! Lawyers deal with confidential and private information. All the better not to leave a paper trail of e-mails. 

Speak to your law firm manager about your firm’s policies regarding e-mail security before sending over any client files via cyberspace.

3. They’re an awkward dance of silence and interruptions.

It’s true that phone calls can get messy. Who is leading the call? What is the call about? If you must write an e-mail, answer these simple questions and send them about an hour before your phone call. That way there’s no confusion and less of chance for constant interruptions.

4. They cause existential overhead.

“Existential overhead is the mental cost in distraction and stress of uncompleted tasks. Unfinished work (or in this case, looming scheduled phone calls) can hang over your head, whether consciously or not. According to Jim Benson, genius behind the concept of existential overhead, looming tasks are never really “out of sight, out of mind”: ‘When you have a workload, you are always thinking about the individual elements of that workload. In the back of your mind, you know what you haven’t done,” (via Forbes).

So that means a phone call on Tuesday may (or may not) hang over your head on Wednesday. However, for lawyers, e-mails can also pile up. So 10 e-mails received on Monday become 20 by Tuesday. So, instead of scheduling a phone call, you now have a dozen or more e-mails that take an hour to respond to instead of ten minutes over the phone.

5. They kill productivity and work flow.

“According to research cited by The Wall Street Journal, frequent interruptions can have dire physical consequences among office workers, including 9% higher rates of exhaustion, and a 4% increase in migraines and backaches,” writes DeMers for Forbes.

“Think there’s no harm in just quickly answering a call? According to a study conducted by researchers atMichigan State University, workers participating in a series of tasks who experienced a 2.8 second interruption made twice as many errors following the interruption.”

How many times do you check your phone for new e-mails? E-mail is far more disruptive than phone calls. They’re more frequent and seeminly “quick” to respond to. It’s just one click. Unfortunately, after writing five to six e-mails, you will soon realize you’ve lost an entire billable hour to unnecessary correspondance.

6. They necessitate small talk, the biggest time waster known to man.

Part of your job as a law firm professional is to speak to clients or potential clients. Phone calls are personal. Chatting about a person’s kids, their business, and other minutiae is helpful in generating a rapport and positive client reviews or referrals for the future. People love to chat on the phone, that’s true. And 30 minutes of conversation that could have taken 30 seconds of e-mail may–in the end–lead to 30 years of loyal business.

E-mail is lazy. When you don’t want to research the answer yourself, it’s easy to compose a 1-line e-mail. Imagine how many phone calls you’d have to make if each e-mail was equivalent to one phone call… and then, reconsider your use of cyberspace.

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Increase Your Friday Afternoon Productivity In 5 Different Ways

Spring weather is upon us. Now there’s one more hour of beautiful daylight to remind law firm professionals of their tortuous billable hours indoors.

But, here are five ways you can make those last few workweek tasks go by quickly and efficiently.

#1: Change your seating position.

It’s amazing how the monotony of sitting at the same desk in the same chair can slow down your thinking speed. At first you didn’t realize it. Between the occasional stretching and bathroom breaks, you didn’t think you were any less productive.

Unfortunately, what you don’t realize is that while your body fights the aches and agony of your uncomfortable sitting position, you brain is shifting focus, too. It’s needing more and more coffee breaks or other excuses to get up and about.

Humans are no meant to be sedentary. But, if we have to, take a moment to adjust your working arrangement.

Instead of sitting at your desk, throw a pillow on the floor and lean back on your office wall. Try to work like that for one hour.

If that’s not possible. Stand up. You’ll be amazed at what a little bit of blood flow can do to reanimate your voice on a conference call, or rejuvenate your energy levels to read (and eventually respond to) that brief.

#2: Go outside.

Most associates realize that going outside the office during your 9 to 5 work window is taboo. But, if your productivity is waning, why not work outdoors.

Sit on a park bench for thirty minutes while you read emails or go through your to-do list. If you’re waiting to talk a colleague, forward your calls to your cell phone. A breath of fresh air will literally breathe life back into your stagnating work.

#3: Separate your afternoon in 15-minute intervals.

When you’re short of focus, start separating your tasks into quarters of an hour. Fifteen minutes to read discover. Fifteen minutes to start writing that brief. Fifteen minutes to respond to email. And, finally, you’ll find that it’s suddenly just fifteen minutes until your can go home.

#4: Give yourself rewards.

It’s Friday afternoon and you can’t wait to coordinate your dinner plans or evening activity. Maybe you’ve been meaning to call home. Or, make a grocery list for dinner.

At the same time, you feel guilty that your mind is already wandering away from work and the day isn’t quite over.

This is a problem easily solved. Identify a task—it can be small—that must be completed before you leave. Maybe you need to read at least 10 more pages. Perhaps you’ve put off writing a one-page memo.

Make a manageable task more enjoyable by creating a reward for completing it. Say, five minutes of facebook time per thirty minutes of uninterrupted reading? If you create two or three reward-based tasks, you’ll be surprised at how much your work pace picks up so you can take personal calls guilt-free.

#5: Delegate!

The hidden truth to productivity is allocating resources where they’re best fit to serve your firm. So, if you’ve been juggling to work done, evaluate who in the office has a more open schedule. Identify which associates have the skill sets to best complete your assignment.

The problem with most managers is they don’t understand how to effectively delegate. Therefore, they don’t do it. This is just adding more paper to the pile. Delegation can be hard work, but pays off in productivity in the end.

So, this Friday afternoon, maybe you should be reading The Center For Competitive Management’s guide: Effective Delegation: Strategies to Improve Performance and Productivity.

This essential tool provides process-driven delegation techniques, skills, and ideas that will give you more time to dedicate to strategic goals, and expand your achievements beyond what you personally can accomplish.

The only culprit keeping you in the office this afternoon is you.

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