Sometimes, it feels like there is too much to do. You are no longer juggling balls — there are too many balls for that. You have multiple cases, each of which is "hot," moving quickly and independent of one another.

Now what?

First, decide if it really is too much. Look at each case in and of itself, determine what you know will need to get done, estimate what issues will likely arise (and the time they will take) and what issues/time will arise in the worst-case scenario, and then figure out if you really don’t have the time to do it all or if there is a substantial risk of that something will blow up and impair your ability to work on any (possibly all) of them.

If so, do something about it. Now. Get help. Every lawyer in your firm should know that, when times get tough, they can come to you to lighten the load — and you should be able to rely on them as well. Not in a firm? So what? You should have professional acquaintances. There are dozens of lawyers who could e-mail me right now and ask, "I’m really overloaded right now could you draft X motion for $Y?" $Y isn’t absurd. It’s not a penalty rate. It’s not an emergency fee. It’s a professional courtesy both ways: they are paying you for the time they are asking you to give up, and you are charging them a fair and reasonable rate for it. If you’ve got a problem either asking for or paying a "friendly" business rate, you need to find another business. This business works primarily off of connections. Some of my best business decisions didn’t make any money at the time I made them. The money came down the road; do the right thing, the fair thing, and the money will take care of itself.

Get extensions. When you’re overloaded, and it seems like the whole world is pushing back at you, it’s easy to forget that nine out of 10 people enjoy doing honest favors for honest people. I’m not going to let you slack off in the case because you just don’t want to do it, but you are entitled and expected to do right by your family and by your clients. Judges like to clear their dockets, but no one wants to feel like a jerk. If you’re the one who’s overloaded, let everyone else know and we’ll see what we’ll do. If someone else comes to you and says they’re overloaded, do your best to accommodate them. We are all here to get a fair resolution on the merits. If you get your resolution by being inconsiderate, you should feel bad about it. It’s unprofessional.

Second, fall back on the process, not your gut. There should already be a method to the madness. You should be the Kung Fu Master of GTD, 43 Folders, Index Cards, Post-It Notes, Legal Pads, or whatever it is you do.You should have "Your Way" of preparing and working cases. You should draw mind maps, or read straight through depositions, or read the pleadings, or read the jury instructions, or refresh your understanding with a couple cases, or have a phone conversation with the experts, or try to explain the case and why you should win in five minutes to a colleague who’s never heard of it. Or all of the above.

Whatever it is, you should already have it, and you should rely on it. Don’t start shooting from the gut. Don’t rely on your "experience" — how much "experience" do you have with exactly the situation you’re in? None. Every minute you save by shortcutting your method you will pay for with hours of confusion and backtracking. Or maybe you won’t even realize you’re confused, and you’ll just mess everything up.

Third, don’t let your family or yourself go. It’s not worth it, and it won’t even help. You’re not productive when you’re distracted, which you will be if you are shortchanging your family or yourself. Go to the recital or the game. Keep going to the gym. You will only be worse for not doing it, and, even worse, you might realize it one day.