Get organized – Time saving tips for your firm

JCR: Journal of Court Reporting,, JCR WeeklyAn Oct. 25 blog post from Depo International focuses on time-saving tips for business owners, including subtracting rather than adding to the daily to-do list, keeping things simple, and prioritizing.

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Manage your time to manage your life

Photo by Ryan Hyde

Photo by Ryan Hyde

Ann Gomez, a productivity consultant who presented at the NCRA Firm Owners Executive Conference in April 2016, offered tips about time management to NCRA staff, and several of her suggestions can be adopted by anyone. Early on in her presentation, she noted that our attention is split between wanting to be accessible and needing to focus. Several studies over the past decade show that focused attention is important to everyone’s daily lives. Email, Gomez points out, is one of the new technologies that drive people to feel the need to be available to anyone all the time, as are cell phones and so many of the social media networks.

Productivity studies in recent years have offered new insight into the way we work. For instance, Gomez pointed out that your willpower and the ability to work on hard tasks are highest in the morning, and that adopting this daily habit of tackling the worst task early in the day prevents procrastination and, in the long term, burnout. Alternatively, using this information, some people instead choose to set aside time each morning to work on their most important long-term goals.

Gomez also suggests calling your to-do list a master plan to help change your mind-set about tackling what you need to do. The master plan should work on the five C’s:

  1. Have only one place where you keep all of your lists about what needs to be done. It can be a physical notebook, an online note program, or even an Excel or Word document where you include everything that needs to be done. It’s important to find a system that works for you.
  2. Write everything down. Don’t rely on your memory.
  3. Figure out your categories, which help you to prioritize. You might have a section for projects, phone calls, personal to-do lists, or more. (When asked, she said that some people might find it better to keep one list for work and one for personal, but that it was mostly personal preference.)
  4. Have a deadline. You can use deadlines as a proxy for priorities; if a deadline passes, renegotiate the deadline. If it’s a large project, add interim deadlines if they aren’t already assigned. When you note that you don’t have enough time for a project, work with the person to manage expectations and prioritize your work.
  5. Use it, look at it, cross it off, and consult it on a real-time basis. Gomez suggests looking at your plan at least once a day, maybe three or four times a day.

Once you have an established system, Gomez advises that you figure out your top priorities – maybe two or three things – and determine what action is needed. Once you have your priorities, take time each day to focus and move forward on your priorities, and find ways to protect that time.

Gomez admits that you have to figure in time for work that doesn’t fit with your top priorities — perhaps you need to respond to emails or make calls. How you plan your day should reflect those realities, and you can add those tasks to your agenda to make sure that those things are taken care of too.

As she closed the session, Gomez reminded attendees: Is the goal to just get by, or is the goal to thrive? Get in tune with what works for you, so you can improve your focus and gain more energy.

Counting on you: 5 simple ways you can impress your client

Five hands counting up 1 to 5 with fingers -- each hand is in a different color (pink, yellow, purple, green, and skin tone)

By Amy Derr

Over the years I have seen a lot of great reporters consistently work in a manner that endears them to the agencies they work with. As agency representatives, we tend to gravitate to these reporters over and over again when assigning new work. Great work habits are developed by good training, experience, and just plain working smart. Many of the preparatory items listed here could easily be articles unto themselves but I wanted to hit just a few key items that tend to win our hearts when selecting reporters.

Be prepared

What holds true for the Boy Scouts holds true for every court reporter: Be prepared. Many of the reporters we schedule are on the ball and ready by the time they start their job assignment. Scheduling them is never a worry. These top reporters always make sure their equipment is checked and ready to go when they walk out the door. They review deposition notices and previous transcripts and look at any other prep material they can find to update their dictionary.

Let’s face it. The life of a reporter can be very challenging in terms of the hours required. I always compare it to constantly being in school with never-ending homework and looming deadlines. Fitting in healthy habits can be a challenge. But as the reporting professional ages, it is so very important to physically take care of oneself. In the simplest terms this includes fitting exercise into the weekly routine, eating a healthy diet, and getting enough sleep. Bringing in healthy food or snacks for the job are also important. You do not always know what your food options are going to be or how long of a break you will be allowed. Incorporating as many healthy habits as possible can greatly increase both stamina, longevity, and a general positive attitude in this profession.

Arrive early

All agencies have arrival time expectations for their reporters. Videographers are often required to arrive earlier than the reporter. As calendar managers, one of our most panic-inducing situations is when the client calls 10 minutes before the scheduled start time wanting to know why the reporter is not on site.

Everyone knows commuting problems occasionally pop up. Reporters who call their agency to inform them of the situation with their estimated arrival time really help the agency proactively inform the client. Staying in touch with the agency with updates on arrival is also really appreciated. Clients may not be happy about potential delays but most of the time they are just relieved to know someone is on their way.


Today almost everyone has devices to allow for quick communications via texts, calls, email, and so on. Communicating with the agency regarding how the assignment went and any changes or requests from clients is vital to a successful relationship. Calendar departments are also thrilled when reporters promptly communicate job availability for requested assignments or respond to other questions in quick fashion. Reporters who maintain a high level of communication tend to create more opportunities and increase their personal revenue stream.

Meet (or beat) deadlines

Have you ever heard the phrase “exceed expectations”? Production departments love reporters who turn in all of their work early. Not only does this give them time to scan and upload exhibits to repositories, but it also allows for quality check time to review the transcripts to see if there are any questions or issues that may need to be addressed prior to delivery to the client. For video depositions, this can allow time for the production department to complete the video/transcript synchronization. Turning in work and all corresponding paperwork in advance of deadlines just helps make the agency/freelancer relationship run more smoothly.

Keep up with certifications

What agency does not love a reporter with national or state certification(s)? And the more the better! Certifications tell a client that the reporter cares about their profession and wants to continually improve their skills. More importantly, it also gives an agency a little extra insurance policy that guarantees a very capable and qualified reporter is working their assignments. One of our clients used to always request one of our reporters who was a Fellow of the Academy of Professional Reporters because he appreciated the significance of that designation. There is definitely an added appreciation for the reporters who take the time to go through the training and testing process.

There are many things reporters do to win our hearts every day. These are just a few key components every agency loves to see.


Amy Derr is the resource development division director for Alderson Court Reporting, which is based in Washington, D.C. She can be reached at