Time for a Technology Diet?

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Everywhere I turn, businesses and marketing gurus are telling attorneys that they must buy the latest smart phones and tablets, subscribe to the newest SaaS products, and jump on yet another social media website.  While it is true that technology can make your life easier by streamlining processes and making your desktop more portable, technology can also have negative side effects.


Years ago on the first day of law school, I remember receiving a pamphlet with information on alcohol and drug addiction among professionals.  Fast-forward to today, and I wouldn’t be surprised if schools started handing out the same pamphlets for technology addiction.  A recent article in the Los Angeles Times suggests that technology addiction now trumps our addiction to caffeine, chocolate and alcohol. Several recent surveys suggest that many people lonely, empty and incomplete without the Internet.

Unfortunately, with the growth of social media marketing, virtual law firms and other web-based services, lawyers are becoming increasingly susceptible to technology addiction. This doesn’t mean that you should forego using these services altogether, but if you do plan to be a tech-enabled attorney, it is important for you to balance your web time with periods of inaccessibility.

If you find yourself losing sleep at night to respond to one last email, checking your Twitter feed under the table at dinner, or feeling distracted by the impulse to update your status, try these tips to avoid a technology overdose:

  • Schedule a technology-free hour during every workday.  Tim Ferris, author of the 4-Hour Work Week once said, “The single greatest enemy of creativity is overload.” By turning off your cell phone, computer, tablet and other devices, your brain is free to focus on fewer things at a time.  For example, you might spot a new angle in your client’s case or have more time to jot down the terms of a complex agreement when you aren’t tempted to respond to another email.
  • Once you master one technology-free hour each day, try to leave your cell phone and tablet home one day a week.  Having dinner with friends on Friday night? By leaving your cell phone at home, you will find yourself engaging more in the conversation rather than viewing status updates on your phone under the table or checking-in and writing about how much fun you wish you could be having if you  were truly hanging out with your friends instead of updating your status.
  • Set boundaries.  The key is to create simple rules for your own personal impulses.  Chronic email refresher?  It might be time to set a schedule.  Answering the phone at midnight after you’ve already gone to sleep? Leave your cell phone outside of the bedroom. Everyone in your office keeps overusing the CC line? It might be time to have a “no email Friday” to encourage people to make decisions face-to-face.
  • Re-train the people around you. You aren’t a god, so there is no need for you to be omni-present. If people are used to you being available through multiple channels at all hours of the day, set up your voicemail and auto-responders to give people reasonable expectations for response time.
  • Recruit friends to help you stick to the rules. As with any addiction, it’s easy to fall back on old habits if nobody is around to make you be accountable for your new rules. Ask coworkers, friends and loved ones to help you stick to the rules, or better yet, encourage them to go on a tech-diet with you.

For more great tips on beating technology addiction, check out this article from Geeksugar.

(photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/zharth/4633179551/)

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  • So the folks in the surveys you cite were well-adjusted before the Internet, but have become so “addicted” that they are now lonely, empty and incomplete without it? With the same anecdotal data one could make a counterargument that the Internet is an empowering lifeline to the socially and emotionally fragile.