While technology can improve your productivity and help you practice law innovatively, it has also increased the pace of practice. The constant flow of new products and applications can create just as much anxiety. Here are some tips to avoid technology overload and some apps to help improve your well-being.
Avoiding Technology Overload
- Turn off “always on.” Thanks to emails and cell phones, you are now more accessible than ever. During working hours, productivity may suffer because emails constantly interrupt workflow. Clients expect you to stop everything and reply or call back on demand. Take control of how and when you check your email and cell phone. Turn off automatic notification when emails come in. Turn off the phone or put it on silent during working hours. Clearly state in your cell phone mailbox that you only respond immediately to urgent matters. When you go on vacation, put your phone away and don’t access the internet. If you must, limit your access to once a day.
- Organize pesky emails. Every lawyer is familiar with the barrage of emails that come in through the day. Only some are urgent tasks. Use this tip from Stephen R. Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Break up your task list into four kinds of tasks: (1) urgent and important, (2) urgent and not important, (3) not urgent and important, and (4) not urgent and not important. Use practice management software to keep track of the daily task list, or keep a running list on a notepad. Organize your tasks into manageable chunks and execute the ones with highest urgency and importance first.
- Training is easier than you think. Like any tool, technology is only useful when you learn how to effectively use it. Whether you are installing a new application, going paperless, or using a new telephone system, learning new technology is stressful. Mastering technology takes time and energy. Train up by using free Youtube online tutorials, attending bar association tech shows, and tuning into app-makers’ blogs. Ensure your staff are trained properly, too.
- Get offline. You can find yourself isolated if you spend more and more time communicating with others through digital media. Emotions are rarely communicated well by email and telephone. Skype does not replace the need to see and touch human beings. Human beings need face-to-face contact. Schedule lunches and coffees with colleagues, clients and mentors. Place yourself into situations that force you to engage people face-to-face.
- Be entertained, not envious. Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and other social networking sites have made it easier than ever to see what your friends and peers are up to. People tend to present themselves in the best possible light. It is tempting to want to keep with up the Joneses even if this causes you stress and embarrassment. The face presented in social media does not necessarily reflect reality. Stay focused on what you need to do. The rest will take care of itself.
Apps to Improve Your Well-Being
Lawyers who travel alone, work with violent accused, or find themselves in other potentially dangerous situations may want to try out personal safety smartphone apps. These work in a variety of ways: they can allow loved ones to track you remotely via GPS; send out an alert to friends if you fail to check-in as having arrived home; or even initiate a call to first responders if you give your phone a vigorous shake. Try Kitestring, Guardly or one of the many others in this category.
Smartphone Wellness Apps
Applications like fitnet and Strava can stand in for a workout buddy, personal trainer or even your mother—reminding you to make time for wellness strategies and tracking your progress. Fitnet is aimed at people with busy lives, prescribing specific workouts that take just 5-7 minutes.
Fitness wearables count steps and calories burned, measure your heart rate, and track your sleep with wearable technologies like FITBIT, Garmin, and Withings. These devices now exist for every budget, and come in various watchband-like styles.
Online Support Communities
A wide range of online support communities—often set up as bulletin boards or chat rooms—exist to promote supportive community-building. For general encouragement, try a website like SparkPeople or Google any number of weight-loss discussion forums. If you have a specific health concern such as childhood illnesses, allergies, chronic pain or cancer, you can find a community of people who have gone through the same thing. Communities are even focused on mental health: see for example MentalEarth or PsychCentral.
About the Author
Ian Hu is counsel for claims prevention at LawPRO (Lawyers’ Professional Indemnity Company) in Ontario, Canada and is a member of the Law Practice Today Editorial Board. Follow Ian on Twitter @IanHuLawPRO.