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Lawyers: Need to Focus? Put That Smartphone Away

With all that power to compute and show you delightful cat pictures and videos, you may not want to believe it, but your smartphone hinders your ability to think. At least according to the recent research published in the Harvard Business Review.

No, it's not the invisible microwaves or infrared, -blue, -green, or -fuchsia signals that pass through your skull. Your smartphone's very presence around you distracts you, and a distracted you is a you that's less able to think and solve problems. And, in case you couldn't remember because you're so close to your smartphone right now, as a lawyer, your job involves thinking and solving problems. According to the researchers, even with the sound, and the vibration, turned off, your smartphone hurts your ability to think.

But, It's for Business!

While, these days, whole businesses can be run off a single smartphone wirelessly-wired up to the cloud, if you can make your desk a smartphone free zone, you may find that your ability to think critically, at least in that location, improves.

The researchers conducted a study that tested participants' abilities to think via problem solving tasks. The variable that changed was the location of the participants' smartphones. Basically, one group was tested while their smartphones were sitting on the table in front of them but face down. Another group was tested while their smartphones were in their pockets or bags. And a third group was tested while their smartphone was in a different room entirely. For all three groups, the devices were silenced and had vibration turned off. The last group, with their phones in another room entirely, performed the best, followed by those with their devices put away.

Devices Away When Focus Required

The results of the research provide a somewhat obvious, yet important, lesson that lawyers might be wise to learn: When you need to focus, put the smartphone away, and make sure it's out of sight. If it's out of sight, it'll be out of mind, and you'll be able to devote that mind-power to more important matters than notifications about your amazing dog's Instagram account.

Working on the argument portion of a motion? Turn it off and put it away. At a hearing, or trial? Take it off counsel's table, turn it off, and put it in your bag.

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