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Digital Detox for Lawyers

Upward facing picture of a circle of people looking at their smartphones
By Joseph Fawbush, Esq. on October 11, 2019 4:17 PM

We know that being hyper-connected to the internet and social media can be damaging. It's been associated with negative mental health outcomes such as depression, narcissistic behavior and a lack of empathy. It can cause harmful physical side effects, including insomnia, stress, vision problems, and back and neck pain. It can lead to lower productivity.

To get away from 24/7 connectedness, a new trend called “digital detox" is emerging. Some companies even offer a recovery-center approach, providing a few days or weeks where people voluntarily give up access to their phones and the internet in a secluded environment. That sounds nice, but many lawyers can't take a weekend vacation without checking their work email, let alone living off the grid for weeks at a time. Any discussion of a “digital detox" for lawyers must account for the very real demands placed on attorneys to be available.

With that in mind, here are some practical ways to limit smartphone use without compromising your accessibility. You may even find some to be a helpful way to increase productivity.

  1. Use an old-fashioned alarm clock. When the first thing you do in the morning is reach for your phone to hit snooze, you're starting off the day with work email, news, and maybe even Twitter mentions. It's not helpful.
  2. Take time offline each day, morning or night. Have a morning or night routine that doesn't involve your phone. Sometimes you'll have a reason to check work email before your commute or prior to getting some sleep. But most of the time you can let yourself have a few minutes each day without distraction. You may find this helps you to focus when you do arrive at the office. This will also help lower stress and the unpredictability associated with sudden emergencies coming to you while at home.
  3. Turn off notifications. Smartphones use notifications for a reason. It can be hard to ignore that little ping coming from your pocket. Turn them off.
  4. Reduce apps. Save battery, increase privacy, and avoid temptation. It's a no-brainer. You may even consider getting a minimalist phone that requires people to call to get in touch with you.
  5. Use custom settings for phone calls. Create custom ringtones and vibrations for certain people. If you've made it clear to your staff and colleagues when to call and not call, you know in advance whether you need to pick up the phone.

There are pros and cons to our 24/7 connectedness. But minor adjustments to daily routines can make a difference in the negative health impact associated with too much smartphone use.

Related Resources

The Way Lawyers Can Stop Procrastinating (FindLaw's Strategist)

Your Smartphone: Friend or Foe? (FindLaw's Technologist)

Social Media Use by Juries: Is There Any Way to Stop It? (FindLaw's Technologist)