Brian P. Mclean 2014-10-27 19:59:44
Tech Stress If we can’t make technology stand still, we can at least make it run. Let us consider the many benefits of being a lawyer. … Now, let us consider the many detriments: chronic lower back pain, blurry vision, headaches, confusion, memory problems, anti-social tendencies, and being disrespected by just about everyone. There are countless nuisances as well, including excessive student debt and unemployment. I think we can all agree that technology is largely to blame for everyone and everything wrong with the world. Life very well may have been better when we were trampled underfoot by woolly mammoths and eaten by saber-toothed tigers. The Ruinous Nature of Technology Technology has changed the slings and arrows of stress, but not the armor. The modern lawyer’s quintessential technology-laden stress battlefield now includes toothbrushes incorporating “patented sonic technology,” automatic coffee grinders and brewers, 300 urgent emails a day seven days a week, software updates, voicemail, faxes, video chatting, IT departments, lack of IT departments, tablets, viruses, trojans, keystroke loggers, phishing schemes, scanners, and automatic document feeders. To combat the ruinous nature of technology, all you have to do is abide by the following eight principles: • Take care of yourself to better manage stress; • Make your workspace ergonomic; • Set aside time where you can get work done uninterrupted; • Occasionally eschew email; • Review your work email three times a day, not every six minutes; • Maintain at least three primary email addresses: work, personal, and other; • Delegate; and • Embrace cryopreserving. Stress management Faced with an unpleasant environment or situation that you can’t easily avoid or change, you might think that technology can help. But it can’t. The good news for you? Non-technological stress remedies are infinitely less expensive and more effective than any off-the-shelf technology, and you have the ability, right now, at little or no cost, to deal effectively with stress. First piece of advice—when you can’t avoid a stressful situation, change how you react to that situation. And it is easier to recognize stress and to change how you react to a stressful situation when you are healthy and well rested. Eat right, limit your alcohol intake, get plenty of rest, exercise regularly, and you can look forward to completing your legal career with no more than the usual wear and tear. Ergonomics, including a good keyboard Invest in a good chair, a good monitor, and a good keyboard. Sit up straight. Stand up and walk around every 60 minutes or so. Good chairs and good monitors are fairly easy to find, but most lawyers don’t give much thought to their keyboards. If you use the keyboard that came with your computer, consider upgrading to a specialized keyboard that may reduce your physical and mental stress. Check out the Das Keyboard Model S Professional, the Microsoft Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard, or the Kinesis Freestyle2. Reduce interruptions and schedule time where you can work undisturbed Remember that every interruption adds about 23 minutes to a task. You are more valuable to your firm and your clients when you can concentrate on your work for long periods of time. Manage your emails instead of letting them manage you In 1971, Raymond Samuel Tomlinson sent on the ARPANET (the precursor to the Internet) the first email to a user on a different host. No one kept a copy of that email. One can imagine, however, it said something like this: Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds. There is probably no greater gift or curse than email. Email allows you to communicate, create to-do lists, archive messages, and waste billable time 24 hours a day seven days a week. With email, you are obviously caught on the horns of a dilemma. On the one horn, you can communicate for pennies with just about anyone anywhere in the world; on the other horn, for the same pennies, just about anyone anywhere in the world can communicate with you, over and over. Although you will eventually lose the battle, you can at least fight back and delay the inevitable. Turn off the ding that tells you, “You’ve got mail!” Instead, review emails 1) when you first get to work, 2) after lunchtime, and 3) about 30 minutes before you leave for the day. At the end of the day, check your junk email folder. If you are going to make one million dollars responding to an unsolicited email, your junk folder is the place to look. You can help others as well. Keep your emails short and to the point. Maintain at least three primary email addresses: work, personal, and other. Use your “other” email address for shopping. Use your personal email address for non-work purposes. Use your work email address for work. Check only your work email when you’re working, because un-billable time can add up. For example, if you use your work email to register for free stuff at 115 different vendors, expect to spend the equivalent of an entire year of billable time cleaning out your inbox. When all else fails, file for email bankruptcy— delete everything in your inbox and start over. Instead of using email, use your phone, videoconferencing, client meetings, and your feet. It’s scientifically proven—people respond better to the warmth of your voice and that endearing twinkle in your eye. Phone calls and client meetings reduce the expense of e-discovery. Many clients value your phone time more than your email time. The phone can stop an email exchange from spiraling out of control; when an email thread starts to go sideways, pick up the phone. Or walk down the hallway. If you must use technology, for less than $30 you can add a decent webcam to your computer with a built-in microphone. Delegate Learn to delegate, train to delegate. Do you have an assistant who can filter your emails? Do you have trouble accepting projects or delegating them? Put together a checklist of standard questions that you can ask if something is delegated to you. If you must communicate by email, then you can always create a template form and receive one email rather than 30 to gather the same information: • Who’s the client? • What’s the issue? • What’s the desirable outcome? • What’s the product or service to be delivered? •When is the product or service to be delivered? • How much time should reasonably be billed? • Do we have all the documentation we need? • Where is the documentation, if we don’t have it? • Does another attorney need to review the product before it leaves the firm? • Who’s the primary contact with the client? • Who’s the secondary contact with the client? • Are there any other limitations on our authority or my authority (e.g., can I enter into negotiations with opposing counsel?) Work until you die at your desk If all else fails, work until you die at your desk. Employ some of the advice in this article and you may live longer—long enough for modern science to make cryopreservation an option for your loved ones. Who knows? Maybe science will revive you hundreds of years from now to encounter a stress-free environment where you’ll be trampled by a woolly mammoth, then eaten by a saber-toothed tiger. BRIAN P. MCLEAN is managing shareholder in the Seattle office of Leahy McLean Fjelstad, where he represents condominium and homeowner associations. He can be reached at email@example.com. The article originally appeared in the NWLawyer. Reprinted with permission of Brian P. McLean and the Washington State Bar Association. TECHGEAR The newest GoPro HERO4 video cameras (from $399.99) boast improved image quality, among other fresh features. The HERO4 Black offers high-resolution and faster frame rates, while the HERO4 Silver couples professional-quality video and photo capture with a touch display. WEBLINKS MAC PIERRE-LOUIS is a partner in the Law Office of Pierre-Louis & Carr in Houston. He graduated from Thurgood Marshall School of Law and served as an assistant attorney general with the Child Support Division of the Texas Attorney General’s Office. He maintains the group blog childsupporttoday.com and is founder of Pierre-Louis Web Consulting, a marketing firm focused on professionals. Follow him on Twitter: @pandclaw, @ChildSupportEsq, and @plwconsults. google.com Our staff utilizes resources in the Google Apps for Work suite, including Gmail, Calendar, Hangouts, and Sites. casefox.com My cloud-based case management tool of choice integrates with Google, and its features, such as timekeeping and the ability to accept online payments, have made it easy to manage our practice. oconnors.com Recently launched, this site has quickly become my go-to for research and drafting. I have access to O’Connor’s practice commentary, forms, and annotated codes and rules for one monthly fee. tweetdeck.com TweetDeck allows for quick and easy reviewing and posting on each of my profiles from one interactive dashboard. feedly.com This RSS reader is great for streamlining and keeping up with the dozens of law, technology, and personal development blogs I follow.
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