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John C. Trimble, Lewis Wagner LLP[/caption]By John C. Trimble, Lewis Wagner LLP
I woke up this morning and did what most people now do…I grabbed my smart phone and scanned my email inbox for overnight news. I saw immediately that a client had written me at 2:36 a.m. to respond to an email that I had written at 5:45 p.m. the day before. I responded back to him at 5:30 a.m.
Every rainmaking expert will tell you that being responsive is the number one way to capture and keep clients. Conversely, unresponsive lawyers will soon lose clients and referrals from other lawyers. The critical question is, “How connected should I be, and how much is too much?” We should all be asking ourselves and our colleagues this question.
We baby boomers probably do not realize just how dependent younger generations are on their devices. My millennial colleagues use their smart phones as their one and only phone at home, their alarm clock, their wristwatch, their news source and their entertainment. Their phones are on and at their side 24/7.
I love my devices; I could not live without my iPad. However, I have come to the conclusion that we are too connected. We need to be responsive, but only within reason. All of us, regardless of age, need to step back and disconnect part of every weekday and even more on weekends.
Not long ago I had a colleague in my firm explain to me the stress I create if I write an email at midnight even when I don’t expect a response until the next day. He told me how the email pings (or vibrates) as it arrives in his phone and how he often feels prompted to look at the phone late at night when he hears it. Even though I have told him not to respond until business hours begin, he responds almost immediately. I can’t break him of it. I have finally realized that I need to put my communications in a draft folder and send them during daylight hours. I don’t want to interrupt his down time responding to me.
So, my solution is as follows. Let’s disconnect when we get home at night. If you must type emails, put them in draft to send in the morning. Enjoy a meal at home or in a restaurant without looking at your device or without making or taking a call. Put down your device and talk to your spouse, significant other or children. Limit your Facebook, Twitter or Instagram use to a prescribed time and then put the device down and do something else. On weekends, set a schedule to look at your device no more than once an hour unless you are working.
It is good to be responsive, but set expectations. If you respond in a reasonable time, that will set reasonable expectations. If you respond scary fast, that will become an expectation. And if you respond in the middle of the night, even that will become an expectation.
Life is fast enough, and technology has made it faster. It is good “To Be” connected, but also good “Not To Be” connected. Find a happy medium. If you will, then so will I!