I will admit that when I first started practicing law, there were no BlackBerry phones, iPhones or tablets allowing one to access email at any time of the day, anywhere in the world. I also could not access the system in our office while at home or some other remote location. Now that all of these options are available to us, I can’t help but wonder is technology killing the ability to balance work with life?
I often read articles on the issue of work-life balance and one consistent theme seems to be that when you are at work, focus on work, and when you are at home, focus on whatever you are doing at home. While in theory it seems to be good advice, putting it into practice can be difficult at times. I have been guilty of sitting at the dinner table, hearing my phone indicate I have a new email, and debating inside my head whether to check the email or leave it alone. Certainly, it is not good manners to check email while sitting at the dinner table, but how many of us have ignored good manners then stepped away from the table because something needed to be handled “right then?” Admittedly, there are times I have to remind myself that if the outcome is not going to be any different whether I answer right away or first thing in the morning, it is not worth interrupting my children telling me about their day. While my clients appreciate my ability to be available and promptly respond to questions and concerns, priorities still need to be set in order to achieve the sometimes unattainable work-life balance. Looking back, there were plenty of times I could have, and should have, ignored my phone and focused on what is really important.
I don’t recall having this internal struggle in the early years after law school. Granted, my priorities have changed since I first started practicing. I now have a husband, children, dog and a house to take care of, all things I did not have when I first started out in my practice. I worked longer hours at the office because I didn’t have to race home to get someone to soccer practice on time, put dinner on the table, attend parent-teacher conferences or any of the things we do outside the office. But, I also don’t remember feeling stressed out because I was driving one of my kids somewhere but felt like I should be responding to the email a client just sent. And, I am not ashamed to admit that there have also been times when I just wanted to throw the darn phone out the window and didn’t want to be bothered.
Recently, on a quick trip to the grocery store, I forgot my phone. At first, I panicked coming up with all the “what ifs.”
What if something happens to me on the way to the store? What if someone is trying to reach me about something important?
Then it struck me, there was a time that whenever I left the house I could not call/text/email someone and no one could reach me instantaneously. We all survived then, so has anything really changed? This experience showed me that I can put the phone and tablet down and not worry about work when I am not at the office. When I am at home, I keep my phone in my purse rather than having it out where I can see it constantly. This gives me the ability to focus on what is going on at home and allows me to live in the present at that very moment. Don’t get me wrong, I am not perfect. I still check my email before I go to bed, and sometimes even check it when I shouldn’t, but I am trying harder to not miss the important things going on in my life away from the office. I like technology just as much as the next guy, but I am not going to let it kill my attempt at balancing work and life.•
Ms. Moss serves on the board of directors of DTCI and is a partner at Kightlinger & Gray. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author.