15 Minutes of Silence: Can You Do It?

A recent article in the Wall Street Journal posed a critical question worth considering.
A CEO of a highly successful company was challenged by a friend to sit still for 15 minutes in complete silence and inactivity. And he bet him $15,000 that he couldn’t do it.
And he couldn’t. “I never expected it to be so hard,” he said. “I found myself reaching for my Blackberry every minute. I couldn’t shut down.”
Could you? And why does it matter anyway?
Our technology has changed the very fabric of our lives and relationships. At the core, we have given everyone else the ability to control our time – to interrupt and become our immediate priority no matter what else is going on at the moment. And worse – we’ve become addicted to it. We crave it, just like the CEO.
Again – so why does that matter?
Because of the hundreds of studies on focus and concentration that universally agree: when we are frequently interrupted, our efficiency and productivity drop, and our ability to deliver quality work is compromised. Most lawyers don’t have five minutes without an interruption by their technology, their staff – or their own ADD thoughts – no less 15.
And for lawyers whose time is their treasure and their reputation is everything, decreased efficiency and quality issues are life and career-threatening.
Not that lawyers are turning out poor quality work. It’s just that it is taking them longer to deliver that quality.
Is it no wonder that the average lawyer is spending 50, 60, 70, even 80 hours “at work,” whether that be in the office, in the car, at home or on vacation (ever spent a vacation in your hotel room working?).  Technology isn’t the only culprit. Lawyers are notorious for having no personal boundaries and working constantly. Technology is simply making that spectacularly worse.
Most lawyers, when challenged about allowing technology to control them, will respond with “but my clients expect me to be available to them!”
Sure. Because you told them you would. Or worse, because you didn’t tell them anything about how you would work together – so they got to decide for themselves.
Here’s a communication I strongly suggest you use with your next new client:
“One of the most important things you have hired me for is my wisdom and my careful consideration of every aspect of your matter. For that reason, I have taken several steps to insure that I can always deliver that.
First, I have set aside time during my day, from — to —, when I am uninterruptible except for emergencies, so that I can focus on my work for you and others, and provide my best service. So if you call during that time, you may speak with my [associate /paralegal/assistant], or you can leave a message for me, and I will respond within 24 hours.
Second, I do not respond immediately to e-mails, because I want to carefully consider any question or information you may offer. Instead, I review my e-mails periodically, and respond carefully.
And third, I do not text, because texting encourages reactive responses, and that violates my principle of thoughtful and careful consideration.”
Basic principle here. Your time is your treasure. If you don’t take control of it, everyone else will. And if they do, you’ll be working at night, on the weekends, and in your hotel room while the kids are at Disney.
Radical. Retro. But it could save your life, your practice, maybe even your marriage.
Oh. And by the way, here’s the link to the article. I didn’t offer it up front because I knew – A.D.D. you – that you’d follow that shiny thing even before you read the article.