January 01, 2018

Can Technology Improve Your Work-Life Balance?

Ryan A. Podges

It’s 9:00 p.m. You are finally home after a long day at the office and ready to relax. You pour yourself a glass of wine, but just before you take the first sip, you hear a dreaded and familiar sound. It’s a work email notification from your phone. You try at first to ignore it, but before long, the stress and fear of missing something important has you running over to check.

While sending or reviewing late-night emails may sometimes be a necessity, a situation such as this is just a tiny example of the many ways attorneys struggle to find a comfortable work-life balance. Technology that allows people to be reached virtually anywhere, at any hour, has made some attorneys feel as though they can never fully disengage from their work. Thankfully, technology has also created numerous tools to help us work smarter, remember our priorities, and create a livable balance between working on a career and managing and enjoying everything else in life.

You cannot make the changes necessary to build the work-life balance you want unless you know exactly how you are currently using your time. Personal time-tracking apps such as Hours and My Minutes help people record how they spend their time every day. You may be surprised at how much time each week you spend watching TV or on social media. Whatever you do, time-tracking apps will allow you to make an honest evaluation of how you spend your time and help you generate goals for how you want to spend it differently in the future.

If you are someone who finds themselves with the constant urge to be on your phone, there are apps that can help you break your smartphone addiction. Apps such as Moment, BreakFree, and AppDetox can track how often you unlock your phone, what apps you use the most, and how much time you spend on them. These apps can help you set limits on how much time and how frequently you use certain apps and can send you reminders when you exceed those limits.

Working efficiently and managing your time well are things every attorney strives to do. The more productive we are at work, the more time you potentially have for other things. But despite our best efforts, unplanned changes and interruptions to our schedule are almost inevitable. To combat that, there are apps available to keep you organized and on task. Any.do and Trello are apps that enable you to keep your work and personal to-do lists and calendars all in one place. They allow you to stay organized, prioritize things, and set reminders so you do not forget your next task. Whether you need help keeping track of your billable hours, upcoming meetings, or what to pick up at the grocery store on the way home, there are countless apps available for the purpose of increasing productivity. These apps can give you the peace of mind of knowing you will not forget what is coming up on your schedule and allow you to stay focused on what you are doing in the present.

Finally, everyone knows that getting the proper amount of exercise is part of the foundation of a healthy lifestyle. However, when things get busy, exercise is often the first thing people cut back on. To prevent yourself from making that sacrifice, there are several apps available to help you plan and remember when it’s time to hit the treadmill or relax. Fitness apps such as Simply Yoga and Sworkit offer videos and all kinds of guided workouts. Fitness apps can help you make goals for yourself, help you, and remind you when you need to make time to exercise.

For more of a mental exercise, there also many apps such as Headspace and Calm that will guide you through meditation and mindfulness practices. These apps will encourage and motivate you to make sure you are making time to help yourself reduce stress and remain mentally fresh and focused.

It is often easy to feel like new technologies have taken away some of our ability to manage healthy work-life balance. The demands of after-hours emails and the temptation to constantly be paying attention to our cell phones can leave us with little time for other important things in life. But technology has also produced tools we can use to be more in control of how we spend our time. The ideal work-life balance is different for everyone, but whatever balance you seek, there is technology available to help you create and protect it.

Ryan A. Podges

Ryan A. Podges is an attorney at Maciorowski, Sackmann & Ulrich, LLP, in Chicago, Illinois.