Friday, November 17, 2006


I received a number of messages re my last post, and just at a time when my own work/life balance has precluded spending any time thinking about blogging. One common thread in the e-mail has the importance of using workplace technology as a tool for enriching one's life, rather than letting it enslave you.

Take mobile phones - I've had one since 1993, and it's hard for me to imagine a bigger productivity booster than having near-ubiquitous voice contact wherever I want it. At the time I got my first phone (an analog beast installed in my car), I had a debate with one of the other lawyers in my firm about whether it was a good idea to have a phone. He was a free-spirited surfer dude, and he sneered at mobile phones as "electronic dog collars" . . . until the day a few months later when he made a two-and-a-half-hour drive to a deposition that was cancelled ten minutes after he left the building. What I stressed then, and did again when talking to my father years later when he was dithering about getting his first phone, is that the damn things come with an "off" button for those times when you don't want to be reached.

With technology like mobile phones, e-mail and, indeed, portable broadband, the issue is more about boundaries than the technology itself. Technology is only going to enslave you to the degree you let it. And if you're able to use it to work more efficiently or shift work around so you can have a more flexible day, it's downright freeing.

Of course, even solid boundaries can't save you from the problems of "bleeding edge" technologies - those things that seem to hold the promise of making our working lives easier but consume more time than they save by clumsy interfaces, too much maintenance or lack of reliability (think voice recognition software, most PDAs and all-in-one message services). I'll take a pass on the "gee whiz" stuff unless in can make my life better right out of the box.

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