Above the Law

Put your phone away for a minute. And your Blackberry if you have one. Turn them both on silent, lock them in a drawer, and mentally walk away from them. Just for one minute. Close your eyes and remember the last time you were free of these devices, the ones that haunt your every waking moment. There had to be a point in your life where your electronic devices did not OWN you. Maybe it was on your last vacation when you had the sand between your toes and a fruity drink in your hand. Reflect on that time, and relish in it for one whole minute. Liberating, isn’t it?

I have several clients and friends who have a hard time putting boundaries on their Blackberries and smartphones, allowing work emails to pervade every waking hour of their day. I know exactly how that feels because I, too, used to be a slave to my Blackberry. When I first started at Cleary, I kept my Blackberry on vibrate, and I kept it with me at all times. I went shopping with it. I brought it to fitness classes at the gym. I took it with me on dates.

Eventually, I started to realize that I, Megan Grandinetti, wasn’t quite as indispensable as I had originally thought. I bravely switched my Blackberry from vibrate to silent, and for a while, I felt a little bit more free.

But the red light continued to blink at me, tricked me into thinking that it was blinking when it wasn’t, laughed at me when I tried to look away.

Tired of being mocked by the red light, I began to store my Blackberry in a drawer when I wasn’t at the office. I would put it away for an hour, two hours, three hours at a time (daring! outrageous!), shoving it into the drawer, saying “see you later” to that wretched device and using all of my willpower to keep it in its drawer for its allotted “time out.” I felt a little bit lighter.

Then one day (two law firms and five years later), I turned my blackberry into the HR department, and I achieved full, blissful liberation from the bounds of the Blackberry.

Although turning in your electronic device might not be the right answer for you, here are three possible ways to achieve a healthy separation from your work-related electronic device:

(1) Turn it on silent. Turning your device on silent doesn’t mean that you’ll check it any less frequently; it just means that you control when you check it. If it’s not beeping or buzzing, you can enjoy some precious moments of silence before you see the blinking red light or the email pop up on your iPhone screen.

(2) Set clear boundaries with yourself as to when and how often you’ll check it on the weekends. When you’re not on a deal or a case that needs your full attention over the weekend, pick an amount of time during which you won’t check your work email. Most firms have at least an informal policy on this, so make sure to find out what is acceptable at your firm. But set boundaries for yourself, stick to them, and enjoy the one to three hours of freedom.

(3) Stop checking emails one hour before bedtime. If you’re not working on anything urgent, check your work email about an hour before bedtime, and then put it away for the night–turn the device off, put it in a drawer, or shove it under a sofa cushion. Find a relaxing way to unwind for an hour, and then sleep peacefully, knowing that your Blackberry is also cozy for the evening.

Megan Grandinetti is a New York city-based attorney, health coach, and yoga teacher. Megan’s work as a health coach focuses on improving the health and wellness of lawyers. Find out more about Megan (a.k.a. “Health Coach Meg”) by visiting www.thelawyershealthcoach.com or her Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/healthcoachmegnyc.