We say all the time that technology will never replace humans in the practice of law, because the ability to strategically analyze legal problems remains uniquely human. But exercising that ability takes focus, and in the modern workplace—with its open-concept offices, constant notifications, and wide array of technological tools—focus can be hard to come by. In today’s atmosphere of “information overload all of the time,” few people have learned how to effectively shut out the distractions. And as much as technology is part of the problem, it also has the potential to be part of the solution.
The High Costs of Distraction
In its 2018 Workplace Distraction Report, Udemy Research found that an overwhelming 70 percent of workers feel distracted at work. And no wonder: research has shown that “the typical office worker is interrupted or switches tasks, on average, every three minutes and five seconds.” Even worse, “it can take 23 minutes and 15 seconds just to get back to where they left off.” Constant communication is a major stressor, with employees spending 31 hours each month in meetings, receiving over 300 business-related emails weekly, and checking their email, on average, 36 times per hour.
In that environment, if a lawyer is trying to draft a contract, research a legal issue, or prepare an argument for court, they’ve got precious little uninterrupted time to truly focus on that work. So, when document-drafting technology requires users to switch screens, click through multiple menus, and remember to launch a separate program for each task, it’s no surprise that adoption rates are poor.
The Benefits of Routine Workflows
Distraction, worry, overwhelm, and the accompanying task paralysis are “symptoms of not having a dependable workflow process.” By contrast, a routine, streamlined, integrated workflow—where all the tools that lawyers need are on one screen—can alleviate those symptoms and enable focused work. Creating a logical workflow that minimizes screen changes and clicks increases the odds that lawyers will stay “in the zone” of a given project.
When technology itself isn’t creating distractions, lawyers can focus better, think all the way through legal issues, and get more done, working more efficiently and producing higher-quality output. As a bonus, technology that’s integrated within a functional workflow is more likely to get used, driving up user adoption rates and increasing the return on technological investments.
Tips to Improve Workflows
To get the most from your technology and maximize your focus, be ruthlessly intentional about your workflows. Step back and analyze the tasks you need to do and the tools that are available to do those tasks. Don’t automatically assume you need to use existing workflows; rather, consciously design workflows that will help you accomplish your essential work while allowing you to maintain your focus.
Consider batching similar tasks, especially email and other communications. When you know that you’re going to handle all of your email in two dedicated time-blocks each day, it’s easier to turn off the distracting notifications and curtail the incessant checking. That can help you stay in one work environment—such as Microsoft Word—until you’ve finished all your document tasks.
Speaking of documents: are you spending too much time meeting with others about the content of your documents? By incorporating a streamlined tool for document collaboration, you may be able to substantially cut back on both meetings and drop-in questions, making it easier to batch your document tasks and maintain your all-important focus.
For more information, check out our recent webinar about how understanding workflows can drive user adoption.