Our phones are really computers.
And computers are ultimately tools.
But anyone with a mobile phone (isn’t that everyone at this point?) knows that these tools that help us communicate, stay organized, and even track our health also house our personal photos, games, and favorite apps that make commutes just a bit easier.
So it’s fair to say broadly that digital tools have transformed the way people live. Unfortunately, there is a lot of negative news about the impact of digital tools, especially about how social media has harmed modern lives. And while some of the bad news is rooted in truth, our digital tools can be our best ally, especially when it comes to making us more efficient at work, so that we can enjoy our time at home. There are some great ways that you can use digital tools to engineer a more productive and fulfilling offline life. Here are some tips:
The best, and most effective way, to use your digital tools is to only use them when you need them. In other words, when you’re not at work and not actively using them at home, put them away. Begin placing your phone in a drawer or high shelf when you get home to avoid the temptation to fidget.
Get Personal, IRL
Your professional network can have a powerful impact on your ability earn a living and advance in your career at every stage. It’s up to you to leverage every possible tool you can to expand and deepen your professional connections. Fortunately, there are many digital tools to help you meet the right people in the legal industry (or any industry) and nurture those relationships. Social media platforms are a great tool for getting even the most casual professional connection to become an advocate for your career. Here are some tips for using social media:
Connect to contacts on social media. Make a habit of connecting to professional contacts on social media such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter or whatever social network is relevant at the time. Many find it easiest to designate different channels for different purposes: LinkedIn for professional networking, Facebook for personal relationships, Twitter for news and pop culture, etc.
Carefully curate your posts. Decide in advance what you want to post on your social platform and make sure that your posts are relevant to the audience you’re targeting. If your social media is for professional connections, keep it exclusively for that purpose by only posting relevant information. Keep your family/friends information on a separate/private social media account. Just like at your business, you are in effect branding yourself. Be consistent.
Engage with content. If you’re following important professional connections on social media, be sure to comment on their posts. A simple “like” on someone’s accomplishment goes a long way in extending and maintaining your network, both for immediate returns and those in the distant future.
Attend real life events. If you’re on a social media platform that allows users to host offline events, be sure to attend those events and ask your “friends” to join you. Set goals for yourself of one networking event a quarter.
When you use digital tools like social media to stay in touch with your professional networks you can prevent casual relationships from atrophying. You can likewise let your professional network grow even while you’re offline with friends and family, in effect creating more time for your personal life.
Automate Your Personal Marketing
Whether you’re a law firm partner or a junior attorney, marketing yourself is an ongoing chore. Consider sending out weekly, monthly or quarterly newsletters to your contacts. Marketing automation tools such as MailChimp and Constant Contact make it easy to collect, verify, and market to your professional network. You can even provide a link or QR code on your business card so that professional contacts can join your mailing list, all without you manually adding their name to a database. Just make sure you follow these rules when automating your marketing:
Always get permission. Never add anyone to a mailing list unless they give you permission to do so.
Keep your content relevant. If someone signs up for your newsletter because they want to find out more about your work as an attorney, don’t send them irrelevant information. Stay on topic.
Be consistent. How often you send out your newsletter is less important than how consistently you send it. Choose a frequency—weekly, monthly, or quarterly—and stick with it.
If you have a good list you will find that recipients may even chat you up about its contents offline. The topics in your newsletter can be great conversation starters at meetings. Many successful newsletters lead to in-person chats, perhaps in the office or over coffee. Again, use online tools to produce offline meetings.
Organize Your Daily Tasks
Today’s lawyers are juggling more tasks and information than ever before. And paper planners can be difficult to manage especially when traveling. This is why digital task organizers and reminder systems can help you stay organized in your offline life.
Try to find digital task organizers that will allow you to create lists, groups, projects and assign tasks to others. You can easily find a list of apps and software packages by searching “productivity” in your phone’s app store and/or on your favorite search engine like Google or Bing.
Your organizer should have a reminder system that is integrated into the calendar on your phone and/or desktop so that you never miss an important deadline or appointment. For law firm partners who need to oversee the schedules of several attorneys, good task organizers will also allow you to see what everyone is doing in your organization so that you can get a bird’s-eye view of what is happening in your firm. When your daily tasks are organized you have fewer conflicts in your offline relationships and you have more time to do the things that really matter.
Skip Car Rental
If you’re a frequent traveler to major cities, you probably already know that car rental can be expensive. But if you sign up for a car sharing app—like Uber or Lyft—you can save money and avoid car rental hassles on your next business trip. Car sharing apps allow you to easily book a driver within minutes and get to your destination quickly. No long lines, no complicated paperwork, and no hefty deposits. Car sharing apps are digital tools that have a direct and positive impact on your offline life.
Ditch Your Notebook
Almost every smartphone has a notes app where you can write pertinent information. Whether you’re attending a scheduled meeting at your law firm, attending a conference, taking a workshop, or just need a place for your thoughts, your digital notebook is convenient and searchable. You can also add photos, videos, attach files and add links. When you’re offline and you want to remember what that specific speaker said at the conference, you can just search your digital notes and you’ll have your answer right away.
Access Your Files From Anywhere
Long gone are the days where you need to lug around an external drive to share files. Save your digital files to the “cloud” and you can access them at anytime and from anywhere. Even if your hard drive becomes corrupted, you can still access digital files in the cloud. You can even share and collaborate on any document that’s in the cloud. Cloud storage helps you avoid the cost and frustration associated with losing files, being unable to access files when you’re away from your office, or being unable to easily share version correct files with colleagues. Your cloud storage system makes sharing information streamlined and convenient.
If you want to make sure that your digital tools are serving your offline life, choose those apps that you really need and use them responsibly. Using technology smartly, and ultimately less, will allow lawyers, paralegals, and legal staff to better use software for life, whether that be a legal case management software like Smokeball or something else.