Last week’s Wall Street Journal featured an article titled, BlackBerry Orphans (subscription required, free preview available). If it weren’t so serious, it would be funny:
As hand-held email devices proliferate, they are having an unexpected impact on family dynamics: Parents and their children are swapping roles. Like a bunch of teenagers, some parents are routinely lying to their kids, sneaking around the house to covertly check their emails and disobeying house rules established to minimize compulsive typing.
BlackBerries are wonderful gizmos that can make it much easier to balance practice and life. No need to sit in the office waiting for an email if it can reach you while you’re on personal time. However, so many BlackBerry users seem to respond to device’s siren song as if nothing could be more important. One of my clients even confided to me that she would sometimes wake up in the middle of the night and turn on her BlackBerry just to see if any important email had come in since she’d gone to bed. I confided to my client that I’ve done the same, too. And then I shared my strategies for making the BlackBerry serve me rather than vice versa.
If you’re having trouble confining your BlackBerry time, try the following tips published by the WSJ Law Blog:
- During meals, do not check email.
- Do not hide your email habits from family members. If you feel that someone would be upset to see you BlackBerrying, it’s a sign that you probably shouldn’t be.
- Commit to stop emailing while driving (even at red lights), walking across the street or doing anything that requires careful attention.
- Do not check email for the first hour of the day. In addition to giving you time to leisurely read the newspaper or spend time with your family, the practice will help you shake the tic-like checking ritual.
- Endeavor to leave the mobile email device in the car or at home when attending any function taking place at your child’s school, or when picking up your child from school.
- Decide on an email-free block of time. Parents should first assess their child’s conversational patterns — some like to talk about their day immediately after school, others just before bedtime. Even if your child doesn’t seem interested in talking, stick to your promise not to email during that time.
- Set boundaries at work: Alert your colleagues that your mobile email device will be turned off during the predetermined time slot.
- Actually turn off your device and stick it in a drawer during the time you’ve designated as email-free.
- If you are in the middle of a work crisis, still try to respect some boundaries. Consider blocking out a few 15-minute periods to check email — and then turn the device off again. Honestly assess whether the situation at work is an actual crisis that can’t be solved without your oversight.
- When emailing while socializing or spending time with your family, ask yourself if your priority at that moment is enjoying after-work activities or getting work done. If it is the former, power-down. If it’s the latter, return to the office.
- Upon arriving home, practice a ritual that helps you mentally separate the work day from the after-work evening. Light a candle, put on music, pour a cocktail. Don’t check your email during this time.
- If mobile email overuse creates tension between you and your significant other, consider creating jointly agreed-upon BlackBerry-free zones. For instance, unless your bedroom doubles as a home office, consider maintaining it as a sanctuary of your personal life.
And if, as one commenter stated, your firm would never permit use of these tips, query whether the firm’s standards and values match your own.