The recent NY Times (need to register to see this article for free) article which highlighted the distracting parts of technology has got me thinking a bit about distraction. The NY Times article essentially recounted research which showed that our ability to focus is often negatively impacted by the distractions of technology. But, there are other distractions that fill our day. BigLawAssociate noted the distractions which come as a result of being an associate of a large firm. He noted that partners would sometimes come in and demand attention. They dole out assignments as if no one's time counted but their own. They freely interrupt and demand that you stop what you are doing right now and listen to them. It isn't that they are trying to interfere with you. It is more that they see themselves at the center of the universe.
So, do we live in a world where distractions are becoming more abundant? I think that most people would answer this question yes. I know that I would. Yet, we know that quality of work comes as a result of focus, attention, concentration and intellect. I think we all feel that it is more difficult to deliver quality as a result of distractions. However, we also achieve the efficiencies of technology which makes information more readily available, strategic analysis more accessible and increases the ability to exercise intelligence. For instance, in preparing my mediation brief, I can access every document in the file as an Adobe PDF sitting on my hard drive. I have all of my prior analysis embedded into those files. My file structure on my file server breaks information out into categories and subcategories. So that I can quickly grab the important content in the case and throw it into the themes and strategy which my technology also provided leverage on when I first started the case. Instead of spending eight hours preparing the case facilitation brief, I can do it in three.
So while we can do better quality work as a result of technology, we also know that technology makes it more difficult to focus on the essentials which are there on your file server embedded in your documents. Once we can blend the efficiency which technology brings to bear in an atmosphere of uninterrupted focus, we will have reached a level that has never existed in legal services. Isn't that what we are all striving for?