By Courtney Turner

When I started my first office job, my dad – naggingly — told me to turn off my email and only look at it every couple of hours. He cautioned me that email was very distracting and there was “nothing in there that couldn’t wait a couple of hours.” He said it decreased productivity to look at your email every two minutes or every time you heard “You’ve got mail” or the computer made a little binging sound.

Was he right? Of course he was. Did I listen? Definitely not, but I managed to muddle through my first few years as an attorney balancing writing briefs and answering emails from the partners upstairs when my computer binged. I proved I could check email, meet my deadlines, and produce a solid work product. I had this.

A couple of years later, the Blackberry came out and every attorney in my firm was issued one of these fascinating devices that would give us freedom from the office. They were sold as “making life easier” because you could leave work and head to the grocery store and be notified immediately when that one important email came in. No more spending six hours at the office every Saturday waiting for a partner to comment on your brief. This was the best–I could finally have a life outside the office.

Then one weekend my husband and I went out to an antique store in Winchester and I didn’t take my Blackberry with me. When I got home, I had 18 voicemails and 54 emails. I realized our entire work environment had changed. The Blackberry changed expectations—instant gratification was now the name of the game.

Do I appreciate not having to be at my desk 16 hours a day? Of course I do. However, I also recognize that smartphones have made it increasingly impossible to truly disconnect. If you send me an email at 11 a.m. on a Saturday, I’m not going to wait until Monday to respond. Logically, I know my son’s baseball coach doesn’t need my answer to whether or not he will be at next week’s game that very instant, but I still feel compelled to respond.

There are so many days I wish I could go back to a simpler time when turning email off for a couple of hours was even an option. There have been times when I’ve tried to heed good ole’ dad’s advice, but I just can’t do it. That being said, if you send me an email and don’t hear from me for an hour or two, no need to send out the National Guard. It just means I’ve finally disconnected for a bit and decided to be present, in the moment, with those in my immediate presence. I encourage you to find some time to do the same.

Courtney Turner is IPMI’s member engagement and special projects manager.