The business of law often requires multitasking. Attorneys are trying to keep track of cases and clients. They’re emailing instructions and assignments to staff, and they’re receiving instructions and assignments from partners. There is pressure to be constantly connected. And while I wrote not that long ago about how applications for iPhones and Blackberrys can increase attorney productivity, I’d like to make a note that there are times when the most productive thing you can do is simply put the technology down.

I’m referring specifically to time spent driving. It may be possible to talk on your phone while sending an email from your laptop and still managing to stay in your lane on the freeway–but that doesn’t mean it’s a good idea. The New York Times had a piece yesterday on the dangers of turning your vehicle into a mobile office. The piece discusses the self-inflicted need to multitask. Our firms don’t necessarily
want us risking our lives to be sure we get that email sent ten minutes sooner. And our lives really are at risk when we try to talk, text, or type while driving.

In fact, according to the New York Times piece, the risk of crashing quadruples when the driver is talking on the phone–even if that driver is using the aid of a hands-free device. The risk goes up even more if the driver is texting.

But besides trying to keep yourself alive, there’s another reason to not work behind the wheel. New studies show that the work was done there isn’t really productive at all. In fact, because the mind can only focus on one demanding task at a time, either your work or your driving is bound to suffer. Essentially, your brain has to switch between different neural functions, and the time lost creates inefficiencies. So you can either drive well, work well, or do both somewhat poorly.

And not only does the multitasking affect your driving, but it can affect you after you get out of the car, too. From the New York Times article: “Research shows that the brains of heavy multitaskers can become so accustomed to hopping from task to task that they have trouble focusing on longer, more in-depth ones.” I knew I had a problem! This explains everything!

My advice–take it slow, one task at a time. Pay attention to what’s going on around you, especially if you’re in the driver’s seat.