These things are amazing. They have certainly changed the way that I live and work. Having so much information at my fingertips always and everywhere and having the ability to find out more things on the fly is proving to be a fantastic facilitator.

I like to think that one of the characteristics of my law practice is that people can almost always get to me quickly.

I have a Blackberry Bold and am constantly reminded of the quality of the engineering that is integral to it. It amazes me that when you are using it as a phone, the buttons with the numbers work as number buttons and that when you’re using it to send e-mail the buttons with the numbers work as letter numbers all automatically. I love that you can uppercase letters by holding key down slightly longer. I appreciate being able to set the thing to vibrate, to have only the phone ring and to have the whole thing turned off. I love the ring tones, use the camera all the time to take notes and worry that business etiquette has expanded to make it acceptable to send e-mails at any time of day or night and apparently to expect a quick response.

I have learned to turn my phone notification off frequently and that works well for me. When I am working on my own I don’t like the loss of initiative or the responding to other people’s priorities, with the consequent change to my own priorities, that happens to me when my Blackberry is on.

I haven’t gone all the way yet but I am planning to try an experiment and put in my signature line a statement that I check my e-mail at 10 a.m., 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. to pace expectations of me.

I will add a note to the effect that if you really need to reach me, call me at a cell phone number.

I don’t have an iPhone. They are fantastic, both the temptation and religion and of course I am fascinated by their design and functionality. I use my BlackBerry for business and send a fair number of e-mails from the road. I find the thumb typing infinitely superior to the touch screen on an iPhone. The iPhone apps concept is terrific, if burgeoning out of control and into chaos, and I hope that the BlackBerry apps will get better organized.

In the edition of Newsweek dated Feb. 16, 2009 Sharon Begley wrote:

“The cognitive and social effects of the BlackBerry on its 21 million users aren’t so unambiguously beneficial. So while legions of BlackBerry fans cheer Obama’s success in keeping his, insisting it makes users more productive and connected, experts in cognitive psychology and in human-machine interactions who study pop-ups, e-mail alerts, calendar reminders and instant messaging — the most intrusive and ubiquitous pre-BlackBerry technologies — have two things to say: distraction overload and continuous partial attention.

“For whatever the virtues of a handheld, there is no question that, depending how you use it, you risk never focusing exclusively on any thought or perception for long and never being able to work straight through to completion on anything. That’s okay for tasks you can handle with half your cerebral lobes tied behind your back. It’s less fine when the task is, say, watching for track signals while operating a train.

“How damaging an interruption depends on when it occurs.”

The article looked more specifically at two kinds of effects form interruptions.

“Interruption overload can impair higher cognitive functions, too, starting with decision making. It takes time to bring your mind back to the task you left when the BlackBerry called, which means (if that task was listening to someone, for instance) you have missed more than occurred during just the seconds it took to read an e-mail. People take about 15 minutes to productively resume a challenging task when they are interrupted even by something as innocuous as an e-mail alert, scientists at Microsoft Research and the University of Illinois found in a 2007 study.”

This was not news to me. The article went on to the next kind of effects.

“Interruptions can also derail brain processes that sort incoming signals. Information first lands in short-term memory, but if it is to stay with you for the long term it must be encoded — put in the right mental file drawer. ‘Being forced to divert attention to interrupting messages,’ scientists in Finland concluded in a 2004 study, ‘can cause memory loss’ and ‘decreased memory accuracy’. ”

And the kind of effects from interruptions most familiar to me,“The more brain power an interruption demands, the more disruptive it will be to the task it is pulling you away from .… If the interruption requires significant mental effort … the subconscious cannot keep repeating, ‘I walked into this room to get my wallet.’ Hence the feeling of ‘What’d I come in here for?’.”

Finally and most serious, I think, the article reported that,

“When Teresa Amabile of Harvard Business School studied 238 people working on projects that required creative solutions, she found that fragmentation of attention also impeded creativity.”

“…the common experience of an ‘aha’ moment of creativity or insight about some problem when it is not commanding your conscious attention. If mental downtime becomes BlackBerry time, eurekas will be rarer.”