Balance Managing Self

“One Weird, Simple Trick…”

Written by Steven Levy

The Internet is overrun with click-bait headed by that phrase. One weird, simple trick that can flatten your stomach, tone your skin, or stop Americans from moving to Canada when one or another political party loses in November.

Still…. The phrasing must work, or they’d stop using it, right?

So how ‘bout one more time:

One Weird, Simple Trick to Give You More Time in the Evening

Here it is:

When you’re done with your work for the day, shut down your computer.

Turn it off. Not standby ready-to-wake-up-and-serve-you mode, but no-power mode (hibernate mode is fine for Windows computers).

And then keep some paper and a pen handy in your workspace.

Why It Works

It’s 9:15. You’re tired, thinking about bed, and then you get an idea. One email you want to send, one note you want to make. So you unlock your screen, log in, and… get distracted. Answer twenty emails, read four stories on the Internet, and write seventeen paragraphs in three documents.

And there goes your work-life balance, now that it’s 10:20 and you just spent an hour more than expected at work.

None of that stuff had to be done tonight, except jotting down the idea. That’s where the paper and pen come in. You’re not going to hand-write a brief these days with the computer right in front of you, so you limit yourself automatically to a tickler, a brief note to remind you tomorrow of the idea you had. Tomorrow, when you have real time and energy to work on it.

(By the way, that thing about unlocking your computer? If you are not automatically locking your screen after ten minutes or so of inactivity and requiring a login to get back in, please fix that right now, while you’re reading this column. You store confidential and privileged and simply private material on your machine. Keep it that way, even if you work alone. Bad things happen. Lessen their chance of happening to you.)

“But, Steven…

“But, Steven,” I hear you say through the two-way connection built into this article, “sometimes I’m really inspired.” And Susan from New York adds, “It takes so much time to start up the computer.”

(Only kidding about the two-way connection. Really.)

Let me answer Susan first. Yes, it takes time – which is why this is a good idea. Your knowing that it takes time to get restarted serves as inoculation against “one little note” becoming an hour of email and surfing and work-life imbalance. That’s why this weird, simple trick works!

Now for your question about inspiration. Urgent calls from the client and other work exigencies fall into this category as well. Occasionally you really are driven to work after you’ve moved into not-working-tonight mode, whether by inspiration, client needs, or co-worker pleas. When that comes up, go with it. If you use this weird, simple trick to rescue four out of five evenings, say, you’re still well ahead of the game.

As an author, I know there are times I simply have to write. But I have a built-in threshold, my computer sitting at my desk with no lights blinking. It will take thirty seconds to wake up. And in contemplating my willingness to wait out that half-minute, I know immediately how “necessary” my idea is. And so most of the time, the computer remains off, saving me from self-delusion as I realize I actually can capture the essence of my idea on a sticky note or 3×5 card.

So try this one weird, simple trick.

(And please don’t click on anything else with this teaser of a tag-line!)

About the author

Steven Levy

As the CEO of Lexician, I help lawyers around the world manage their projects, their time, their teams, and their clients. I am the author of four books for legal professionals, including the new edition of the groundbreaking Legal Project Management and the time-management guide, The Off Switch. Before founding Lexician, I was the former head of Microsoft’s Legal Operations / Technology department. You can contact me at or learn more at

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