In the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, the UK’s economic productivity has experienced a noticeable slump. This is also true of much of the world. There is a connection between these macro challenges and the everyday, micro challenges that we face.


I take a quick look at the parallel challenges in personal productivity amidst the distractions of the digital age. This is particularly the case in analysis and intellectual work. For Barristers this challenge is acute and, being self-employed for the most part, they are in the enviable position of being able to do something about enhancing productivity for themselves.


UK’s Economic Productivity Landscape

Recent articles (such as one in the Financial Times) reveal a continuing and concerning trend in the UK’s economic productivity. Since the 2008 financial crisis, there has been a notable lag, especially when compared to other G7 countries. Key factors contributing to this stagnation include complacency in business practices, a lack of investment in training and development, and inefficient management, in fact, the UK ranks bottom of the G7 in these areas. There are a number of reasons for these issues. I think, however, that the small choices and challenges that individuals make on a daily basis add up to a significant drag on how much we can achieve, or, in the parlance of ONS and OECD reports, our GDP per hour.


The Challenge of Personal Productivity

Cal Newport’s “Deep Work” offers valuable insights into the personal productivity challenges faced by professionals today. Newport highlights the detrimental effects of multitasking and the constant bombardment of digital distractions. For barristers, whose work demands high levels of concentration and meticulous analysis, the ability to engage in focused, uninterrupted work sessions is essential. However, the modern digital landscape often impedes this deep work, leading to reduced efficiency and effectiveness.


Drawing Parallels

Though labour market and productivity articles are always illustrated with workers in hard hats rolling steel, manufacturing makes up only around 10% of the UK economy. A large percentage of those employees will sit at screens most of the day. As such the parallels between the UK’s macroeconomic productivity issues and the micro-level challenges faced by, for example, barristers, are quite strong, I think. The distractions from digital tools, such as emails, social media, and instant messaging, can mirror the broader issues of complacency and inefficiency in economic productivity. For those sat at desks and beholden to screens (I put my hand up here too), this often translates into a fragmented workday, where attention is constantly diverted, leading to a decrease in the quality and quantity of work output.


Practical Strategies for Barristers

To combat these challenges, barristers can adopt various deep work strategies. Setting aside dedicated hours for focused work, free from digital distractions, can significantly enhance productivity. Strategies like the monastic approach, where all sources of distraction are eliminated. Also the rhythmic approach, which involves establishing regular, scheduled periods for deep work, can be particularly effective. Turning off the internet and turning to distraction-free tools that don’t constantly ping is a way of forcing focus. Casedo, for example, has been explicitly designed with this in mind, and using tools like this with a specific, methodical approach in mind, will increase deep work further.


Overcoming Challenges to Enhancing Productivity

Exploring avenues for training, development, and efficient management of resources can help decrease distraction and increase productivity. For instance, investing in legal technology and training can help realise better processes, allowing barristers to focus more on their core legal work rather than administrative tasks. It’s not just about grabbing the latest court bundle software or the like, but about finding the right tools that are flexible enough to work with your workflow. If it’s too prescriptive, you won’t use it.



It is imperative for barristers (and everyone) to address both economic and personal productivity challenges. This is needed to remain competitive and effective in the rapidly evolving digital landscape. Embracing principles of deep work and integrating them into daily practices can lead to significant improvements in focus, efficiency, and overall professional satisfaction. As we move forward, refining these strategies will be key to thriving in the demanding world of legal practice.