I don’t think I know many people that have got the perfect balance of mobile phone-ness in their life. And I am not even sure I can boast that I am one of the few that have the balance right, but I certainly feel OK with how ‘not married’ to my phone I am, whilst still being able to use it as a useful business tool. It’s highly possible a few people wish I was a little more married to my phone, but I am working on that!
What got me thinking about this subject was recently, I have been helping a few people with some settings on their social media pages, which meant they were handing me their phone to help them. So many broken screens! As people hand you a phone with a shattered screen then tend to admit what caused the screen to break, and I found myself wondering why they even had their phone with them when they were doing that particular thing because it wasn’t always a situation where one could easily answer a call or safely check a text anyway.
And here I probably divide the room. Some may say it’s showing my age that I say that there is no need to have your mobile phone in your pocket 24/7. (I’m old enough to remember that when I got my first mobile phone, it would NOT have fitted into a pocket of any description.) Some may agree with me that there is a time and a place for having your phone in your pocket/bag/on your person. All I am saying is that there are possibly times when having a mobile phone right there in your pocket is not entirely necessary, you have to find your own balance of course, as with all of these kinds of technology.
Are you one of those people that allow your phone to interrupt absolutely anything, time with family, a meeting ‘oh this is important, I need to take this call’, or something you are doing that requires your attention? Can I gently suggest that it is not good for your own productivity to do that? Right now, my phone is sitting next to me but it’s on silent, and unless it starts repeatedly vibrating like crazy, it’s not getting touched until I finish writing this article. Even if a really important call came in, there is not a lot that cannot wait 10 or 15 minutes.
There’s that great video that has been doing the rounds of social media for a while now called ‘Look Up’ and I think it’s a very good message. We all have times when we get stuck looking at time wasting stuff on our phones, some just do it more than others. However, this blog is not intended as a general rant about how mobile phones have changed the sociability of the world, because I could also argue it has increased sociability as well, and, a one-person, two-sided debate is not what you signed up for on my mailing list.
This is more about the use of your mobile phone and how trapped by it you might be feeling because you know that, as a small business, you need to be available, but the darn thing just wont stop beeping at you and you can’t get a clear though in your head… I have a few tips of how to deal with that! If you sighed out loud and exclaimed that the phone is just one of your problems, perhaps you need to read my article about ‘dealing with overwhelm’ here.
So first of all I am going to tell you a little secret button that all mobile phones have, that people don’t use as much as they perhaps could. It’s in different places on different phones, but it’s called the ‘off’ button. See if you can find it? Yes, there is is. Now, give yourself permission to use it once in a while. I will give you an example. My other business (Magic Browbands) has a lot of eastern states clients but I am in WA. In summer, there is a three hour time difference, and we all know horse people get up early, so if my mobile phone was on 24/7, I would be trying to make sense when people from over east called me at 8am their time, which is 5am here.
Rest assured I need a little bit of a later start and at least a piece of fruit (I don’t like coffee…) before I can really make sense on the phone, so for that reason, my phone is turned off overnight. I am no good to anyone if I am not awake enough to make sense of what is being asked of me. Now, what if there was a family emergency you say? Well in my case, we have a land-line that will keep us in touch in that case so I am OK with having my phone turned off. I understand that not everyone feels like that so perhaps consider what you do feel comfortable with.
My sister has a cool feature on her phone (which I think is a Sony Experia, and her last phone, a Motorola Razor had it too) that allows her to identify which numbers she wants to hear from in a certain time-frame, so from 9pm until 7am, she has it set so that just her other half, his family, myself and our Dad can call her in that time, any other number is directed to her voicemail. (Though how that helped her when she recently tripped over her own shoelaces at home, crashed into a cupboard, smashed said phone as she fell on it because it was in her hip pocket, and broke her arm at the same time, the poor thing, I can’t say.) But the principle of that feature is good, a handy feature that some phones have that you might find useful for ‘screening’ late night and early morning calls.
The secret to not feeling like your phone is constantly stressing you out is to control your phone, not let it control you. As far as calls coming in, answer calls when you can deal with them. Not when you are about to load the horse onto the float, you just pulled into a petrol station, or you are driving and literally about to go out of range and the. call. will. be. broken. up… It’s OK to not drop everything to answer the phone, as long as you are still responsive and give good customer service by returning calls promptly. I would argue that it is better customer service to leave a call to go voicemail and call them back not long after and deal with them professionally, than to answer the phone and then say you about to get fuel, or you don’t have a pen on hand to take an order, so you can’t help right now anyway, then possibly forget to call them back when you are available (I admit, I have been guilty of that in the past so I don’t do that anymore). The chances are, if you are reading this, you are in a business that does not require you to sit in an office from 9 – 5, so you need to be able to work your phone into however you work. Think about these examples and the kind of places and situations you get ‘caught out’ and see if you can think of a better way to deal with them.
Another secret is to consider the kind of calls you get. If people are calling asking the same kind of question, consider whether you can have a better system to let them know the answer. Is it a section on your website, a confirmation email to them when they book an appointment, or even a text to confirm something. Having information readily available for your clients up front can very effective for productivity.
Bear in mind though, at the end of the day, there are lots of calls you do want to be getting, the ones where you are building a rapport and relationship with your clients or potential clients. Not the ones where they have to call to find out something that you should have already told them, like what time you can come to provide whatever service you provide, how long postage of a product takes, if you have posted an order, or how much you charge for something. That is detail that should already be available to them.
If you feel like all you do all day is answer the phone and you can’t get anything done, consider whether someone else can help you. Can someone else take all of your calls and make appointments for you, or answer simple questions? You might be able to have a booking number and a general inquiry number, and the booking number could go to an assistant.
Outsourcing is a whole discussion for another day, but there are inexpensive options like offshore Virtual Assistants than can be very affordable, and incredibly helpful when you find the right one. Or look into booking software, like some doctor surgeries and hairdressers use, if bookings are a big part of your phone call action.
Now on a side note, since I was mentioning taking calls in the car earlier, I’m really trying not to make this a social commentary, but I do have to say, there is never a reason to be texting while you are driving, not even at the traffic lights. If it’s urgent, pull over and give it your full attention. Your safety and the safety of those around you is more important that ANY text. Honestly, if you are guilty of doing this, ask yourself, is that text more important than your safety? Nothing is that urgent. Ever.
Another thing that I see people get bogged down with their phones is all the notifications that smart phones give us these days. Emails, Facebook notifications, Instagram, seriously, I have sat with people who in a space of 15 minutes, their phone has ‘binged’ half a dozen times. I have no idea how they can be productive and stay focused on one thing when that is happening all the time, and in my opinion, it’s highly disruptive. My suggestion to you if you are serious about being productive is that you turn all notifications off on everything and when you are ready to go and check messages, emails, Facebook posts, go and do that yourself in your own time.
Highly productive people get into the habit of being streamlined with time management, and there is no way you can argue that the constant interruption of a message or post or email is effective time management. Yes, it can make you feel needed, and even important, but it will never be the way to be truly productive. It’s way more productive to have a few set times in the day you check that kind of thing, and that will differ depending on the kind of business you have, but in general it needs to be at least once a day and no more than once every two hours. Again, you need to find your own balance with this suggestion, a happy medium might be having screen notifications pop up without sound, that you can see at a glance, but are not so intrusive as a sound interrupting your thoughts every minute. Do what works for you, and if having all notifications on and beeping at you is not something that you feel is hindering your productivity, well, as the saying goes, if it ain’t broke… don’t fix it. But for the many that say they are overwhelmed, never have time, too much going on, perhaps this option might work for you.
And last but not least and here I go with the social commentary again, how about when you ride your horse, or sit and read your book for a 20 minute recharge, you deem that to be ‘you’ time and your phone can be put down somewhere and left out of the ‘you time’ entirely. After all, before there were mobile phones, we did manage to survive away from our land-line phones for more than 10 minutes at a time, is it possible you could survive without yours for a little while?
You will need to find your own balance and ‘happy medium’ with how you and your phone work together, and there is no question that smart phones of today have dramatically changed and improved the way we do business, but did you get over-invested and a little too ‘married’ to yours? You will find it amazing, and quite possibly enlightening, to find yourself not driven by your phone 24/7 and more in control of your day.
I wish you the best of luck but I must run, I seem to have a few calls I need to return…
If you want some help with your productivity, drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org for a free chat.
Yes. You can.