- Wise Words -
Avoiding Smartphone "Shame" @ Work
by fergus mellon
I was an addict. Back in 2007 I was lucky enough to have the first-generation iPhone, and I loved it from almost the word go. I had been comfortable with this addiction. It seemed harmless to me, just like one too many coffees.
That was until an intervention back in 2011 when a manager said I should cut back on email. This did change my relationship with my smartphone as I rationed my use. Then a C-level friend of mine who told me that while he loved my book, Early Stage Professional: starting off right, it missed an all-important topic: how to manage digital devices in the office.
So, how should we manage our smartphones? First, we should own them and not the other way around. Yes, just because someone can contact us pretty much 24/7 it does not mean that we should be on our devices 24/7.
When in meetings, especially those with clients, our phones should stay out of sight. A CEO I was talking to explained that at his company he has set up a rule that no one brings their phones out in internal meetings unless there is a truly life-or-death situation. In addition, this very busy professional explained that when he goes to business lunches his phone stays firmly where it belongs: out of sight.
The reason the CEO gave me was that if you pull your phone out at the meeting, you are essentially showing that you are not the most important person there, but instead are giving power to your phone and showing that the device is controlling you.
The Power of Refresh
Since my smartphone intervention I have learned that being a servant to my device actually hurts rather than helps me. I used to spend my evening constantly checking email and getting no time to unwind from the day and so go into the next busy day fatigued by disturbed sleep. So what do I do? Unless there is a mega high-priority project, I stop checking email at 10 p.m. In addition, during the weekend, I force myself to take a break. While sometimes I ignore my rules (again, there can be very urgent projects) I limit myself to checking email morning, noon and night. This ensures that I can keep up with any developments while also getting time for my hobbies, errands and general weekend refresh.
Limit the distractions of email and instant messaging during meetings. This extends beyond your phone to your laptop. Take your laptop to a meeting only if that is where you take your meeting notes and you are certain you will not get distracted. The motivations for keeping the distractions at a minimum are that you won’t appear rude by ignoring someone’s contribution and you won’t miss important parts of the meeting.
Remember, a genuine crisis is rare, and the little things that might pull you away are probably things that the members of your team should be dealing with anyway. So, by being less tethered to your device, you will help members of your team to “step up” to take on those responsibilities. That will raise their skill level and morale, because you will not be dealing with the daily “fires,” they will. You will also benefit from lower stress levels.
While this may seem counter to the way many of us operate in the workplace (we love to be in control!), keep in mind the advice from Stephen Covey in 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. To paraphrase, avoid the urgent but unimportant.
I know all of this is easier said than done with these seemingly innocuous devices, but we should take steps to tame our addiction before it owns us.
GOAL: Control your device. Do not let it control you!
"Dealing With Social Media and Other Digital Distractions at Work" plus "The Power of Focus" and "Focus on Fiyah".