Always hated this type of titles.
Put your phone on silent mode. Forever.
Yep. That’s what I’ve done recently. My Nexus is still always with me. It just doesn’t produce unnecessary noise. It’s been on silent mode for a couple of months already. And I feel I’ve never been so productive in my whole life. So I decided to share with the world the results of my experiments with default communication practices. I know you won’t believe me. I know you feel that it may be very liberating, but you probably think it’s not for you. It’s for those productivity junkies that don’t let themselves breathe freely for a second. Well, I still encourage you to read further and try it for a week or two. It won’t hurt.
TWO EXPERIMENTS THAT DIDN’T FAIL (BUT SEEM SO)
We all know that we are on the hook. But we underestimate how far we’ve got into the rabbit hole. One of my employees once told me that she refuses to turn off her private cell phone at the office because ‘what if someone important to me dies and I wouldn’t immediately know about it’. It sounded ridiculous to me at the time but made me thinking about it. Maybe we all behave just like that? Like we are always waiting for this kind of a ‘death call’. Is it a proper way of living? Are we really need to ruin almost everything we do with occasional phone interruptions waiting for that mysterious life-or-death call?
My first experiment was to try to return calls only after 4 p.m. It failed. Mostly because it requires you to remember to turn on/off silent mode every day or set up some sophisticated phone profiling system. I’ve failed both.
Then I tried to call back all missed calls in batches while walking. It seemed to be quite useful but too had its own drawbacks.
First. Stupid one. I could be killed in a car accident always looking at phone screen and not seeing the road. I may sound overly pessimistic but look at the people in the streets. They are sometimes virtually like zombies. And I recall myself talking over the phone without a headset while riding my bicycle in heavy traffic.
Second. You may want to take notes during or right after your conversation. This is especially true if you are leaving ALL calls for walking time. Not just insignificant. I frequently found myself standing in the middle of a pathway trying to write down all ideas after a call.
Some people advice to turn off phone during only working hours. That’s a fair piece. You’ll never miss a call from a friend inviting you to a party. Besides all the sales managers are usually off at this time. But what if you are having dinner or sex, or both? Would you like to be interrupted? Decide on your own. But keep in mind that complete round the clock offline mode is psychologically more convincing for your social circle. Beware of their initial opposition to your ‘insane’ experiments.
I’ve come out with a simple notion. People usually don’t value very high their lives and thus their time. They may tell you the opposite but trust no words. Trust what you see they do. Furthermore, they unconsciously expand this attitude to their peers. Hence the inevitable pressure on you. But do you really care what others think of you if you don’t have time to breathe, think and live?
FINALLY MY PIECE OF ADVICE
- Don’t be afraid to experiment with your call handling practice. Find what works best for you.
- I suggest a gradual transition to complete 24-hours silent mode as it’s more practical and requires no phone mode shifting hustle.
- Try this trick. Set up your smartphone so that it sends an sms to the caller every time you missed a call. Write something like ‘Hey! Sorry for the inconvenience. It’s easier to get in touch with me via email.’ If you want to be really tough, don’t add your actual email. That way you can control exactly who can have access to you. This trick helped me to educate my frequent contacts. I’ve turned it off after a few weeks.
- Remove your phone number from business cards and email signature. If it’s a business issue, you’ll be better off as your potential callers will be forced to write down what exactly they want from you. It’s beneficial even for them! We all know that writing is thinking.
- Create your SLA – service level agreement. Decide when and whom you want to call back. This thinking alone might lead you to interesting findings. Whom do you concern worth your immediate attention? Maybe your kids, mom or pa are more important than another sales manager trying to foist on you some new fancy software?
- Try teaching your people to write you an sms if their stuff is a life-and-death issue.
HOW THAT WORKS FOR ME
I use smartphone heavily during the day: I read, watch youtube videos and check email. I just have it 24h silent. I can call back someone important to me (hi, dad!) when I take a break from my work. I then scan all missed calls and call back some. Numbers I have in my phonebook mostly. I don’t call back strangers. My number seems to be listed in lots of databases because I didn’t pay much attention to whom I was giving it all these years. Sometimes I return one of the missed calls only to find out it was from another sales manager. Recently Android Lolipop update came out. It features beautiful new controls over notifications and exceptions for silent mode which made my communication even better. Only two people are in my exceptions list – my parents. They rarely call me themselves now and I’m sure it’s worth picking up.
KIND OF A DISCLAIMER
Some will say ‘Oh, that’s not the case for me. My boss will never let me do this.’
Ask yourself (and possibly your boss) if he is paying you for immediate call answering or something else? If it’s indeed true, which is likely not, unless you are a call center operator or a BIG boss assistant, don’t complain. You still can and have to set up some limits. Check out ‘Swimming with Sharks’ movie on this 😉
Hope this all helps somebody. These ideas are inspired by Dan’s Kennedy ‘No B.S. Time Management for Entrepreneurs’. If you liked this post, you definitely should read this book.
More on things I’ve done to free myself up and how I got into the trap of serving others instead of pursuing my dreams in my next posts.