So far this month I’ve asked you to shut off your TV, turn off your Facebook notifications and log out of Facebook and email. When will the madness end?
Not yet, my friend.
There is one other major time waster that is probably takes the number one spot in terms of productivity sucking powers: Your cell phone!
The phone with it’s loud, shrill, commanding ringtone and notification beeps just screams, “Pay attention to me instead of important stuff!!”
If the phone were used just for voice to voice correspondence it might not be so bad, but with the advent of the smart phone it’s become a social and entertainment hub with users spending countless hours in unproductive activities.
If you stuck with me though yesterday’s note about the difference between urgent and important you probably know deep in your heart that 98% of what happens on your phone seems urgent, but is really unimportant.
Here’s what I do. If you truly want to be productive, you may want to follow suit, although you may find it just a little too radical and start having anxiety attacks.
I shut off my phone for hours at a time and only turn it on and respond to it at certain times of the day when it is necessary.
Even when I have it on, there are probably not more than 20 people who have my personal phone number, very close friends and family. Those people are contacts in my phone. If my phone rings and I don’t see one of their names and faces pop up on my screen I don’t answer the phone.
I don’t pickup calls just because they are from friends and family. I can see they’ve called and these people know me well enough to know I’ll get back to them when I take a break.
The caller gets a message that says, “You’ve reached Eric. I seldom pick up my messages, so if you’d like to reach me, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks!”
I pick up my personal phone messages about once per week!
Texting is probably has even a more negative impact on your productivity because of the perceived need for immediacy.
Of course, when I tell people about my phone habits, the first thing they almost always say is, “What if it’s an emergency?”
There is not one tragic thing I can think of that I might be able to help with or circumvent by knowing about a little sooner.
“What if someone dies?” they say.
I don’t have the powers to resurrect someone.
“What if your son is in a bad accident?”
I don’t own an ambulance and I’m not a doctor. Someone at the scene is going to call 911 and emergency room doctors are going to do their best to help him.
“How about business calls? You need to answer those, right?”
Actually, I’ve stopped answering my business line a couple years ago unless someone has booked a phone call with me.
I work hard to make the user experience on any of my sites as seamless as possible and to anticipate customer questions, so I minimize the need for support right from the start.
If someone calls my business number they are prompted to leave a message and their email address. I subscribe to a service that transcribes the message and sends it to me via email, usually within the hour.
By having messages sent to my email I can respond at times of the day that are not my most productive times or times that I have scheduled specifically for correspondence. When possible (and this is 95% of the time), I respond by email. I can handle in five minutes by email, what would take me 30 minutes to handle by phone.
If something requires a personal phone response, I’ll arrange a phone appointment via email. When I get on the phone. I’ll set parameters for the cal by saying something like, “I have ten minutes, how can I help you?”
Are you aghast? Shocking isn’t it?
When Tim Ferris talked about his radical approach to the phone in his New York Times bestseller The 4-Hour Workweek business people from around the world were blown away, but it was something that I had been doing for ages. If you want to be productive, control your phone. Don’t let it control you.
Now you’re thinking, “I need to pick up client calls?”
The solution is simple: Hire a virtual assistant or virtual receptionist service to do this for you. Or make online booking available for your clients. Both these initiatives are more convenient and provide a better experience for clients. They also reduce your workload and free up your time for more important activities. We’ll talk more about giving up some of this stuff you currently feel you have to do tomorrow.
Is there any reason why you couldn’t do what I do with your phone? Look at everything you do on your phone from the Urgency/Importance Grid from yesterday. Seriously look at every interaction you have with your phone and put it on the grid (the hundreds of times you interact with that device). I think you’ll find that pretty much everything, with the exception of a few client calls, falls into the “not important/not urgent” quadrant”.
I know the idea of giving up your phone is radical. So I won’t even ask you to respond today. I’ll just let that one sink in. But if you need to, post your comments below or on the Facebook group.