First off, this isn’t a SERPS-grabbing handy-hints-top-ten-list-o-rama type of post. This is just a blog about 21st Century society, technology and lifestyle inspired by my good friend Ali (https://twitter.com/AlisonArrowsmit) and some business coaching work she’s been doing with me. In today’s 24/7 society, do us as business owners ever stop and think about how much technology dominates our lives? And is that a good thing?
I woke up this morning and like most of us do, checked my phones. The icons on my wonderful Galaxy S4 (knocks an iPhone into next year – sorry geeks) were all lined up like ducks. I’d been Emailed, Texted, Facebooked, Tweeted, What’s App’d, Linked In’d, Songpoped and even my little friendly Pou needed feeding. Oh dear where do I start? So in front of my Weetabix® I got rid of the ducks one by one, ready for my little commute to work.
My car and phone enjoy each others company, so when I start up my car, my S4 (the finest phone I’ve owned since my 3310) switches into Driver Mode – and reads out any texts and emails I get. So because I run a website company and have almost half a social life, the thing literally chats to me all the way to work. Bless it. You are never alone when you have a phone. And so the day goes, blips and bleeps and vibrates coming from all sort of sources of Digital Chatter whether you be in the office, a meeting or at home watching your favourite football team playing someone unpronounceable in European competitions.
My story is not unusual, in fact I’d suggest it’s a hallmark of 21st century life. I had a chat with a lady I’d not seen for a while in the barbers and we talked about technology. She soon declared that she couldn’t live without her iPhone and she feels orphaned when she doesn’t have it or it has lost it charge, which is about every 5 hours. And she wasn’t some business high flyer or geek like me, just a normal person from Bedlington with a normal job.
Now thanks to my friend Ali I now realise that it is a double edged sword, and sometimes a down right bad thing. Our devices do not have ‘importance’ filters on them – it doesn’t know if that email or text is “SERVER DOWN!!!” or just a spam email from 1&1 trying to convince you to build your own website – so when it beeps we have to look don’t we? Or else how do we know? So we look, take in the information and start to process it, regardless of the context. As responsible business owners who want the best for our businesses, of course our brain starts to process the email or text even if it isn’t urgent.
And this is the negative, and it’s a big one. We need some time to relax, chill, take stock and enjoy a bit of down time. It’s a classic case of diminishing returns – the more time we spend in active/stressed business mode, the less effective we become at handling issues and making decisions. I don’t buy into all the BS about 12 hour days and working harder than your competition which mean working longer. It’s better to work smarter. Do a really good productive 8 hour day, than a narky stressed 8 hour day because you’ve spent last night at home responding to or processing your Digital Chatter for 4 hours and didn’t get a proper nights sleep.
What can you do about it? Well here’s 9 suggestions for reducing your Digital Chatter:
- Apps. Do you really need all the social media apps on your phone? Can you live without some of them and if so remove them. Have your work accounts on your work devices (i.e. laptop or work phone) and your personal accounts on your personal devices i.e. your phone or tablet.
- Be quiet! Most phones have a blocking or quiet mode that you can set. This stops the phone from making any sounds either at set times, or manually. You can usually filter them so important things i.e. calls still sound. Instructions: iPhone, Samsung, Blackberry.
- Bleeps and bings. Some phones allow you to set different notification tones for individual contacts, so you can know what is important and what is 1&1 spam without having to look.
- Flight mode. Give yourself some “me time” and put your phone into flight mode for a while at the evening. The world can wait. That’s what voicemail was invented for.
- Multiple devices. When you get a tweet does your house sound like R2D2 telling C3PO off for being too camp? Do you really need the same Facebook and Twitter accounts to be set up on your phone, tablet, mp3 player, laptop, Xbox, fridge, watch, toaster….?
- Scheduled Posts. If you have to post to social media accounts or blogs out of hours because that is when you perceive your customers make buying decisions, then use tools and technology to do it for you and set them up during the day. Hootsuite and Tweetdeck are two pieces of software which does this for Free, blog posts can be set to future post.
- Single Tasking. Answer all your emails, then your Twitter, then Facebook, anything else work-related, then back to emails and so on. It’s far more efficient and stress-free than dancing between all your accounts. You get distracted, forget what you were originally doing and people rarely expect an immediate reply anyway.
- Bedtime routine. Think about your routine – is the last thing you do before bedtime check your phone? What do you check? Maybe check it, put it in quiet mode and then finish your routine.
- Quality time. If you are spending quality time with friends or loved ones, enjoy it. On your phone turn data off (so you only get calls and texts), put it on silent/quiet mode, or leave it in the car or tell your important contacts where you will be in case of emergency. Having an hour off from the rat race will do you more good than knowing that your rival has just tweeted to say they are better than you*.
*They aren’t. You are enjoying a glass of wine with your friends whilst they are up till God knows when tweeting trying to get business. See point 6 and be smart.
By Colin Harris