Phones hold a special place in our world.
We can reach people in places and ways that were previously not possible.
They let us get things done.
However, they also have the power to disrupt. And to interrupt.
Just like any technology they can be used for good and evil.
Do you use your phone to run your life? Or does your phone run you?
Phones, Phones, Everywhere
These days, phones pretty much rule our world.
If you leave home without your phone, what do you do?
You turn around and go get it, of course.
Many of us can’t imagine a day without our phones. We would feel naked. Unarmed. Unprepared.
How did we get by without our phones before?
Yet, phones are also one of the biggest interrupters in our daily lives.
We let our phones constantly interrupt us. Rings, beeps, chirps. Calls, texts, tweets.
You name it, we let our phones interrupt us at any point in the day.
In fact, many consider it rude not to answer a call or respond to your phone.
It’s not polite to answer your phone, “Hello, do you really need to be calling me right now?”
However, we need some sanity. Some etiquette and manners, really.
Here are “19 Phones Rules” to help you rule your phone… instead of the other way around.
TMN’s 19 Phone Rules
- Call Me if Something is Important – When something is important, by all means call me. That is what phones are for. When you absolutely need to reach me now, ring my phone. Don’t send me an email when something is on fire, or when something is timely.
- Reach Out and Touch Someone – Don’t call someone when you can walk down the hall and see them. I have seen executives in offices separated by only a few feet call each other to discuss important matters. In person is always better when you are in the same location.
- Don’t Answer That Phone – We are Pavlovian dogs when our phones ring. We answer them no matter what we are doing. We run to answer them. (Ever hurt yourself trying to get to a ringing phone?) We drop anything we are doing to answer them. I have heard people answer their phones in the bathroom. You don’t need to answer your phone, they will leave a message or call back. Trust me.
- People Are Not Paying Attention on Your Conference Calls – Phones are powerful tools that allow us to collaborate with teams near and far. They have changed the business world in this regard. However, most conference calls are a mess and most employees are not paying attention. Ever hear people doing things in the background on your calls? I recently heard someone checking out at McDonalds.
- If You Don’t Leave a Message, You Didn’t Call – If you call and need something, then by all means leave a message. Otherwise, I don’t know what you needed and will assume that you changed your mind about calling me.
- Vibrate is Not Silent – Ever been in a meeting where everyone’s phone keeps vibrating every 10 seconds and dancing across the conference table? Yes, we can hear that, and it is very annoying. Silent means silent.
- You Can Turn It Off – Most people don’t believe this, but all phones still have an off switch. (Or you can simply put it in Airplane mode). We have been conditioned to be so concerned about “missing” something that we forget this.
- You Don’t Need Email on Your Phone – Our phones are so much more than phones these days. Email, web and more. But, if you are checking your email on your phone every 5 minutes, you are just creating even more interruptions for yourself. Try turning off your email on your phone, it will do wonders for your productivity.
- Texting While Driving is Stupid – Don’t do it. Enough said.
- You Don’t Need to Google Life – We all know this situation. Someone mentions something in conversation and someone pulls out there phone to immediately look the topic up on Google or Wikipedia. You don’t really need to Google everything that happens. You are just interrupting the thing we call “life.”
- Check Your Weapons at the Door – There are some places where phones are better left outside. Meeting rooms. Restaurants. Movie theaters. Leave your phone outside. Want to make your next meeting more productive? Collect phones in a basket at the door.
- Talking on Your Phone While Driving – OK, this is simple. If you want to drive and talk on the phone, get a headset. When you get dangerously cut off, why is it always by somebody who has their phone mashed up against their face and one hand on the steering wheel?
- Take it Outside – You are not the President, and thus you do not need to answer your phone in a restaurant. Be polite enough to go outside with your call. People with manners do this. This applies to any other group setting where other people do not need to hear your call.
- Don’t Knock Twice – Ever have someone ring your phone twice in less than a minute? Or call your desk and then your mobile? Don’t knock twice. If I don’t answer, it is for a reason. Leave me a message and I will get back to you.
- Don’t Call if an Email Will Do – Use the communication method that is most appropriate to the priority of your message. (See Rule #1) If you are asking a simple question that can wait, then email or some other medium might be a better way to reach out. Ask yourself, do you really need to interrupt the person right now?
- Change Your Voicemail – “You have reached 555-1234” is not a voicemail msg. If you are not creative, try, “You have reached <insert name>, leave me a message, and I will get back to you.”
- Having a Beyonce Song as Your Ringtone is Not Cool – Unless you are 16, you do not need pop music as your ringtone. Even worse are ringback tones, the ones that play while you are waiting for someone to answer their phone. I was calling a business contact the other day and was unimpressed when I had to listen to rap music while the phone rang.
- Check Your Voicemail – If I bother to leave you a message (see Rule #5), that means I had something to tell you. Not checking your voicemail is as bad as not reading your email. An executive recently told me that he didn’t check voicemail. Then, why do you have it?
- I Don’t Have to Return Your Call – This one upsets some people. But, just because you chose to interrupt my day does not mean that I am required to call you back. I may respond to you via email or text message if that is more appropriate. Or I may not call, if there is not a reason to do so.
Follow the Rules
Phones are great. They have changed our lives in many positive ways.
However, they can also cause much stress and disruption.
In a world where phones dominate our lives, we need to remember that phones are there for our convenience.
So, please respect the rules.
And then, by all means, call me… I want to talk to you.
What are your phone rules?