Our world has a new addiction. This addiction is one that is highly accepted in most restaurants, homes, hospitals, or while we are visiting friends or family. There has been tragedy by its hand, and many conversations have been avoided due to this addictive phenomenon. The newer generation sees it as a best friend, while older generations are coming to love or hate it, as there seems to be no in-between. This addictive and socially accepted trend I am referring to is our smartphones.
As I once heard a fellow writer once say, “smartphones are the new cigarettes,” and I couldn’t agree more. Where once the sidewalks were packed with smokers surrounded by puffs of nicotine and tobacco filled air, those benches now sit groups of people staring into the screen of social media platforms that really don’t make us “social” at all. While smoking is at an all time low for teenagers, it seems to have been replaced by another handheld device that isn’t hazardous to our physical health, but one can’t say much about emotional health just yet.
The smartphone craze hasn’t just impacted teenagers, as many young adults, business professionals, and leaders are also heavily connected to this handheld device. In many cases, the social media platform has only grown more popular, and made businesses boom due to the ease of their access because of smartphone technology. We can post pictures, write a tweet, and promote a product, all at the same time, regardless of our location. In a huge world, we have grown so connected and so close, that it doesn’t seem that there is much separating us anymore.
As an entrepreneur, you probably already know the benefits of using your smartphone. To have a constant connection to your employees, business, and its well-being, all with a swipe of your finger, is convenient and miraculous at times. Apps are available for all kinds of upkeep, and it is hard to not constantly keep checking your phone to see if you received a new notification from something.
However, our smartphones have also disconnected us personally, and in a way that is unlike our past in the business world. As a business leader, you have to understand the proper balance in managing a real life situation, and those in the smartphone reality. Here are some important aspects in how you can step away from your phone, to not only make you a better entrepreneur, but also more personally connected to your team and to the real world.
1) Decide when you should make a phone call or call a meeting versus sending an email or text.
There are certain times when an email or text are the right communication avenues for certain interactions. These can include a simple question that requires a short answer, or just a follow up to a non-pressing situation. However, should you need to discuss a topic of importance or one that is more meaningful than just a company briefing, then it’s respectable to use a more personal form of communication.
Our phones, while they are convenient, do not offer a personal touch or strong sense of worth should someone utilize it as their chosen form of communication in the business world. Our smartphones act almost as a shield to reality, or in facing someone or something that is uncomfortable to face head on. However, as leaders have done in years prior, so should we in remembering the importance of knowing when to tackle a situation in a face-to-face meeting and not over a text message.
2.) Remember the power of eye-contact.
I have heard this from many people throughout my life, especially when going for a job interview. The power of looking someone in the eye is unmatchable when it comes to showing confidence in yourself. There is easiness in hiding behind our phone or in not facing someone by looking at them straight on. When meeting with someone, or even when being introduced to someone new, always remember to look them in the eye and not steer clear of their gaze. Holding someone’s eye-contact is not only a reminder in that you have confidence, but also a rare commodity in human interaction that will not go unnoticed by the other person, no matter what level of authority you hold at your job.
3.) When having a conversation with someone, put the cell phone away or flip it over so as not to be distracted.
Should someone approach you at the office, or even call a meeting with you, the cell phone should be put away or silenced. We are so easily distracted by our phones that even a simple vibrate can throw off our thoughts when having a live conversation with someone else. The whole act of taking a call, or letting your phone freely interrupt your meeting is not only unprofessional, but it doesn’t set a good example to your employees. If they are giving you their time, it is best to respect theirs and give them 100% of your attention. People do not want to feel like their time is not valued, especially from their manager or company leadership.
However, should you be expecting a call, it is best to inform those who you are meeting with that you may get a call that you have to take. This at least prepares them for the interruption, and reassures them that their time is valuable and that you don’t mean to impinge upon it unexpectedly.
4.) Practice this method at home for pivotal family time.
As one should treat their team with their full attention, so should you carry that over to your home life. If you are raising children, then you probably have firsthand experience with them playing or having a smartphone of their own. At the end of a long day, it is easy for everyone to snuggle up with their phone and type away at a game, text friends, or send out work related emails.
Why not take an hour or so to just to focus on each other? Put the phones away for dinner, or afterwards, to play a game, read or book, or to watch a show that everyone seems to enjoy. As you set an example with your employees, so will you with your own children in making them feel valued and prioritized by spending quality time with them. After all, our children are the future workers and entrepreneurs of this world, so let’s start right and teach them the importance of putting the phone aside and to live in the moment with those you cherish.
5.) Remember the reality you live in, and don’t blur the line between the smartphone world and the real world
Our smartphones have made work easier, in the sense that we don’t have to be tied to an office to get our job done. However, in the same way, we also have a harder time separating ourselves from our job, leaving us bound by invisible rope to our beloved smartphone. Our two realities begin to blur, and soon, we can’t seem to remember which one is more important. Should you find yourself answering multiple emails, posting too much on social media, or just feel like you are draining your phone’s battery before noon, then maybe it is time to step back and prioritize the reality that you want to live in.
Challenge yourself to only answer email less than five times a day, as well as to post less on social media. A study done at the University of British Columbia actually found that individuals who checked their email more frequently had a higher level of stress, versus those who only checked it up to three times a day. The less frequently email and other notifications were checked, the more productive those individuals felt at the end of the day. Try to give yourself that challenge, even if it is only a few times a week, to see if you can feel the difference when you “turn off” your phone and your working mind.
Even if smartphones have become our new cigarettes, let’s hope that we can take action in preventing their addiction before we become too consumed in their reality. As an entrepreneur, you lead by example for your company, and with your team. If you show the ability to put your smartphone away and not let it detract from your business and relationships, then you have made all the difference in the real world, the one that truly matters most in life.