Keeping Your Phone on Silent

Keeping Your Phone on Silent

Have you ever been waiting in a queue for service for some time, only to have to wait a bit longer because the assistant stops to take a phone call? When I’ve experienced this I’ve often been frustrated, and I think this is because I wonder why the person on the phone gets priority over those waiting in person.

Following a link from John Gruber I saw this article at Vanity Fair about the iPhone of Dave Morin, the founder of Path.

When asked about his ring tone, Morin replied:

I don’t use a ring of any kind on my phone. This is so that I am always on offense and never defense

I gather that Gruber was not impressed with Morin’s opinion. Personally I thought that the statement about always being on offense was a bit dicky. It kind of felt like he tries to always be offensive….

With that said, I keep my iPhone in the silent mode 95%+ of the time.

One of the key things in personal productivity is managing interuptions. In many respects, we live in an attention deficit society. Mobile phones ring, email alerts pop and alerts twirp incessantly. And we all tend to allow ourselves to be interupted.

When I present, conduct training, chair a meeting or act as an MC, I ask people to put their phones in silent mode or turn them off altogether. Sometimes I joke that I offer a half day training course in how to do this. Or a week long residenetial off-site course for managers and executives…

The “interuptitis” epidemic is a key barrier to real productivity in the 21st century. One popular suggestion is, as described by Leo Babuata of Zen Habits, to

Turn off all notifications. Trying to focus while something is notifying you of an incoming email or tweet or Facebook update is impossible.

I think this applies just as much to the phone as it does to other notifications.

When I advocate this, people ask what happens if I miss a call. There are three options:

  1. If the caller leaves a message (with a clear, relevant purpose that has value to me), I’ll call back;
  2. If they don’t leave a message, then they will probably call back; or,
  3. If they don’t leave a message and they don’t call back, it probably wasn’t important.

Although my phone is on silent I do leave the vibrate function on. As my phone sits near me on my desk, I hear it vibrate if I am close enough. If I don’t hear it, or if I am focused on something else, then the above three options kick in.

When I am on-the-go, my phone is generally in my pocket. I’ll feel the vibrations, and will take the call if I am in a position to do so. When I am presenting or conducting training the phone is usually in Airplane mode to avoid interuptions altogether.

Now I occasionally I do switch the silent mode off. That’s generally reserved for when I am expecting an important call. If I am with other people, I explain this up front, if possible, and I will leave the room or the immediate area if the call comes in. For the sake of the other people, and the important call coming in, I will quickly silence any calls from other parties.

Phones, email, text messaging, RSS feeds and social media are all tools that can be important parts of our productivity setup. And they can all very easily become time sinks, or what I call productivity sink holes. Use notifications, ring tones and alerts wisely, and never be afraid to turn them off.

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