Don't let silly smartphone mistakes ruin your professional image

publication date: Aug 12, 2011
author/source: Janet Gadeski
Smartphones are a great help - until they hinder us by interrupting meetings, interfering with personal contact and taking over our lives. But Time Management Ninja Craig Darrow pushes back with a list of tips for using your phone ("smart" or otherwise) efficiently, professionally and politely. Here they are, for the benefit of that annoying colleague who just hasn't caught on yet.

When to call Call when something is important, he urges. "Don't send me an email when something is on fire." If you can see people in person by walking down the hall, though, drop the call in favour of a face-to-face conversation. 

If you don't get an immediate answer, live with it. "Don't knock twice" by calling again within a short time, or by calling the desk phone as well as the mobile, Darrow advises. 

Don't call when an email will do the job - for example, simple questions that don't need an immediate answer. Match your means of communication with the issue's priority. 

When to answer You don't have to answer that phone if you're doing something important, highly time-sensitive, or with others. That's why we have voicemail. 

And answering your phone while you're in the bathroom? Don't even consider it. Use the "off" switch or "airplane" mode when appropriate. You won't miss anything that you can't pick up later. 

Don't be afraid to separate yourself from your phone altogether, or to ask others to do the same. Meetings are more productive, Jarrow claims, if you confiscate phones at the door. 

Restaurants and movie theatres are other no-go phone zones. But if you must take a call in public, he says, display your good manners and take it outside. 

Making the most of voicemail "If you don't leave a message, you didn't call," Jarrow declares. Issues important enough to call about, are important enough to describe in a concise, coherent message. 

Keep your own voicemail greeting up-to-date and personal, and check for messages regularly. Feel free to respond by email or text message if that's more effective than phoning, and claim the right not to call at all if there's no reason to do so. 

Working the bells and whistles "Vibrate" and "silent" aren't the same function. A vibrating phone sitting on the meeting table makes noise. And the zig-zag dance across the table strengthens the bad impression. 

Phones are for calling, first and foremost. Use them for email only when you have no other alternative to handle an important matter. 

And don't Google everything that comes up in conversation, he pleads. "You are just interrupting the thing we call ‘life.'" 

Etiquette and good sense A smartphone lets you take a conference call anywhere, but that doesn't mean you should. You don't want colleagues to hear your Starbucks order, your child's knock-knock joke or the latest sports score. Pay attention from beginning to end, and make sure there are no distracting background noises. 

"Texting while driving is stupid," Jarrow declares. In many places, it's also illegal. Same goes for talking while driving. Get a headset. 

Finally, pop music ringtones are for teenagers. With this and every one of Jarrow's suggestions, it's all about looking and being professional. Smartphones are, after all, a professional tool. It's time to use them that way. 

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