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Declare Freedom From Your Electronic Leash

Thursday, February 21, 2019
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Today is as good a time as any to reassess our relationship with our personal technology. I encounter career professionals in all types of endeavors who cannot bear to be away from their smartphones or mobile devices for any protracted period. Their fear is the risk of missing a vital call, one that could lead to, say, a huge business contract.

Nearly everybody proceeds as if they are constantly at risk of missing out on something by not being near their communication device. Sadly, such individuals can’t consistently muster the concentration levels necessary to execute their tasks. The notion of being immersed in a project with no possible distractions is seemingly out of the question. This mindset represents irrational thinking for many reasons.

Jumping for Every Call

On most days, most of the time, no call is coming that is so critical you must be attuned to your devices around the clock. Even when a large opportunity does come your way, if you position your business correctly, you don’t need to be overly concerned with having to answer the inquiry the moment it comes.

Establishing notable differentiation in what you offer in your target niche increases the probability that callers and inquirers who are seeking your product or services will not abandon ship merely because you weren’t available the first moment they made contact. Indeed, my entire career as a professional speaker has been based on this concept.

When someone calls my number to book me for a speaking engagement at their conference or convention, fortunately, they usually are calling because they want me in particular. I hold the registered trademark as “the work–life balance expert” and have established this niche over the last 24 years. Typically inquirers are not seeking a “time management speaker” or a “stress management speaker,” although on occasion that does happen. My strategy has never been to be perceived as a rank-and-file time management or stress management speaker. The inquiries I receive invariably are from those people who wanted something different and, specifically, wanted me.

Differentiate or Die

Likewise in your business, or in your career, when you differentiate what makes you unique and/or better than the competition, the obsession with being available the moment anybody inquires vanishes.

Suppose you haven’t clearly differentiated your product or services. Even then, you don’t have to be tethered to smartphones and mobile devices around the clock. You merely need to establish a trade-off between the times when it makes sense for you to concentrate on the task at hand versus those times when you are available to all inquiries.

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Especially for entrepreneurs in solo or small companies, you can offer automated or posted messages that tell inquirers the best times to reach you. Most people can understand and respect that. Yes, there will be instances when the inquirer goes on to the next party down the list and you lose that opportunity; that, however, cannot be the rationale for your being a slave to communication technology around the clock.

A Lost Prospect Equals Death?

Years back in a course I attended, a seminar instructor said that if you are in sales, for example, and you’re overly focused on making this one sale, you’re not going to be at your best. The prospect can feed your anxiety. Why would you be so anxious about a particular sale? Subconsciously, the presenter said, too many people contemplate a string of potential disasters; for example, if they don’t make this sale, they might not make quota and their income will suffer. By not having considerable earnings, they may have to do without. Their spouse might be upset. Their children may go wanting.

If other sales prospects fall through, they could imperil their company. They could lose their job and soon be in dire financial straits. They could lose their home. As a result of this, they might fall ill. They might not have the funds to take care of themselves, and then they might die.

In other words, amazingly, many sales professionals, as well as entrepreneurs and executives in a wide variety of companies, approach a current opportunity with the subconscious mindset that if they are not successful at this particular juncture, it leads to death.

The Larger Toll

Missing an opportunity is not the end of the world, nor even missing a large contract because the inquirer went to the next party on the list. Conversely, what is the toll taken on you for being available 24/7? How effective have your solutions been for clients when you are not able to focus on the task at hand, offer your complete and undivided attention, and do your best work?

As we proceed into an ever-faster future of greater technological capability, the risk of missing something important versus being able to do our best work will become a larger issue. It’s vital to establish parameters now as to when we will maintain “an open door policy” of being accessible via electronic communication, and when we will safeguard our ability to focus and concentrate by removing or at least limiting any such intrusions.

Constant availability doesn’t necessarily translate into effectiveness. You owe it to yourself to have quiet, uninterrupted stretches throughout the day and the week when you can think, evaluate, and make the kinds of decisions that propel your company forward.

About the Author

Jeff Davidson, MBA, CMC (aka "The Work-life Balance Expert"®) offers keynote presentations and workshops on a creating work-life balance, managing the pace with grace, and thriving in a hyper-accelerated world. He has spoken to Fortune 50 companies, such as Lockheed and IBM, as well as American Express, Westinghouse, America Online, and Wells Fargo. Jeff also is the author of Simpler Living, Breathing Space, and Dial it Down, Live it Up. His books have been published in 19 languages including Arabic, Chinese, Japanese, Malay, Turkish, and Russian. For more information visit www.BreathingSpace.com.

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