Continuing on my theme of technology and freelancing related posts, I thought I would quickly share my most recent revelation about technology.

I think I’m too connected…

In the past, certain work tasks had their place.  We took calls and answered emails when we were in the office.  When we were out of the office, we were out of the office – and we set up mechanisms to make sure that things didn’t slip through the cracks when we were immediately able to respond.  I used to get a great sense of achievement at the end of the day when I went through and checked that all my emails had been read through and actioned / responded to.  My phone messages returned and that I could start the next day fresh.

Things have changed.  Now with the iPhone (or your smartphone…!) I am never ‘off’.  I’m always contactable and never disconnected.  There are days where I don’t turn my computer on, but I rarely see myself as ‘out of the office’ – Yes, I might have a full day of fieldwork and meetings, but  can check my email on my iPhone, so no one needs to know!   I’ve always viewed that as a good thing, but now I’m worried that perhaps we (read me) are multi-tasking to our detriment.

Recently I’ve realised a couple of things. Firstly, I’m missing things.  I read an email on the go and think ‘I’ll deal with that later‘ – and then it slips from my mental to-do list.  This is particularly the case when I check email when distracted by other things – like the group I’m about to run, the meeting I need to get to or the place I need to be.

Secondly, I’ve realised my life is ruled by my phone.  It’s always chiming, buzzing, vibrating – telling me where to go and who to see and what to do next.  That’s just stressful!

I think as a freelancer, I’ve been focussed on maintaining the image of someone who is always connected.  Trying to imitate the experience of people working in a full service agency. But I don’t think this is realistic for someone working on their own.  By trying to set up this image of 24hr availability, I’m setting expectations that are impossible to meet.  I think I need to take a step back!

So, I’m going to implement some new rules in my business.

1. Use my out of office.  When I am not going to be at my computer for a day – I am going to tell people and tell them why.  This way they know that they will not recieve an immediate response, but it does tell them when they are likely to hear back from me.

2. Turn email off on my phone.  You know, even writing that one was hard.  The idea of not knowing what’s going on /who’s trying to contact me is slightly frightening (can anyone say control freak?) – but still, I think it needs to be done.  Now, I will try to discipline myself to check my email only at times that I can fully attend to the issue – rather than when I’m distracted.  I think this will lead to better outcomes for everyone.

3. Get creative with my Voice Mail message.  I am going to change this up a bit to act more like an out of office – again setting expectations about when I will be likely to return calls…. I’m also going to investigate a phone answering service, rather than voicemail  – so that callers can speak to a person rather than voice mail.

4. Don’t answer my phone when I’m not able to record the details of my call.  For example, not 5 minutes before a focus group when your mind is on the guide, not on the conversation.

5. Confirm everything in writing. Every plan I make and every conversation, put it in writing to make sure it gets done.

This is going to be a big step and a big change in the way I’ve been working – but hopefully for the better.  I’ll let you know how it goes!

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