Breaking up with your cell phone

Happy hour with colleagues should be about weekend plans and stories recapping the past week, but all too often, chit-chatting can turn to dead silence in no time because everyone is on their smartphones. This happens frequently, as many of us in the professional communications field are wired to our wireless devices. Whether or not your dependency is for personal or professional use, following some simple steps will help you tune in to the people around you rather than plugged in to your phone.

If you’re prone to overusing your smartphone, you’re not alone. According to Time Magazine, 84 percent of cell phone owners could not go a single day without their device. Similarly, 1-in-5 people check their device every 10 minutes. For PR pros, these numbers are much higher.

In the past, I too have been guilty of paying more attention to my phone than the people around me. I would check emails, browse social media apps and send texts in mid-conversation. After realizing I wasn’t the only one guilty of smartphone overuse, I researched ways to help balance my cell phone usage (addiction) and my personal life.

A study by Crowd Science explains the most popular activities on a cell phone are sending a photo or video (54 percent), accessing the Internet (44 percent) and sending/receiving emails (38 percent). There are important reasons we use our cell phones, but we have to prevent it from excessively consuming our time. Just as important as not letting our cell phone addiction take us over, we also want to make sure we don’t neglect our client responsibilities. Finding the right balance is crucial.

I have learned that making yourself available to a client and always being ready to handle unexpected situations is extremely important. Checking emails and being responsive when needed is a 24/7 job, as crisis situations rarely, if ever, come with a “heads up.” However, while it’s a good thing to be connected and available for your clients, there are appropriate times and places to do so.

Here are four tips I use to stay balanced.

1. Time management is a must

Managing your time allows you to work productively. If you are working on a task with an urgent deadline, tackle all timely duties as thoroughly as possible and avoid back-and-forth emails or calls. Incorporate all your points/questions in one comprehensive communication to avoid the clutter of one-off emails in your inbox.

2. There is a time and a place

A social event isn’t the right time or place to be on your phone. If you receive work emails or texts, step away to quickly check in and make sure you’re not needed. When I first began working for the agency, I would constantly look at my phone and read every email as soon I received it. I wanted to make sure that I wasn’t missing out on anything, but I began realizing that I was taking myself out of the moment with my friends and family on my down time. Know when to shut off and enjoy your dinner or social gatherings.

3. Know how to prioritize communication 

Yes, emails are ongoing and seem to never stop. If we responded to every email immediately, we would never put our cell phones down. When you get an email, it’s ok to review it and get a sense of the content or urgency. Your client takes precedence, but if it’s something that can wait, set your phone down and come back to it at an appropriate time.

4. Your PR team is always there

At Fineman PR, we are team players. If one of us is unavailable for a long period of time, we make sure to communicate with each other in advance so there are no gaps or hold-ups in projects. Situations such as monitoring for a client can be time consuming; therefore, we make sure to share our “black out” times with each other so we can divide and conquer the responsibility. This allows the opportunity for a personal break while still contributing to the team.

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