Help Me Rhonda,
I think I’m addicted to my personal mobile phone at work. I realize I shouldn’t be using it during business hours, but I can’t help myself. I tell myself I need to have it on my desk in case my child’s daycare calls with an emergency, but when a friend calls or texts me, I respond. Sometimes I’ll get into long texting conversations when I know I should be working, but I can’t help myself.
Can you share tips on how I can hang up during working hours?
Can’t Hang Up
Dear Can’t Hang Up,
You are not alone in this addiction, and I’m glad you’re seeking help. With a little discipline, you can train yourself to be much less addicted to your phone, and instead, better able to stay focussed on your job.
You say you need your phone nearby in case something happens to your children during the day. But rest assured if anything did go wrong, your child’s daycare would find you. They would simply call your office. Remember, before cell phones, daycares always found us.
And, if you’re away from your desk during lunch, you’ll have your cell phone with you, which is perfectly appropriate. Just make sure the daycare has the appropriate contact information for you (which I’m sure they already do), and that’s one concern we can put to bed.
Here’s another good reason not to use your personal phone at work: you could be putting your job at risk. Many companies have policies about when and where you can use your cell phone at work. Don’t assume that your company allows employees to use their personal phones at their desks. Just as there is likely a policy about going on Facebook during working hours, your company likely has a policy about personal calls and texting.
If that’s not enough to persuade you to hang up the phone, here are some tips:
– Turn off your email and text alert sounds. You can keep the ringer (at a very low volume, so as to not interrupt other employees—or even better, on vibrate) on in case the daycare calls. That way you won’t be constantly checking to see if you’re missing that urgent call. We know that emails and texts won’t be for urgent situations, so you can rest easy, knowing that if someone is trying to get in touch with you they still can.
– Keep your phone upside down on your desk, or keep it in your purse, or in a drawer. That way you won’t see the texts coming in, but you would hear the ringer if someone called.
– Wait at least 10 minutes before responding to a text. Let’s assume you do happen to see a text or email come in from a friend. Teach yourself not to respond immediately. Force yourself to wait ten minutes before replying. Otherwise you are teaching your friends, just by your actions, that you are always instantly available and that you don’t mind being interrupted during work hours.
– Tell your friends when you can respond to them. Perhaps you see a message come in, you wait your 10 minutes, but you don’t have time to get into a conversation with a friend—but you don’t want them to think you are ignoring them, either. Let them know when a good time to chat is. You can say something like, “The quick answer is yes, but I’ll reply fully later when I get home from work” or “My lunch is at noon—can I call you then?” It tells your friend that you haven’t ignored them, and you will respond, but that you’re busy right now.
– Many cell phones have a “can’t talk now” feature for calls. When a call comes in, and you can’t talk, you can press a “Decline” button, which will send the call to voice mail or let you sent a text message back to the caller that tells them you “can’t talk now. I’ll get back to you later.” That, at least, would buy you a delay, which will ultimately help you to break the habit of always responding right away.
– Try the “reward” approach. Every time you don’t reply to a friend’s text at work, or when you reply to only every second one, give yourself a small reward. If you can avoid responding to texts and emails during the day completely, treat yourself to a fresh bouquet of flowers on the way home, or a specialty coffee during the day. Rewarding yourself for discipline really works. Beating yourself up when you slip is not the right approach.
– Ask your friends not to text you at work. Seriously, you’re at work and they shouldn’t be texting you; but since it has happened, ask them to help you stop.
– Stop feeling guilty. Ultimately, the reason you’re responding is that you don’t want your friends to think you are ignoring them; you feel guilty when you let a text from them go by, and you’re worried they might think you’re being rude. So turn it around and ask yourself, “What would my boss say if she knew I was doing this?” Now, if you’re feeling guilty—well, maybe there’s something to that. After all, who’s paying you during the day? You’re at work to work, not to chat with your friends. There is always a little flexibility about that, but when it becomes a problem you are putting your job at risk. It just isn’t worth it.
You do need to teach yourself not to jump each time your cell phone makes a noise. You need to teach your friends that you can’t respond to them during the day. It won’t be easy, but it will be much easier than having to look for a new job.