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Sour BlackBerries

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Post Sour BlackBerries   Sat Aug 13, 2011 12:06 pm

I love my BlackBerry. I can't remember how I managed without it. It's one of the greatest tools I've ever bought to help me get things done. Most of the people I know feel the same way about theirs. It's said that there will be over a billion smartphone users in the World by 2014, and that many people can't be wrong, right?

I'm a firm believer that technology and electronics, when used as intended, can be real assets to our lives. If they weren't, why would so many people have and use them? However, when they're misused, they can be one of the most irritating things out there!

I ran an e-mail productivity seminar in Ohio a short while ago, where the company's CEO asked me to reemphasize a point he had just made to his sales force that just because they were issued PDAs, no-one was expected to be available 24 -- 7. He, like many employers, wanted to give his sales staff the convenience of mobile technology as a productivity tool. No-one told them they needed to be available at all hours, but they made that assumption all the same and, once that assumption was embedded, no amount of telling them that that wasn't the case made a blind bit of difference for many of them.

I know several people who keep their BlackBerries on their nightstands. They tell themselves that it's a back-up alarm clock but, if they ring or buzz through a newly received e-mail no matter what time of night, many of them actually get up and answer it.

Technology has moved faster than the etiquette to keep them in check - and many people haven't applied the common sense they were born with to the use of these otherwise wonderful new tools, which lead to career-limiting behaviors.

In a recent study by Robert Half and Associates, 150 senior executives were surveyed regarding PDA use in meetings. 31% of them felt that it was unacceptable for attendees in meetings to be viewing and working their PDAs. Yet 86% had witnessed people viewing their PDAs in meetings. Does this sound like career limiting behavior to you?

Pretty much every PDA has cell phone capabilities, and cell phone management and etiquette is an area of particular concern. How irritating is it when you're trying to enjoy a meal in a nice restaurant, only for the person at the next table to start barking into their cell phone at full volume? An associate of mine who works internationally a lot recounted the morning she was woken at 4am by a client who'd forgotten what time it was where she lives. Her sleep-addled husband watched in disbelief as she rubbed the sleep from her eyes and calmly took the call!

In addition to cell phone functionality, the ability to receive and respond to e-mail, view videos, take pictures, connect to the Internet, and to generally be 'wired in' 24-7 can be a great boost to productivity when it's used correctly. Being able to check your email while waiting for a flight is a great tool, but it can also be a chain around our necks if we let it.

When misused, our technology is not only irritating, but career challenging and even life-threatening. Here are some examples:

Annoying novelty ring-tones played loudly - who wants to hear the William Tell Overture when someone receives an e-mail on their PDA?
Playing videos and other sounds loudly
Viewing and responding to the e-mails while in meetings (otherwise known as the "BlackBerry Prayer")
Sound reminders going off while in meetings or public events
Reading e-mails while allegedly trying to carry on a conversation
Typing why you are walking or driving

Here are some tips to help you use your PDA safely and positively:

Don't put your PDA on the table in meetings, at restaurants, or when you are talking with someone. It essentially tells others that the PDA is more important than they are.

Turn off the PDA while in meetings. It shows respect for the meeting organizer, and avoids annoying other meeting participants.

Set the ring tone only as high as you absolutely need, and avoid ring themes that are lengthy or will annoy people.

Take control of your PDA, rather than letting it control you. Decide when you are going to turn it off and focus on your family, hobby or spouse, and leave it off. If you are waiting for something urgent, inform the meeting organizer in advance that you may have to take a call or respond to an e-mail message of an urgent nature.

When you need to type a message, excuse yourself from the current company, and move to a private place to do it.

Turn all ring tones off when the lights go down… when you're in the movies, at a concert, at a public event.

And finally… Never text while driving. Never read newly received items while driving. Never search for contacts while driving. The consequences could be severe for you and someone else.

From a coaching perspective, you must set boundaries concerning your PDA and how you use it. Just because you can use it 24/7 doesn't mean that you should.

It's up to you: is your PDA going to be a life and career-enhancing tool, or is it going to take over your life? If you let it, it can get in the way of your career, your relationships and even negatively impact on your health. I like to challenge people to stand back and make a decision on what is truly important. After all, who is in charge of you? You, or your PDA?

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