A highly-charged and always-on-the-go job is more susceptible to technostress, and in my experience, a mobile phone adds more to this than anything else.
Here are some things I learned along the way in how to keep my sanity:
Set your ring tone to “Ring Once.” Do yourself and others around you a favor. You only need to be alerted once when someone is calling. Your phone does not have to ring ceaselessly while you rummage thru your bag for your phone or while you decide whether to take the call or not.
And by the way, if you were not alerted on the 1st ring, what are the chances that you will be alerted on the 2nd ring? Pretty slim, if you ask me.
(Note: This tip is not advisable for those high-risk and health-related professions.)
Get another number
I carry 2 phones with me — one for “public” number (for work & friends), and another in a much smaller phone. This is my “in case of emergency” phone number, and strictly reserved for family. This is the phone I never turn off.
That reply can wait
There is an unconscious obligation to reply to SMS as soon as they come in.
Ask yourself why. Do you think it rude not to? Are you worried that people expect you to reply immediately? If yes, do you think it is right for them to continue to keep this expectation?
Sending SMS in quick succession is fun in times of boredom, but generally, I treat SMS like email — something that should be handled at a set time, and in the proper frame of mind.
I used to get chided for my “delayed responses” (in SMS lingo, delay means more than an hour of lead time). But I realized that I cannot allow myself to be interrupted for every SMS that comes in, and that I need to take control over my phone, instead of it controlling me.
Archive your SMS
My phone allows me to create an Archive folder. After I have replied to a message, I move it to this Archive folder. This keeps my Inbox clutter-free, allowing me to easily view the SMS that I still need to attend to.
I could also delete the message. However, as my job requires me to document all messages from clients (as they usually contain requirement changes and clarifications), the Archive system works best for me.
Turn it off
If you can’t take a call, forget the silent mode. Just turn your phone off.
I attend a school with very strict mobile phone rules. I found out that the best way to please both the school authorities and my clients is to simply turn off my phone during class. My clients are more understanding when they receive an “out of coverage” recording messages rather than a series of unanswered phone rings.
Alternatively, you can also divert your phone to your voice mailbox. That way, you will still be able to receive SMS.
SMS before calling
Except for dire emergencies, always send an SMS before calling, asking if they are free to talk. Call only when you get confirmation. That way, you will be sure that your intended recipient has put himself in an environment where he can give you and your call its due attention.
I have implemented this practice with almost all my call recipients, and they in turn have returned the courtesy. The “callee” appreciates the fact that I was polite enough to inquire about their availability, and that they can take the time to physically and mentally prepare themselves for my call.
The caller, on the other hand, appreciates that when I take their call, I am ready for it, and have the necessary note-taking instruments at hand.
It works. Trust me.