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Who’s In Charge Here?

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I hate it when I’m out with someone and their phone rings. That goes for when I’m with people for work and for leisure. They usually take the call, thereby interrupting the flow of whatever we are doing.

Of course there are times when it is imperative to take a call and everyone has to make their own judgement about what is important for them. But I just can’t believe that the nine times out of ten that people answer their phones it is so important it can’t wait.

I’m firmly on the side of not taking phone calls – made to either my landline or mobile - unless it’s absolutely necessary. It is part of a general discipline that helps me organise my time well and stay in control of it.

I’ll often leave my mobile’s ringer on when I am in meetings or out with friends (unless it’s really selfish to do so – such as when I’m in the cinema) but am very selective about who I choose to talk to sending far more people to voicemail than I speak to.

I’ve mentioned before that I use a service called Spinvox www.spinvox.com which quickly converts voice messages left on my mobile into SMS messages. Because I currently use an Orange SPV M600 as my main handset, these are delivered as on screen notifications, so I can see at a glance what a caller has said. I can then easily decide whether it is necessary to call back straight away.

I can check the notifications discretely, without interrupting the flow of conversation, and almost always, make a quick decision that action isn’t needed right away. It’s polite, and barely registers with the people I am with.

It’s not just about being polite, though. As I said earlier, it is also part of a concerted strategy I have about communications and use of mobile tech in general. What it boils down to is that I never let technology control me. It works for me, and with me, it makes me more productive, more in control of both work and leisure, but it is not in charge.

Take another example - my landline phone at home. All my family and friends know that when they call my landline, they’ll probably get the machine. I hardly ever just pick up when the phone rings.

My landline handset can store 200 numbers – plenty for it to know all my friends and family. If it tells me one of these is calling, I might pick up straight away, then again I might not. Those who know me are aware they need to talk to the machine. If it is convenient I’ll pick up. If I am in the middle of something, I won’t. But I’ll know they called, and I am very good at getting back to them quickly, but at a time that works better for me.

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