I remember one evening about 18 months ago, I was working on my laptop in front of the TV when my mobile started to ring. It was a number I didn’t recognise, but I picked it up anyway. The caller was a gentleman who wanted to find out more about coaching and how I could help him. He then spent the next 30 minutes telling me about his life story – without me prompting him to do so. After a couple of questions at the end, he came to conclusion coaching was too expensive. He quickly hung up, without so much as a goodbye.
At the end of the call, I put my mobile down and noticed the time. It was 10:15pm. I remember thinking, “Hang on, what? 10:15pm? That can’t be right. What kind of a person calls someone at 9:45pm on week night about work? Do they not appreciate that some people might have a life?!”. And then the thought of, “I just listened to him vomit his life story at me for 30 minutes and he didn’t even say thank you for my time? It’s 10:15pm!”. It was a weird state of frustrated disbelief. How dare this man interrupt my evening?!
However, once I had got over my initial frustration, I realised I was asking the wrong question. Instead of asking what kind of a person calls at that time of night, the question should actually have been, “What kind of a person answers their mobile at 9:45pm?”.
This question shifted my whole thought process. I realised I wasn’t angry at him for disrespecting my time. I was angry at myself for disrespecting my time. I was angry at myself for not respecting me.
I then had to ask myself: what was causing me to pick up my mobile in the first place? And, not only that. Why was I working on my laptop at 9:30pm? Where was I at, mentally and emotionally, for me to think I had no choice but to do these things? Because ultimately we always have a choice right? I could have chosen to not pick up my mobile, but I didn’t. Why?
Before I answer that question, just in case anyone isn’t quite clear, being on your mobile (or laptop) all the time is NOT a good thing. You see, it doesn’t matter where you are physically. Your mobile will dictate where you are mentally and emotionally. So while you might be physically with your family, mentally and emotionally you’re at the office. Meaning you are never connecting with the people or engaging in the environment right in front of you. And if you don’t connect with the people around you – they will leave you. And if you’re not engaging with your environment, you’re essentially spending most of your time living in a virtual reality. And any psychologist will tell you – that is not beneficial for any human psyche!
Understanding why you believe you are a slave to your mobile phone or laptop, including social media, is the first step. Once you know why, then you can start to address what you want to do about it. Here are the top reasons why you might feel you are currently at the mercy of your mobile right now:
As a business owner, I don’t have a guaranteed salary. When I first started coaching, I was always facing the uncertainty of not knowing where the money was coming from each month. Driving a need to take every call, answer every email – no matter what time of day or night – through fear of missing out on business.
Ask yourself: what are you afraid will happen if you don’t answer your phone? Are you scared you’ll upset your boss? Your client? Your co-worker? Your friends? And what is the consequence of that? Are you scared you won’t make any money? Get fired? And what then? You’ll end up broke, destitute and living on the streets – completely and utterly alone?
Solution 1: Be realistic
Are you really going to end up destitute and living on the streets if you don’t answer your mobile after 7pm? I highly doubt it. Most employers don’t expect you to answer your mobile and emails at all hours of the night.
So where is this pressure really coming from? Did your boss specifically say you must answer your phone at all hours? Or is it in your head? A story you have sold yourself driven by a fear of losing your job?
If the answer is yes, it’s time to have faith. Faith they hired you because of your ability to perform well during normal working hours. Not because you’re willing to work 24/7.
And if you do have an employer who is threatening to fire you if you don’t answer your mobile after work – you have to ask yourself, “Are they the right employer for me?”. Maybe it’s time to start the process of looking for a new job elsewhere. With an employer who appreciates you’re a human being and not a robot.
Solution 2: Set and communicate your boundaries – as early as possible
If you keep picking up your mobile at 9pm, what are you teaching everyone around you? That you’re happy to answer your mobile at 9pm! People are not mind readers. If you don’t want them to call you late at night – you have to tell them.
Sometimes, just sometimes, there might be an urgent matter that needs immediate attention. Now in my opinion, most things can wait until the next day (businesses are closed in the evening – there’s not much you can do until the morning anyway). However, if your team are currently transporting a nuclear warhead through rough and dangerous terrain, then yes, you might want to be on call for that. But there is a difference between being on call for a specific reason and being on call all the time – for no particular reason at all.
Solution 3: Create a communication system with your team.
For example, if you are working on a specific project with a tight deadline – you could agree to send an SMS with the text “Code Red” for anything REALLY urgent. Knowing everyone will check their mobiles once every hour in the evenings for the duration of the project. Anything that is not a “Code Red” can wait until the next day.
Solution 4: Be comfortable with waiting until the next day
This was a big one for me. “What if this call could be a new client? I have bills to pay!”. If you’re a new business owner, or in a new job (particularly sales) – I get it. You need to make money fast or you want to make a really good first impression. Most people feel that when they start a new venture. If you’re a new business owner, making sure you have a solid financial cushion before you start can help reduce the fear of not making any money. And if you don’t have a financial cushion – then yes. You might have to answer calls and emails when they come in until you do.
Something that worked for me was sending the number an SMS thanking that person for the call, informing them I would return the call as soon as I got to work the next day. This worked as long as I stuck to my promise and called them first thing in the morning.
The other thing I want to say is this. The only way I got over my FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) – was to have faith that everything happens for a reason. That if I missed out on a client, it simply wasn’t meant to be. And that the clients I was meant to work with would appear in one way or another. This isn’t to say I just sat on my butt and waited for them to knock at my door. Not at all. I worked super hard on my marketing and getting myself out there. But I had faith that would be enough. And it was. Now I am in the lucky position of getting to choose who I want to work with. And what calls I do and don’t want to take.
2) It makes you feel important / significant / needed
Here you have to be brutally honest with yourself. Does being in a job where you are expected to answer calls at all times of day, give you a sense of importance? Does it make you feel needed? Does telling your friends and family that you’re answering calls at all times of the night make you feel significant? Do you use it as a way of getting attention? Is it a source of competition between you and your colleagues or friends?
As Tony Robbins says, sometimes “we get our fix of significance by making our problem worse that everyone else’s. It becomes a “badge of courage,” and we begin to compete with others, saying, “You think you’ve got it bad? Let me tell you how bad I’ve got it!”
Solution: According to Tony Robbins’ “6 Human Needs” psychology, we all have a need for ‘Significance’. A need to feel important, recognised, unique, individual, powerful, different in some way. Sometimes, however, we try to meet this need in ways that ultimately don’t serve us. As Tony says – do yourself a favor and get your need for significance met for doing something positive rather than for your problems.
3) It helps you feel connected
While quite sad, some people become a slave to their mobile because it’s their only source of connection. We all have a need for feeling connected. Feeling like we belong in this crazy world. Answering your mobile and email might be helping you to meet this need in more ways than you’re conscious of. Maybe it’s time to ask yourself – am I lonely? And if you’re in a relationship and spend more time on your mobile than you do connecting with your partner – this is a clear warning sign that something is wrong.
Solution: Looking for external connection could be driven by a lack of connection with self. Now I appreciate for some this might sound a bit “hippy” or “woo woo” but hear me out. When I say connection with self – all I’m talking about is self-acceptance. Self-respect. Being comfortable enough in your own skin that you enjoy spending time on your own. So, if you’re missing that connection – start with doing some “self” work (personal development for all you non-woo woo types). Once, you’ve done that – start to connect with the people around you. Reach out to friends and family. Explore clubs or societies in your area where you could meet like-minded people. Connect with the real world – not your mobile.
And if you’re in a relationship, it might be time to address ‘why’ you’re on your mobile and not connecting with your partner. Honesty (with yourself) and communication with your partner will be fundamental in this process.
4) You’re bored
Funny story. After having got really annoyed at this man for intruding on ‘my time’ – I realised I wasn’t really annoyed at him. I was annoyed at myself. Because in reality – what was he intruding on? I was working. Why? Because I had nothing better to do! So while I directed my frustration at him, I was really frustrated at myself. Essentially for not having a life.
Solution: Get a life. (Read this article for some inspiration on how to find a hobby or career you can be passionate about).
Do you feel you are a slave to your mobile? What are your thoughts on the impact of communication technology on life as we know it? Please feel free to share your comments below.
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About the Author
Zeta Yarwood is recognised as a leading Career Coach and NLP Life Coach in Dubai, helping individuals across the world to achieve success in all areas of their lives. With a degree in Psychology and over 10 years’ experience in coaching, management and recruitment – working for multinational companies and award-winning recruitment firms – Zeta is an expert in unlocking human potential. Passionate about helping people discover their strengths, talents and motivation, Zeta lives to inspire others to dream big and create the life and career they really want.