13 Things Your Smartphone Can Teach You

by Salary.com Staff - Original publish date: April 2, 2012

Can You Learn from Your Cell?

Back in the dark ages when cells were molecular and phones were for spoken communication, it may not have been simple but it was predictably segmented. Tasks were sequential, not simultaneous. People could disappear for minutes at a time and emails could languish undetected for whole afternoons when a recipient was off grid. 

Smartphone technology created expectations for increased and untethered productivity, because they allow us to engage in extreme multi-tasking. But, how well do you do it? Is your smartphone-ish office efficiency truly effective?

Find out what you can learn from your phone.

1. Make Sure You Have a Strong Signal

Ever tried to order decent take-out from a remote campsite? Or contorted yourself by a window attempting to launch an email from within the confines of a metal walled building? The best ideas go nowhere absent a navigable path.

Business genius minus good reception is like tweeting to yourself. Great ideas need the input of an interested audience. Are you building connections with key figures in your industry via virtual and actual social networking? Updating your LinkedIn profile and actively seeking new contacts and referrals? Growing and maintaining good connections is always a smart idea.

2. Engage in Thoughtful Communication

Do you think well on your feet? Do you articulate well or stumble around? Off the cuff remarks are often just fine, but frequent “blurts” can come across as disorganized thinking. When your smartphone does this, we call it butt-dialing. Or worse than that, drunk-dialing after drinking a few too many.

Be intentional in your communication. Purposeful. Conversational floundering is unflattering to your professional image. Establishing mental bullet points can be a useful safety net for the more introverted and can help extroverts rein in tangent topics to the one on the table. Always speak with intention.

3. Don't be a Power Drain

GPS and continuous Wi-Fi are highly useful but top the battery-draining list for most phones. Similarly, you can be a force for good productivity or an annoying Angry Bird leaching energy from the conference room. 

Do your colleagues create space to include you when you walk into a room? Or look furtively at the time and mumble about the critical need to dust off their office chairs? These are clues. Plug in to your positive energy. Even essential criticisms can be framed in encouraging terms. Always maintain an affirming attitude.

4. Stay Up-to-Date

Updating all those great apps on your phone is effortless. It’s basically a head nod via a finger tap -and an easy choice, because outdated apps lack the latest enhancements, don’t play well with others and tend to get glitchy.

Avoid obsolescence. Update yourself as needed with continuing education in your field and with a select newsfeed (like Pulse) to keep current on latest trends and developments. Aim up. Learn more than you need to know so that you can launch yourself further in your career. Get it? Launch an app? Launch yourself…? Nevermind.

5. Master Organization

With the right apps, people can practically run their lives from a desk chair. But all the bells and whistles in the world won’t help you if you don’t know where to find them (unless the bell is a phone alarm in which case it will undoubtedly reveal itself at the most inopportune time).

Are you organized well enough at work to find a particular file, email or phone number at a moment’s notice? Your smartphone organizes all of your information, so do the same in your professional life.

6. Always Check-In

Your boss may never make you the mayor of marketing, but be sure to keep him apprised of your progress on key projects anyway. Don’t delve into minutiae, but it never hurts to let key office personnel know where you are in current tasks. Similarly, a regular email update to team members will make mix-ups and missed deadlines less likely.

No, we can’t promise you any free appetizers or ticket discounts, but absence does not make the heart grow fonder. Routine dialogue and regular communication does.

7. Don't Overload

On the other end of the courtesy check-in is the employee who raps permanent knuckle dents into his boss' door. High data consumption on a smartphone generally leads to throttling, an irritating slow down of web access intended to ration space on limited bandwidths.

Department heads have limited bandwidths as well. Maintain access by respecting their time and your own abilities. Delegation (to your boss) means never having to say, "never mind, I’ll just do it myself." Of course you should seek help for roadblocks, but if you spot the spinning wheel of death by your boss' door, retreat and regroup.

8. Recharge

If thoughts of home conjure up images of fluorescent lights and ergonomic chairs, it’s time to take a break. Devotion is laudable, but so too is balance. High CPU usage will drain most cell phones within 24 hours without a recharge. Without strategic breaks, your own effectiveness will wane.

Take a lunch break. Reacquaint yourself with unfiltered air and non-electric lighting. Focus on objects beyond the screen glowing two feet in front of you. Ironically, recharging involves unplugging yourself for a few essential minutes. The importance of mental breaks can't be overstated.

9. Hit the Mute Button

True brilliance often lies in knowing when to quit. Not your job, just the hush-hush “I might want to make a career move” conversations. 

This cannot help you. Truly. If you’re “outta here” then smack that ball and get out of the park. If you’re putting out feelers, you need to remember who else is fishing in that pond. Negatives -- whether job or personnel related -- need to remain in their vacuum-sealed spaces unless divulged with care to the proper individuals.

Talking about “maybes” and “she should have”s is not helpful to your office or You. It's all about discretion.

10. Have a Distinct Ringtone

Absent a compelling reason such as being truly stuck in the 90’s or unable to reset your default ringtone, a jingle from your phone should not compel frenetic dancing or annoyed glares.

Similarly, your personal style should complement your surroundings, not table dance across it. Strong cologne or ultra-trendy clothing may be akin to your phone blaring “Dancing Queen” during a public moment of silence. Be yourself, but emphasize the aspects that best fit your office. It's nearly impossible to go wrong if you're always respecting the company culture.

11. Speak to the Right Connection

Whole websites are devoted to the automated and often humorous answers of Siri and her ilk. While often useful (Siri has helpfully confirmed that the “meaning of life” involves chocolate), she can also give users the run around, deflecting queries with dry wit or sending inquisitors to the web.

When you misidentify a decision-maker and get stuck dialoguing with a gatekeeper, it’s the same thing. Do your research via social media to save time and energy. Utilize network groups to develop mutual contacts and establish access to the person with the real answers. Effective targeting is key.

12. Autocorrect Yourself

Texting shortcuts and autocorrect features can lend messages unintended eloquence. Almost any typed word is but a letter or two away from "inappropriate."

The web is filled with texting fails that illustrate the advisability of using “delay send” when possible. The same goes for emails and documents. Do not rely on spell check to locate offensive or improper words. It will only make sure you spell them correctly. Fill in email addresses last, after you’ve added attachments and reread content for accuracy. Double-checking all communication.

13. Password Protect Yourself

Are you password protected? In other words, can you keep a lock on confidential intelligence? If you aren’t sure about the sensitivity of information, ask, because improper disclosures can potentially present big ethical and legal issues. 

And, even if it isn’t a legal necessity, be kind. Sharing the inelegant moves of the coworker in your Zumba class or your unwitting observations of Dan’s margarita chugging date is unnecessary. And you’ll be glad for the same courtesy if Dan overheard that little argument you had with your wife over whether to share the cheesecake.

Stay Smart

In the end, a smartphone is only as smart as the user. In your commendable effort to work smart, pause occasionally to affirm the quality of your endeavors matches or exceeds their quantity. Beware of circular shortcuts. Maintain proper confidences and behaviors. Update your contacts and education as needed.

The wise choices of a seasoned and savvy employee will mirror the efficiencies of a smartphone, but also inject that additional creative flair that grows new opportunities. You are smarter than your smartphone.

Recommended Reading

We hope you enjoyed the article. Although we know you're more intelligent than your technology, here are some popular Smartphones if you're in the market:

  • Motorola's Droid Razr: 8mp camera, Android OS, Wi-fi & GPS
  • Apple iPhone 4S: 16GB, 8mp camera, 1080 video, and the ever-popular personal assistant Siri
  • Samsung Galaxy S2: 16GB, Android OS, 8mp camera
  • HTC Inspire: Android OS, 8mp camera, 720p video