Technology - be its master not its servant!

Every Friday my son is with me all day, but as I run a thriving small business, I still need to stay on top of things. Mums who work from home will know what it’s like. The majority of my communication on a Friday is done by email, and I squeeze calls into the 1 hour window I have when he has his late morning nap. Thank goodness I have my Virtual Receptionist service because it would sound awful if a client called me during a ‘non nap’ time to discuss business only to hear at best, the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse music and at worst, a screaming tantrum!

However today I had a pleasant surprise. I’d had a website enquiry last night from a man who was interested in my Virtual Receptionist service and he wanted to take a free trial, so I emailed him with the information about the various tariffs and how it all works. I was able to fire off the template email I have prepared for new enquiries so it took me a few minutes last night to get this sent and I always follow up with a call to see if they have any questions, during office hours. Anyway, once my son’s naptime was fully established, I picked up my phone to return all my calls, and I decided to call this guy first. The prospective client confirmed that he had received my email but then I suddenly heard a child screaming! Fortunately it was on HIS side of the phone! The prospective client said “Can I call you back, it’s not a good time right now” and I told him that I COMPLETELY understand! It was a nice insight into another working parent’s life to know that I’m not the only one juggling multiple demands with differing priority levels, and it was even more pleasing that it was a man in sole charge of his kids during the day!

This guy is taking up my Virtual Receptionist service and I know that he’ll benefit from it greatly - especially if he cares for his kids regularly during the working week. Doing things by phone is often quicker but doing things by email is invaluable for a working parent. It doesn’t matter if an email takes 1 hour to write because you had to stop to breastfeed a baby or sort out a sibling squabble. What did we ever do without emails? Well, we didn’t run global businesses from home, did we?!
The resources are out there to help us work smarter. You need your phone answered 24-7 - done! You have a database of 1000 people to communicate to - each newsletter to go out personally addressed? - done with the click of a button! You need a way to make sure that your email is filtered so you don’t get any spam or emails sent from people you don’t know that take up your time? Done! What used to take a small team to run an office can now be done with 1 person employing technology as back-up. I can communicate faster and speed stuns! Often the fastest response gets the business. Humans can talk 3 times faster than they can type, so to speed up my document typing, I bought some voice recognition software which types as I talk! Whole people used to be employed to type up other people’s documents, now we can handle it with technology.
The only warning I’d give is to control your use of the technology - you are its master, not its servant. I would never be without my BlackBerry as it is so useful for business whilst I’m out and about but I am amazed when I see other people at a business networking event or at lunch who sit at the table whilst other people are there, checking their messages and texting! How rude! The point of having the technology is so you can stay on top of things, but not at the expense of what you are supposed to be doing. If you are having lunch with a friend - then be there for them 100%. If you are at a networking meeting or conference, then that is your priority right now - not what random email has come to your desk. Divert your phone to your Virtual Receptionist and let them take the calls. Emails and texts can wait. Just because you have the ability to check them right now - doesn’t mean you should. By all means, pop to the loo if you have to. Check them in the car on your way in and way out of the meeting. If it is an all day conference then check messages in the breaks, but don’t be rude and not give the people you are with your full attention because you have your head in your phone. It’s just manners!

If you want to know anything about effective time management, just ask a busy working mum!

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