How to Avoid Mobile Device Overload

multitasking mobile devices

Many business owners are concerned about information overload, and rightly so. But times are moving fast and there’s a new challenge in town:  mobile device overload.

We’re not talking about the concern about being addicted to your mobile phone or constantly connected. We’re not even talking about a pure technology problem. We are talking about the sheer number of devices that we have to manage now. A study by Juniper Networks says that:

  • The average mobile business person owns at least three Internet connected devices.
  • The average person owns about five devices between work and home.

So, if you thought that information overload and surfing the Web for the latest Grumpy Cat photos was making it tough on your productivity, just wait until you add another tablet.

In a conversation held recently with Judi Hembrough, Small Business Marketing Director of Plantronics, she shared some ideas on how to keep your mobile devices from getting out of hand (my pun, utterly intended).

Avoid Mobile Device Overload

1. Get Exponential “Gadget Growth” Under Control

Do you really need all those devices? Sure, it’s exciting to unbox and try out a new gadget – I know that feeling well!  Part of my job is to try out new devices and stay on top of the latest technology for small business owners.

If you’re like me, you have at least one laptop, a tablet computer, and a mobile phone, along with a hands-free Bluetooth headset. Then on top of these, we may have a portable desk phone at the office or at home. We might have an iPod or other MP3 player that we keep with us.  Add to those the chargers to go with each device, cords, carrying cases, portable keyboards — and you have a big pile of gadgets and gadget-related items.

But with each device comes a time commitment.

First, there’s the need to learn how to use it.  Most of us use only a small fraction of the features in each device.

Second there’s the challenge of simply managing all the hardware and accessories.  One of the challenges I face most often is, which one of those chargers or cords goes with my phone, or camera, or headset, or tablet.  It sounds easy when everything first comes out of the box.  But what about later?  It’s often not easy to remember which goes with which, and sometimes the chargers and cords aren’t well marked.

  • Tip:  remember the old adage – “a place for everything and everything in its place.”  Have a place such as a drawer or basket to store chargers, cords and accessories so you don’t have to scramble around looking for them when you’re late and trying desperately to get out the door.
  • Another tip: try applying a small adhesive tag or piece of masking tape wrapped around the cord, to identify which cord/plug goes with which device.  Want something more upscale?  Try Dotz color-coded cordstraps.
  • Yet another tip: keep each cord wrapped loosely and secured with a twist tie or Velcro closure.  A little more stylish are these Blue Lounge CableClips.  Whatever you choose, avoid a tangled jumble of cords you have  to waste time sorting out.

2. Choose Devices That Converge

The idea here is having headsets and other auxiliary devices that work with multiple primary devices.  For instance, I use my Voyager Legend with an iPad2, a Nexus 10 and two different smartphones. (Note, I was a big fan of the Voyager Legend long before being asked to write this article for Small Business Trends. )

Not only do you cut down on the expense and clutter with multiple devices, but you can save time switching back and both.  More on the benefits here.

3. Don’t Just “Grab and Go” When Traveling

Experiment to see what you REALLY need to take with you.  The tablet can, in many instances, replace a laptop when going out for the day or even on a short business trip or weekend getaway.  I have heard from many readers that they have survived, and even thrived, living with just their iPhone 5 or Samsung S3. I paired mine with a great keyboard from Kensington and it works wonders for quick, travel-light type trips.

A checklist helps, too.  Judi Hembrough of Plantronics says, “When you’re going on a trip, have a checklist just to be sure you don’t leave a critical device charger or other vital piece of technology behind.” I agree.  I mean airline pilots have checklists, some surgeons use them (to keep track of those sponges), and you may survive leaving home without your American Express, but not your smartphone charger.

Finally, make sure to fire up your device a day or a few hours before you leave the office or home, especially if you haven’t used it in a while.  Give it a chance to fully charge.   Also, this gives it a chance to update with the latest operating software, security patches or apps.  Many mobile phones and tablets update automatically.  But if you haven’t used a device in a while, sometimes it will force an update at an inopportune time — such as those precious minutes between  flights.

4. Keep Your Data in the Cloud (or Your Company’s Private Cloud)

Recently I read somewhere that most small business owners and personnel don’t know what the term “the cloud” means.  So let me give you a practical example of what the cloud means to your work productivity.  If you keep your data online (i.e., in the cloud) in various applications and online software services, then it makes it much easier to switch between devices.  You don’t have to worry about syncing up your contacts or email, for example, because you always have access to the most up to date information.  It’s hardware independent.

It is one of the reasons why apps and tools like Evernote, Dropbox, GMail, Google Apps for Business, and Google Drive have exploded in popularity. You can access your information from any device. It’s automatically synchronized without you having to do anything.  You’ll be working with the most up-to-date information no matter which device you happen to have in your hands.

Cell Phone Overload Photo via Shutterstock


TJ McCue - Product Editor

TJ McCue TJ McCue is the Product Editor for Small Business Trends and an entrepreneur who publishes Tech Biz Talk. TJ is a former Wall Street Journal columnist. He also writes for Forbes and American Express OPEN Forum. He loves learning about technology apps and software services - share yours with TJ.

3 Reactions

  1. Device elimination often depends on what internal company policy is in co-mingling personal and company issued devices. For example, most companies allow use of personal smartphones for e-mail, but not laptops or tablets. This is a tricky policy to navigate. Companies could easily allow use of personal laptops, tablets, etc, but if that device is not tightly monitored by the company, a poorly maintained device with malware could inflict damage on a corporate network.

    The article sounds nice, but as a small business owner I would not permit my employees to condut business on their own equipment.

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