Girl Phone

“I spent half a work-week on my phone”

I did something this week that gave me a sober and altogether unpleasant reality check.

I looked up my daily phone usage.

And by God, I’m horrified.

In just five business days, I’ve spent a whopping 20 hours on my phone, or an average of almost 4 hours per day. That’s half a work day, every single day, spent liking strangers’ photos on Instagram and sending memes to friends who live interstate.

Four. Hours. Per. Day.

This madness has got to stop.

My phone offered up all sorts of cheery breakdowns about where I spent most of the time too… the main culprits are Instagram, Telgram and Messaging.

I legitimately don’t know how I’m carving this time out of my life to spend on my phone.

There is SO MUCH I could be doing with this time – writing a book, spring cleaning my wardrobe. Hell, even just spending more actual present, quality time with family and friends.

If you want to be appalled – I mean, enlightened – about your own phone use habits, it’s easy to check. On my iPhone, I simply swiped left and a shortcut appeared, shamefully announcing my phone habits. If you don’t have the shortcut set up, you can go into Settings, then Screentime. Follow instructions for Android here.

Once you have the horrifying data in your hot little hands, it’s up to you to decide what to do about it.

Do you, A) bury your head in the sand, accept that everyone uses phones a lot these days and get on with it? Or do you B) want to change your digital habits?

If you answered A then good for you. I’m extremely jealous of your smug contentment over how much of your life you’re spending in front of a tiny screen.

If, like me, you felt ashamed and realised that you can’t preach about limiting screen time to your kids if you’re not walking the walk yourself, you can try this: go greyscale.

I just turned my entire phone grey and it looks… odd. Bland. Not appealing at all, really.

Bevil Conway, an investigator at the National Eye Institute, told the New York Times that phone apps are purposefully colourful and bright to put you “under a constant state of attentional recruitment. Your attentional system is constantly going, ‘Look look look over here.’”

By making it grey, your phone is suddenly less engaging. Social media less fun to swipe through. Messages no longer entice me to check them with an inviting, bright red orb. I’m aiming for 7 hours per week (one hour per day) on my phone or less. Wish me luck!

Working Mum

Can you increase profits – by working less hours?

While our prime minister has been hitting the headlines for all the wrong reasons, Finland’s new female PM Sanna Marin has been generating all sorts of good press over her suggestion that working less hours could be the key to success.

“A four-day work week, a six-hour workday, why couldn’t that be the next step? Is eight hours the final truth?” Marin reportedly said.

“I think people deserve more time with their families, hobbies, life. This could be the next step for us in working life.”

Following her comments, I saw a LOT of commentary on my social media, particularly LinkedIn, in opposition to her theory.

Some argued that this is a femanazi idea, that it lacked common sense, that it would force small business owners to employ more staff and it could kill the economy if implemented.

I’d argue that if a male leader suggested this, he would be lauded for his progressive and innovative thinking, rather than hauled over the coals…

I also think that in some industries, it wouldn’t be practical – if you are running a hospital and need nurses 24/7, you would have to schedule four staff working 6 hours, rather than three staff working 8 hours.

But in many office-based jobs, it’s entirely possible to complete your work in six hours instead of eight.

I know this, because I do it.

I transitioned from a media job working full-time in an office, to working for myself as a freelancer and consultant. I can fit in 40-50 hours of “traditional” work into about 30 hours of time at my desk, because I work very strategically. There is little time wasted at unnecessary meetings, doing coffee runs, on phone calls or browsing social media, because every hour is accounted for from a productivity perspective.

Also because I am working less hours in my week, I have time to work out at the gym, eat healthily, get regular massages to work out the kinks in my back for sitting down at work most of my day, and spend decent, quality time with my family and friends.

There are loads of studies and examples to support working less days or hours without sacrificing output, and while improving work/life balance – including this digital marketing company, which has tripled profits since introducing “work-free Wednesdays”.

What do you think? Do you think your job could be achieved in less hours or days per week – or is this idea a non-starter?

Phone Call Mobile

‘Wangiri’ scammers continue to target mobile phones

Over the weekend, I received 8 phone calls from Austria.

The Friday before, I got 6 phone calls from eastern Europe within 10 minutes.

And a week earlier, my phone was running hot with calls from Ecuador and Papua New Guinea.

Every single call was a prank call; the phone rang for 1-2 seconds before hanging up.

I couldn’t understand the point – other than to be supremely annoying! – so I turned to Google for answers. A quick search revealed that it was an ongoing scam designed to get people to phone the number back.

“This is basically a mobile premium scam,” Delia Rickard from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s (ACCC) told the ABC.

“What happens is somebody calls you, lets the phone ring once and [then hangs up]. They do it multiple times and what they want you to do is call them back.”

If you do return the call, then you’ll generally either hear pre-recorded music, someone who speaks a different language, or “they’ll chat to you just to keep you on the phone as long as possible”, Delia says.

This is because the caller is pretending to be a mobile network, and your telco (such as Vodafone or Telsta) sends most of the money onto them from the call you make.

It’s as if you’ve called a $5/minute psychic, only when you call them back, you’re paying a premium to listen to on-hold music or jibberish conversation.

The ACCC fields thousands of complaints per year about these dodgy calls, which are known as Wangiri, a Japanese term that roughly translates into ‘one ring and cut’.

ACMA’s Do Not Call Register says the longer the scammers can keep you on the phone the more you are charged for the call. “They may even put you on hold, play music or read a horoscope”, it reports – or even lie and tell you that you’ve won a non-existent prize.

What a cheek. As if there aren’t enough bills to pay these days, we now have to worry about dodging the fake ones.

If you start receiving these calls, the ACCC suggests that you block the number immediately.

Bushfire Roof

What is the risk if your home is under-insured?

The current bushfire crisis sweeping across major parts of Australia is not only devastating to the people and animals living in the areas affected, but it is also going to have massive insurance implications for years, if not decades, to come.

Under-insurance is already a big issue in Australia, and once premiums increase in possible bushfire impacted zones, it’s going to get even worse.

Under-insurance is when you insure your asset for less than it will cost to replace.

The hard part is, it can be difficult to know what the replacement value of your home is because the amount can be higher than its current market value.

The worst part is, when working out how much to value your home’s replacement value at, there is little to no guidance for everyday consumers who often can’t afford to use (or don’t know about) insurance brokers.

I recently shopped around for insurance on my home. It’s a four-bedroom house on a sloping block in a suburban neighbourhood. The suggested ‘replacement value’ to rebuild my house in the event of a fire or major catastrophe ranged from $600,000 to $1.3m!

I settled on a figure of $750,000, but I honestly have no idea if that would be enough to cover a rebuild.

And here’s the real kicker: if you under-insure your property, your insurer has the right to reduce your payout.

Basically, because you’ve only insured your home for part of what it’s worth, your insurer may have the right to pay only part of any loss.

Let’s say you’ve insured your home for $400,000, but its replacement cost is $500,000.

In this instance, you’ve insured the property for 80% of its worth, so your insurance payout in the event of a major claim may be reduced to 80% of your insured amount. This is just $320,000 – a far cry from the full $500k you’d need to rebuild.

It’s appalling that consumers are left to guess how much our homes are worth to rebuild ­– with only a call centre operator to assist, who has about as much knowledge around construction costs as we do ­– when the financial impact of under-insurance could be so devastating.

Moral of the story? It might be worth contacting your insurance company (particularly if you’ve renovated in recent months or years) to make sure you’re not under-insured.

Blaze Fire

How to help (and not get overwhelmed by) the bushfire crisis

It’s hard not to be overwhelmed by the enormity of the bushfires raging across our country at the moment.

Every day brings new stories, new images, new heartbreak. And that’s just for those of us who are watching on from afar, from our safe and comfortable homes – for the people who are literally fighting for their lives, this is an unimaginable horror that will continue to have impacts for months and years to come.

Many lives have been lost already. With no rain on the horizon, the battle continues and it can be hard not to be overwhelmed by the enormity of it all.

As my kids splashed about in our pool over the weekend, enjoying the sunshine, I couldn’t help but feel guilty that we are all fine and just hours away, people are fending off walls of fire.

So what can we do?

The answer is… whatever we can.

Donate money, if you can.

I was speaking to a friend who recently lost her job. She has no money at the moment, but she donated $5 – this is truly a case where every little bit helps. A bunch of celebrities have made big donations to the fire services who are on the front line. Here’s a list of the services in desperate need of funding right now.

You can also donate stuff.

There are tonnes of really practical things that firefighters and those who have been impacted by the bushfires need – things like toothbrushes and soap and coffee and Powerade. Entrepreneur Lisa Messenger is updating her Instagram feed daily with drop-off addresses, locations and specific lists of needs, so pop onto her page for guidance.

If you’re not in a financial position to do anything, there are still other ways to contribute. This infographic shows some really powerful and positive ways you can make an impact at the moment.

This is a crisis. It’s harrowing and hard to celebrate and feel uplifted by anything else at the moment.

But in a crisis is when Aussies really know how to have each other’s back. Not just now, but next week, next month and in the months ahead as our nation rebuilds, we need to support each other as much as we can.

And regardless of whether or not you’re religious: pray for rain.