How to Manage Mutiple Phones

Learn how to configure work and home smartphones.

Stever Robbins
4-minute read
Episode #123


Many employers give employees smartphones with an address book, calendar, and to-do list, all connected to the company’s servers. But you might have your own BlackBerry, iPhone, Droid, or whatever. How do you set everything up to get the most out of your devices?

Your Employer Gave You A Separate Phone For a Reason

Your employer gave you that phone so you could do your job more easily, schedule appointments using the company scheduling systems, and coordinate with the company’s internal systems. They figured you would toss your personal phone, finally realizing deep in your gut that you exist only to serve, and you may as well face up to the reality of the omnipotent dominance of your Corporate Masters.

Should You Sync Your Work Phone with Your Personal Phone?

But you don’t want to throw away your personal phone. Your ideal solution is to use modern synchronization technology to make both phones do everything for your personal and work lives. Then, you can use either phone and the other becomes a spare. If you lose your personal phone at a toga-soap-bubble-and-foam party, it’s no problem. Your business phone takes over until you find the personal phone somewhere unspeakable, but clean. Very, very clean.

That’s all just a fantasy, however. In a fantasy, synchronization works perfectly, politicians have your best interest at heart, and Oreo Ice Cream cake has no calories. It’s not real. Synchronization isn’t perfect. Appointments get dropped, duplicated, and show up on the wrong devices. You find your critical client meeting is double-booked. Oh, no! The plastic surgery designed to make you more appealing to the soon-to-be-single Angelina Jolie gets postponed. Again.

Keep Your Work and Personal Phones Separate

I’ve found synchronization can be a huge pain. I’ve wasted days and weeks of my life fixing synchronization problems so that I’d have the convenience of one phone that could handle everything. In retrospect, it was a bad idea. Carrying two phones was annoying, but spending the day frustrated with sync problems was overall much worse. Besides, there are many good reasons to keep a firm separation between the phones.

Using a work phone for personal purposes may have unexpected legal consequences.

Your work phone ties to your employer’s calendar, address book, and email. Your employer pays the phone bill, which means they have the right to look over your calls. Only make business calls from that phone. After all, you don’t want your boss to know you’re getting plastic surgery to become more appealing to Angelina. She might book her own appointment and try to land Angelina first!

Using a work phone for personal purposes may have unexpected legal consequences. If you’re researching your novel on your work phone, the company might own your novel! I used my high school computers after school to develop software unrelated to my schoolwork. We almost ended up in court disputing the ownership. I asserted my point of view by crashing the computer and getting suspended. Mr. Vogel, if you’re listening, I still think I was right.

Quick and Dirty Tip: Since you’re using separate phones, you can and should turn your business phone off during personal time. This lets you keep healthy boundaries between work and play.

Treat your work phone just as you would if it were a work land line. Carry your work phone at work and your home phone during personal time. You can give your shmoopie both numbers, so shmoopie can call your work line if there’s an emergency during the work day. You do not have to give your boss your home number unless your boss uses the mind control device again, in which case, all bets are off, anyway.

Manage Calendars by Mutual Subscription

Seeing your overall calendar is the biggest challenge. You want to see your whole schedule on one calendar. My work calendar lives in Microsoft Outlook at work. My home calendar is in Apple iCal. I publish my work calendar on the web using Office Online, and subscribe to that calendar in my home iCal. I publish my home calendar on the web using Apple’s MobileMe service, and subscribe to that calendar in Outlook. From both places, I now see both calendars, though I can only change my work calendar at work or my home calendar at home. If I ever get laid off (it’ll never happen), I just unshare my home calendar and whoever takes my job won’t see any details about toga-and-foam parties.

Some appointments go on both calendars. Colleagues use Microsoft Outlook to know when I’m free so they can schedule me for meetings (I just love meetings). They see my work calendar, but not my personal calendar. If personal appointments happen during a work day, I create an extra appointment directly in my work calendar labeled “busy.” That way, no one can schedule that time.  (For a Quick Tip on how to manage online calendars, head over here)

Manage Address Books by Duplicating Entries

Some offices have a company directory you can use from your phone. It’s called an LDAP server. It lets your home computer and home PDA access the company directory. If your company offers this, your IT department can help you set it up. Just remember, adding technology risks causing stress, and Angelina doesn’t like stress.

Let’s review. You want to keep your phones separate for legal reasons and privacy reasons. Also, synchronizing work and home systems might take more tech support time than you save during the three days a month that it’s working. You can share work and home calendars in a way that lets you see both calendars from both devices, even though each device can change only its associated calendar. You can also see your work address book if your company has an LDAP server. Check out today’s transcript for links to calendar sharing instructions for Windows and Mac.

Work Less, Do More, and have a Great Life!

Publish a Microsoft Outlook calendar online
Publish an Apple iCal calendar online

Image courtesy of Shutterstock

About the Author

Stever Robbins

Stever Robbins was the host of the podcast Get-it-Done Guy from 2007 to 2019. He is a graduate of W. Edward Deming’s Total Quality Management training program and a Certified Master Trainer Elite of NLP. He holds an MBA from the Harvard Business School and a BS in Computer Sciences from MIT.