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Sharina Nisha, Vodafone's Head of Platforms sits talking into her cellphone. The background is an image of the apps on her home screen.
Sharina Nisha (Image: Supplied)

PartnersFebruary 15, 2021

Home Screen: How to make your phone a tool, not a distraction

Sharina Nisha, Vodafone's Head of Platforms sits talking into her cellphone. The background is an image of the apps on her home screen.
Sharina Nisha (Image: Supplied)

How do productive people use their phones to their advantage? In the first part of a new series, The Spinoff asks Vodafone NZ’s head of platforms Sharina Nisha how she makes her phone work for her, and the apps she considers crucial.

Sharina Nisha is the head of platforms at Vodafone NZ, a short title for a very complex job. To put it simply, Nisha and her team of engineers design, build and operate many of the technical elements of the Vodafone network. This is the digital infrastructure on which the company’s connectivity services operate.

“It’s a 24/7 operation making sure our network runs smoothly for all of our customers, so they can stay connected via awesome phone and internet services,” she explains. That means Nisha can’t often completely switch off, so over her 25 years in various roles at Vodafone she’s learnt ways to perfect the balance between staying connected and finding moments to log out.

“Connectivity is our business,” Nisha explains. “We have a lot of critical customers on our network, so if I’m out somewhere I get an email, if it’s at a certain level of urgency I get a call. There are different levels of escalation, so I’ve got an email-to-text address for those notifications, which means they come as texts.”

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Over the last two decades she’s had a first-hand view of the way communications capability has changed the world. The way demand for internet access has increased exponentially has been the most dramatic shift and the biggest change to the way Vodafone works. 

“Technology has evolved incredibly quickly, but the rapid increase in data use is the most mind-blowing. Customers are using at least 40% more data each year, with 80% more this New Year’s Eve compared to last year, meaning we have to keep building more capacity. It keeps us on our toes!”

Nisha estimates she uses her phone for around two or three hours each weekday, and less on the weekends. Her home screen is filled with a mixture of personal and work-related apps, most of which she uses daily. 

First and foremost Nisha considers her phone a tool for productivity and connection. Despite the latest phones’ abilities to stream movies, play games and whittle away time behind a doom scrolling thumb, she uses her phone mostly to help her navigate her work day. 

“On a daily basis I would definitely use things like Weather, Maps if I go to a new place, the key news channels, my work emails, my work collaboration tools [Workplace, Microsoft Teams and Sharepoint], and the government tracing app.”

But it’s not all about work. Her home screen is also host to WhatsApp and Viber, online messaging platforms that allow her to connect with people all over the world. When Nisha’s father passed away last year in Fiji, it was apps like these that helped her to stay connected throughout the funeral process.  

“The whole family shared photographs and videos we had of him through our groups and then we managed to stay in touch on a daily basis while we weren’t there. If this was a scenario 10 years ago we wouldn’t have that option.”

Nisha is currently in the middle of building a new house, and says her banking app has saved so much crucial time over the project so far, paying all kinds of bills that crop up at random hours. Her phone is in fact a crucial part of the functionality of her new home, and it’s no surprise that someone so connected to the world of innovative technology is integrating smart tech into many aspects of her house build. Connecting her to her home, “the internet of things” has allowed her to increase the efficiency of her life. 

“I have a smart fridge now so when I go shopping I can check what’s inside the fridge from my phone, I can turn on the heater remotely… and that’s something I’m going to explore more. It’s really important to me to be able to see things like security cameras so I’m really excited to see how technology develops in that space.”

With all this new technology, it would be easy to disappear into hours of screen time, but Nisha treasures her time away from the screen. 

“When we go on holidays it’s a good test because that’s when we play a lot of board games and cards and try to do something outside of using our devices and that’s quite helpful.”

For those struggling to loosen their grasp on the addictive devices, Nisha has some tips.

“Being absolutely aware of your usage and now you have apps that tell you exactly how you use your phone is really useful. That’s a good start and then you can moderate from there. 

Be aware of the things that might inhibit your effectiveness, for example having email on your phone is good, especially when you have a 24/7 operation and you’re working with vendors abroad, but knowing your limits and your controls is so important.”

Paying attention to screen time apps so you know exactly what you’re using and for how long, and turning off unnecessary notifications are the easiest ways Nisha controls her phone usage. 

“I was reading an article recently about how smartphones are making people more proactive. The research said you can save 22 days in a year if you use a smartphone effectively compared to not using a smartphone. Twenty-two days is a lot and when you have it at your fingertips you can do online shopping, banking, work stuff. [But] it also said you can lose 22 days if you waste your time on gaming and social media.”

Keep going!