In the book Unclutter Your Life in One Week by Erin Doland, the author gives some great phone tips for the office. Doland stresses that she goes out of her way to not use the phone at work, and finds this to be very effective in helping her to stay on task. When someone leaves a voicemail, Doland suggests sending a text message or an e-mail in return summarizing what was said in the voice mail and giving a response. Since there is no record of communication with the phone, you don’t have anything to reference later and you can’t run a search on words used during the conversation.
Since most of us spend time at work dealing with facts and data, the phone should be taking a backseat to other forms of communication. That being said, it’s impossible to avoid the phone in the workplace. There are times when picking up the phone is the best way to handle a situation. Here are some great suggestions by Doland for how to use the phone in an organized way during those time when you need to rely on it:
- Create talking points. Before you make a call, jot down notes about what you need to cover in your discussion. This is especially important before conference calls. Like with meetings, you should never make a call without knowing how you would like the conversation to end. If you can’t construct a purpose statement before dialing, don’t dial.
- Set a timer. Whenever you call someone, you’re interrupting whatever it was the person was doing before you called. Be respectful of this and make the call as brief as possible. When someone calls you, be up front about how much time you have to be on the phone. If the person on the other end of the line needs to talk to you for more than the number of minutes you said, then he or she can schedule a block of time to talk with you in the future.
- Use a headset if you’re on the phone for more than half an hour a day. From an ergonomic perspective, your neck shouldn’t be cramped for extended periods of time. Plus, your hands will be free to do mindless tasks while you’re on your call like filing papers, putting paper clips away in your drawer, etc.
- Don’t call people and ask whether they received your email. If you are worried someone didn’t receive your initial email, just resend it with a note and the whole content of your previous message. Ask for a confirmation of receipt if you’re afraid the e-mails aren’t arriving. Not everyone checks their e-mail on your schedule, so don’t disrupt them further by calling.
- Use the do-not-disturb button. Just because you’re sitting at your desk doesn’t mean that you have to answer the phone. If you need to concentrate intently on work, hit the do-not-disturb button and let all calls go to voicemail for that period of time. This isn’t something you should do all the time, just when the time can significantly improve your productivity.
- Designate a time to return calls. Maybe find a time when your energy level is low. If calling people across the U.S., make sure to pick a time when everyone is still in the office.
These are some terrific tips that can easily be implemented into your day. When I read this chapter, I was relieved to find out that I am not the only person who sits at their cubicle trying to avoid the phone in order to be more productive! By applying some of these ideas, I’m sure to make much better use of my time while on the phone.