The telephone can be a big time waster. It interrupts you by ringing while you are trying to concentrate on something. You plan to quickly return a call, and twenty minutes later you are still on the phone. You get caught in a phone-tag loop, exchanging messages but never connecting with the person you need to reach.
Many people believe that they always have to reachable by phone and when the telephone rings it must be answered. That is usually not true. Learn to overcome your phone addiction and get more done.
Here are the best ways to get more done by spending less time on the phone.
Control your phone, do not let it control you. The telephone is a tool. Use it effectively. Although there are some people who have to be available whenever someone calls, chances are that is not necessary for you to be chained to the phone. Just turn off the ringer and let the calls go to voice mail. If you are really worried that you will miss a critical call, have a way that your calls can be screened. For example, if you have an assistant you can route calls to them. Or hire an answering service that can take messages and call you on your cell phone if a truly urgent call comes in.
Set up telephone times. Return all of your calls at once. Let callers know when you will be available to take calls and only answer the phone during those hours.
To avoid letting what should be a quick call spiral out of control, set a timer when you get on the phone. If it should take three minutes, set the timer for three minutes. When the timer goes off, tell the other person you have to go and get off the phone. If it helps you, use the timer on your cell phone so it sounds as though another call is coming in, then tell them you “have to get that.”
Think about what you are going to say before you get on the phone. Plan the call: what questions will you ask, what information do you need to give, is there a decision that must be reached? When you focus on the purpose of the call you will waste less time.
Send an email instead of making or returning a call. If you just need to ask a question or give an answer, email is perfect. Email is also good when you are trying to coordinate several people.
When you make a call to get or give information, and the party is not in, leave a good voice mail explaining what information you need, or providing the answer they require.
Return calls when the person who called you with a question is probably not in. Leave a message with the answer they need and avoid the chit-chat you would have if you got them on the line.
Have someone else (e.g., your assistant) return phone calls when possible.
Call near the end of the day, when people are ready to get out of the office. They will not want to spend time chatting.
Announce up front that you only have two minutes, then stick to it. When someone calls and asks, “Got a minute?,” say, “Only a minute. I am on my way to a meeting, ” or, “I have another call coming in,” or . . . another appropriate reason. When you make the call, start by saying, “I only have a minute, but I just wanted to get an answer from you about . . .” or something similar.