I must be honest. I hate the telephone. OK, maybe that’s too strong. But I must admit it is the one piece of technology that I wish I could do without. I know it’s irrational. And I know I could not live without it, but…Email can sit in my inbox waiting to be answered. It’s quiet. It doesn’t interrupt me. I can choose when to answer and how much time to spend on the response. With email I don’t need to give uninterrupted attention or rely on my memory of what was just said. Email allows for silent pauses to think. Email requires minimal “smalltalk.” But the phone…. I confess that most of the time my home and office phones are on the answer-phone mode, so that I can get work done and have a family life without constant interruptions. I confess that sometimes, just sometimes, I pull the phone out of the wall so that I don’t even get messages left to respond to. I confess that I don’t have an iPhone, a Droid, or a Blackberry. In fact I have a pay-as-you-go Tracfone that costs me about $3 a month. (There you go, that’s my “technophile” image smashed forever.) I confess that most of the time it is switched off and very few people have my number. Sometimes I feel very guilty about this and consider therapy. But it looks like I’ve found a kindred spirit at the Unclutterer. He begins his Six tips for organizing your time spent on the telephone with: “I go out of my way not to use the phone, especially at work, and I have found this to be a very effective way to stay on task.” At the risk of offending all of my friends, here’s a summary of the six tips:
- Create talking points. Before you make a call, jot down notes about what you need to cover in your discussion.
- 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.
- 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 — filing papers, putting paper clips away in your drawer, etc.
- Don’t call people and ask whether they received your e-mail. If you are worried someone didn’t receive your initial e-mail, just resend it with a note and the whole content of your previous message.
- 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.
- Designate a time to return calls. I like to return phone calls from twelve thirty to one in the afternoon, after lunch, when my energy level is low. I get a boost from the people I’m talking to, and it’s a time when most everyone across the U.S. is at work (twelve thirty PM East Coast time is nine thirty AM on the West Coast).