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).
  • Brad Evangelista

    A kindred spirit….this was helpful.

  • Seth Getz

    I on the other hand love the phone and use it constantly. I will be on the phone between 2-7 hours in a day. But that said I agree with each of those points and have used them extensively. I should explain that 95% of my time on the phone is scheduled meetings where I am dialing out to them. My favorite feature on a cell phone is the OFF button. This may sound terribly one sided but in my opinion the reason for me to have a cell phone is so that I can get a hold of others when I want to. It is not so that they can get a hold of me when they want to. That is what voice mail is for. These and other things like it are some of the things that I go over with my clients to boost their personal productivity and it is amazing how it works. So, if you want to boost your productivity then turn off your phone, just don’t do it when I need to get a hold of you.Seth Getz

  • CBeute

    These are pretty much my sentiments about a phone. Trying to come across without sounding self-centered, I think the phone is here for my advantage, not someone else’s. Lately we have been inundated at home with political calls, surveys, etc., like others I am sure, and this has made me think of getting rid of the land line. Our kids don’t understand why this antiquated piece of equipment is still in our house. I must confess that I often let the answering machine do its thing, which minimizes unnecessary interruptions and allows me to call back when it is more convenient.

  • Ray Pennings

    I appreciate your note and variations on the six tips you provide are present practice for me. However, I much prefer the phone to email for anything more than straight factual information exchanges. The nuance, intonation and humanness of voice interaction is much preferred over the deadness and often misunderstood nature of email (which requires four return back and forth emails to clarify.) I find phone is usually a much more efficient way to advance an issue and an agenda, allowing me to know not only that the required information has been communicated, but also to give me a sense of how it has been received and what is likely to be done with it.Most of my colleagues (especially those who are younger) prefer email (they destest voicemail as ‘trapped data’) but count me in the camp that prefers to talk on the telephone. I hate the acuumlation of literally over a hundreds of email that enter my in-box each day (when planning a phone call, you make your list of talking points and put them all in one call as opposed to the stream of consciousness communication that email encourages.) I actually finds the short banter that is part of a phone conversation an enlivening part of my day and makes the other person more real rather than an email address. That being said, I doubt either the phone or email are going to disappear, regardless of how many cords we pull out of the wall. If you want to discuss the matter further, feel free to give me a call.

  • Karin

    If the phone is for my convenience, why is it that I’m always the one having to leave messages on people’s answering machines because I can’t reach them when I need them? I had to carry a cell phone in my last job – as manager I was always to be available. I retired and am so glad that I could get rid of that phone! On our land line we have call display only. We don’t answer if we don’t recognize the caller. No answering machine either – and we love it that way. E-mail is still my first choice – but not everyone answers promptly! Oh well, that’s life!