Avoiding telephone time thieves involves being proactive. Implement the ideas in this article to avoid letting the telephone “steal” your time (and of course, it’s not the “telephone” that is stealing your time, now is it?)
- Do not answer the phone. If you are doing something that has your attention, don’t pick up the phone. Let your machine or voice mail pick it up. Don’t let a ringing phone interrupt you at time that you would never let a person interrupt you.
- Use caller ID. If calls are coming through that are “unknown”, then you can feel better about not picking up the phone.
- Set a timer to go off after a designated time period. If you do answer your phone, set an audible timer that will go off after a certain amount of time. Since it’s audible, it lets both you and the caller hear it.
- Keep an egg timer by your phone. Using this silent device (vs. the audible one mentioned above) lets you know the amount of time that has passed while you have been on the phone. If you notice that you are flipping the egg timer over and over…then you might recognize that it’s time to bring the call to an end. And–just use a 3-minute egg timer–not an hour glass!
- Tell the truth. If someone calls and you are right in the midst of something, say that. If you have been on the phone longer than you can afford, tell the person that. Be truthful.
- Specify how much time you have available. Right at the start of a call (especially when someone says, “Hey, I need a few minutes of your time”) let the caller know that you have 5 minutes or 10 minutes or whatever you can comfortably allot. This is an advance announcement that you have a finite amount of time to devote to the phone call. It makes it easier when the time is up to indicate that you have to bring the call to a close.
- Put your number on “Do Not Call” registries. Note: This works for home phones, but not for business phones. Unfortunately, many companies are getting around “Do Not Call” registries by saying that they are not selling anything, but are just taking a survey. Recognize these calls for what they are, and tell the person you are not interested and that you are hanging up. Don’t argue or discuss it. Give notice that you are hanging up, then do.
- Answer your phone with “How can I help you?” This phrase (or a similar one) helps your callers get right to the point of their phone call. It prevents the inevitable chit-chat that can steal 2, 3, or 10 minutes at the beginning of a call (“Hi, how’s it going?” “Good, how about you?” “Pretty well, thanks. Hey, saw your wife at the store the other day–heard about her new job.” “Yeah, we’re both pleased about that.” And on and on and on. You know how it goes). If, instead, you answer your phone with, “Hello, this is -your name-. How can I help you?” then the other person is put on notice that they need to get to the reason for the call. It may feel a bit abrupt at first, but you’ll notice a difference in the time you spend on the phone and the overall productivity you experience.
- Guard your cell phone number. Of course, if your cell is your primary phone number, this idea won’t apply. On the other hand, if your cell phone is the one to use to make calls (when you are out and about and it’s convenient for you) you are wise not to have others calling you on that number. If you’re calling the other person on his/her cell phone of course, your cell number can now be captured. However, the recommendation to be circumspect about giving out your cell phone number is one proactive way to prevent telephone thieves from stealing your time.
- Be honest with yourself! Recognize when you are using the telephone to avoid doing something else you really need to do! “Call” yourself out on it when you see that it’s happening. Take charge of your productivity.
Note: Telephone time thieves operate regardless of whether you are the caller or the recipient of the call. Remember that. Use one or all of these ideas to regain the time daily that is stolen by the telephone (and the people on both sides of the line!)