Because I typically spend lots of time in the classroom, phone calls have never really been my thing. Actually that’s not strictly true, I love talking all things learning with clients via any medium. And I take every opportunity to take to my family. But all other calls are a nuisance. There I said it!
On days where I’m out of the classroom and available, if I see a call coming in and don’t know the number or am not expecting the call, most times I will just watch the phone ring without answering it and wait to see if there’s a voicemail. People who really need something leave voicemails. Because even when I do answer, most of the time I’m left thinking “Couldn’t you just send me an email or a text?”
I tell myself it’s because so many calls these days are spam. And it seems once you answer one, you’re on some list forever and more and more calls keep flooding in. But it’s not solely that. Something about the phone seems intrusive to me. Incoming calls are an interruption. I’m doing something else, thinking about something else, I haven’t planned for it and boom – there it comes to disrupt my day. Outgoing calls are a chore. They take up time. It’s hard to multitask. Hold music is annoying. I dread it. Come on! I can’t be the only one who feels this way.
But I can’t avoid the phone all time time. There are some calls that you have to do to get things done. Calls to the bank, to somebody’s Customer Service Team, to Accounts Payable to chase an invoice. Calls are also more personal than the emails and texts I love so much. So how do I tackle them when I have to tackle them?
Step 1: Block out a set time for calls
I’ve found that doing my calls in sequence is the most efficient way to get through them. After I’ve done one I’m already in “phone mode” and it gets easier to do the next and the next. I tackle any chore calls first thing in the morning. I like to get them out of the way early. Non-urgent call-backs and responses to voicemails I do at the end of each day and my recorded voicemail message tells callers that that’s my practice so I set expectations in advance.
Step 2: Make a list by priority
To maximise the efficiency of my call time I typically have a list in order of priority to make sure I get the most urgent ones done first. My list of calls also includes numbers and contacts where applicable. I have also started including an aim or goal so I stay focused and make sure I get what I need before I hang up.
Step 3: Gather everything needed for the call in advance
My personal mission is to spend as little time on the phone as needed to do this I get organised. I get any of the little details I’m likely to be asked for together (account numbers, reference numbers, transaction dates, passwords etc.) all within easy reach. That way I don’t waste time rummaging around for them when I’m on the call.
Step 4: Get in the mood
I usually take a quick time out and play my favourite song before I get started on calls. It puts me in a good mood, ready for the task ahead. At the moment it’s Cardi B. for me, but please feel free to choose what you like. For the calls at the end of the day, in addition to my musical interlude, I always take a little comfort break and get comfortable before diving in.
Step 5: Queue up side tasks & be ready to multitask
If I face the dreaded hold music I like to have things that I’m ready to do, so no time is really wasted waiting. These are short tasks that can easily be done during waiting time. Enter a receipt in your expenses, reply to a quick e-mail, post a pic on social media so you keep “doing” and don’t get frustrated by the lulls.
Step 6: Give a reward at the end
This could be another little break, a snack or even a task that you really enjoy to make up for the drudgery. If you know there’s something you enjoy waiting for you at the end, you also approach the task with less dread and a more positive mindset.
I hope these tips help anyone who feels the same as I do, and am happy to hear your tips in the comments below as well.
Hey Dana – loving your blog. As someone who is also not a fan of phone calls I also agree with the strategy to get them done and out of the way as quickly as possible. It’s a gamechanger. I’m also honest with the people that I work with about the way I feel about unexpected phone calls. It’s a small thing that shouldn’t make me so anxious, but it’s better for my mental health when calls are scheduled and planned.
Hey DJ-E. Hope you’re well and all is good with you. I hope you don’t mind, but I’m sharing this link as an additional resource in a module I’m building about the art of telephone conversations, which are on the rise again now in the pandemic.