Productivity Challenge Chapter Four – Phone Management

Now , where were we?

Oh yea, we have completed some email management in chapter one, automation in chapter two and calendar management in chapter three.

With these three challenges, you’ve saved 2h45 so far. If you work 10 hours a day, well, that’s close to a 30% increase in productivity. Because let’s face it, you are probably not going to work less, just better.

Now, we are on challenge no.4. Let’s get going shall we?

Save 30 minutes per day by managing your phone

We’ve done emails and calendars. Now’s lets get to the phone, the other big office/business tool of the 20th (19th?) century. The physical phone is still used a lot now but I think that the concept of phone applies to all non-face to face communication.

Now, how do you become a Phone Hero?

Step 1 – Control the Incoming Calls

It’s a bit like receiving an email: most phone calls you receive are interruptions. Someone contact you to tell you about their priorities, at the expense of your own. In order to be efficient, you have to control this as much as possible by following these three points:

  1. Schedule dead periods. Unplug your phone or put it on silent. The purpose of this is to have a moment when you’re simply not reachable. I would say that, unless you are an emergency doctor or a firefighter, you do not have emergencies that can’t be delayed by a few hours. Yea, that’s usually hard for people to accept but that’s the truth. Just think about it, do you answer the phone while on the plane? while your sleeping? You already have a bunch of dead periods and the world isn’t ending. What happens is that your team solves the problems without your input. And usually, they come up with a better solution than you could have because they are closer to the source. Now, if you really can’t deal with this, most smartphones have apps that can let calls through if people call more than once within a certain time frame. For example, here are the instructions on how to do this with an iPhone.On Android with Tasker, you can add asleep-mode with white-listed numbers.
  2. Use a greeting script. If you aren’t already doing this (I know a lot of you are), you’ll be amazed of the results. Using a script like “Hello, this is Steph from E.G. Impecc, how can I help you?” lets the person know that they are in the right place and asking them to go straight to the point. You get over the “How are you?” and other things that basically waste your time.
  3. Do not answer unknown calls. If a call is unexpected, let it go to voice mail. Why? For three reasons. The first is that it’s incredibly difficult to look professional when someone brings you a completely unexpected problem. Second, you will get rid of people who made the wrong number. Third, if it is a real problem, you can concentrate on solving it afterwards without any interruption.

Step 2 – Control Outgoing Calls

Now, you control the ringing phone but you want to get to answers quickly when YOU make the call. How do you do this? The short answer is “Planning”. The detailed answer is that planning involves doing those three things:

  1. Prepare your calls. Before picking up the phone, you should keep in mind your audience and your goal. Why do you call this person? Is this call the best way to achieve the goal? Also, if it is a more complex case, structure your communication before picking up the phone. Do not spend hours preparing for the perfect call but at least take 15 seconds.
  2. Schedule the moment of your calls for maximum efficiency. If you know that someone tends to talk a lot on the phone, call them during a car ride. It is a period with a clear ending where you have a clear excuse to hang up without seeming rude. Also, just before noon is a perfect time for a simple question. The idea is to be strategic in your communication.
  3. Make sure you have to optimum environmental conditions. You should not have to repeat the same sentence 5 times because your handset doesn’t work well or you are in a noisy environment. Repair your phone and find a secluded place to have your conversation.

Seems a bit tedious at first, but once you are used to it, planning works like a charm.

Step 3 – Control your Voice Mailbox

The typical voice mail is a very inefficient way to transmit information. One thing that Apple changed with the iPhone (at least as far as I know) is the introduction of the Visual Voicemail. Since then, a lot of companies offer it and have even improved on the basic formula.

This step is simple: get Visual Voicemail. Now! The newer systems also translate the voice into text which lets you reduce your voice mail time by literally 90%. How? Here are a few services that can help you:

Of course, the majority of mobile operators also offer their own visual voicemail service. I encourage you to check out which one works best for your needs but they all have little perks. RingCentral, for example, can send you voice messages by email with the mp3 audio as attachment.

The days when you had to dial 888, wait, enter your password, press 83 and then listen to someone talk for five minutes to finally understand that the question was “When is your business open this Saturday?” Gone!

Further Resources – Want to learn more about the topic?

Here are a few articles that discuss the same subject.

Here are the links to the previous challenges.

Well, my friend, you have saved more than 3 hours in those past 4 challenges. That is… nice. But next time, we join the pro-leagues. How do you achieve top levels of productivity? How do you leave your competitors so far behind that they won’t even matter? Well, that’s what you are going to learn in challenges 5, 6 and 7.

But, today, after you’ve performed all the actions outlined in this challenge, you have another homework. You need to fill in this worksheet. It will help you make a list of the things that you hate to do, the things you can’t do and the things you shouldn’t do.

Why? Well, I’ll bury the lead here and you’ll have to wait for the next challenge to find out!

As always, if you want to receive my blog posts directly in your email, sign up for the Newsletter here. If you want to join the 7 day challenge email course and get all 7 chapters within a week, you can sign up here.