Stop Answering the Phone!

Once upon a time people rushed to answer phones.  For those old enough to remember, you had to get to the phone.

At one point we did not have answering machines.  We did not have even have CallerID.

So, if you didn’t get to the phone…you did not even know who called.

——-

Today is different.  We carry our phones in our pockets.  We take them everywhere.  (Even to the bathroom).

We have CallerId and visual voicemail.  We know who is calling, who called, and what they wanted.
Yet… most people continue to let the phone rule their life instead of using it as a productivity tool.
Too often you see people answering their phones in a meeting.  During a conversation.  And yes, even in the movie theatre and in the bathroom!
——-
Why do we do this?
It is a huge time waster.  And it destroys productivity.
My recommendation to improve your time management and productivity is simple…
Stop Answering the Phone! :)
Experiment: Do not answer your phone for a week.  Yes.  You are going to intentionally miss calls.  If you have visual voicemail or a service that emails your VM’s, you will quickly know what you missed.  You will be surprised how many calls were unnecessary or resolve themselves.  Or better yet, can be addressed later on your timetable.
Just because Johnny wants to know what restaurant you want to eat at next week on the business trip, does not mean he needs to interupt you in the middle of a report you are constructing.
Tips for when you need to answer:
  • Answer  with name of person of the person calling (they should already be in your address book and thus on CallerId)

This lets them know immediately that you know who you are talking to and avoids the “Hi.  Hi, it’s John.  Hi. How are you? Good.  Did I catch you at a good time?”

  • Ask them immediately “What can I do for you?”

Best answer: “Hi John. What can I do for you?”

This can be a bit pointed, but it cuts right to the chase.  You will find that people will very quickly let you know why they are calling.  You can then respond by letting them know what you can do or that this immediate moment is not a good time.
With a little self-control, the phone can be a productivity tool, not a time thief.  It is there for your convenience.  Remember that next time you are tempted to answer it while in the middle of something.
You will probably even make the person you are with feel important since you did not take the call while speaking with them. :)
What are your best phone productivity tips?
No time for time management? Check out my online course designed to jump start your productivity! Take it online on your time and pace. As well, get direct access to me for advice and questions. Get details or enroll now by clicking here!

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • Stormbringer

    Although I am not a slave to the telephone as much as some people (I believe, “If it’s important, they’ll leave a message or call back”), I still could not leave it alone entirely for a week. You gave some good “cut to the chase” points so we do not have to deal with pleasantries and nonsense when we’re pressed for time.I have to confess that I read (OK, so it was an audio book) some of the “Betsy the Vampire Queen” series by MaryJanice Davidson (not for the kiddies), she had a fabulous rant about the telephone. It’s convenient for the OTHER person, not for you. And you are certainly going to be in trouble if you let it go when you could have answered it, despite YOUR inconvenience.The truth is, as I learned from Paul Kyriazi, we train people how to treat us! If we stand up for ourselves and say, “Hi, John, what can I do for you?” or let the machine take the message, they’ll start to learn that we’re serious.Where does the soap box go? I’m done now.

  • Stormbringer

    Although I am not a slave to the telephone as much as some people (I believe, “If it’s important, they’ll leave a message or call back”), I still could not leave it alone entirely for a week. You gave some good “cut to the chase” points so we do not have to deal with pleasantries and nonsense when we’re pressed for time.I have to confess that I read (OK, so it was an audio book) some of the “Betsy the Vampire Queen” series by MaryJanice Davidson (not for the kiddies), she had a fabulous rant about the telephone. It’s convenient for the OTHER person, not for you. And you are certainly going to be in trouble if you let it go when you could have answered it, despite YOUR inconvenience.The truth is, as I learned from Paul Kyriazi, we train people how to treat us! If we stand up for ourselves and say, “Hi, John, what can I do for you?” or let the machine take the message, they’ll start to learn that we’re serious.Where does the soap box go? I’m done now.

  • TMNinja

    Stormbringer, I like your comment about how we train people to interact with us. I find if you are consistent with your behaviors, people will know what to expect. Ironically, just yesterday after I posted this, I managed to take an unnecessary call right in the middle of an important project. After the fact, I realized I should have let it go. It takes discipline to break the “answer the phone” habit. :)

  • TMNinja

    Stormbringer, I like your comment about how we train people to interact with us. I find if you are consistent with your behaviors, people will know what to expect. Ironically, just yesterday after I posted this, I managed to take an unnecessary call right in the middle of an important project. After the fact, I realized I should have let it go. It takes discipline to break the “answer the phone” habit. :)

  • LawyerKM

    I almost never answer my personal phone (the work phone is a different story). The best money I spend every month (only a couple of dollars), is for the voice mail to email service called PhoneTag (previously called Simulscribe). It saves so much time – both in avoiding answering the phone and “listening” to voice mails. It is so much faster to read a transcribed voice mail than to call in, go through the prompts, and listen to someone’s recorded voice. Also, you can read voice mails in places where you cannot put your phone up to your ear and listen to them. And it is all done on YOUR schedule.Before I started using PhoneTag, my outgoing message on my voice mail said “… leave a message, or better yet send me an email at patrick…@gmail.com…” My friends found that to be a bit too much. Good points about cutting to the chase, too. Tim Ferris, author of The Four Hour Work Week, is also a proponent of answering the phone as you suggest: “This is Tim. How can I help you?” http://www.fourhourworkweek.com/blog/. If you haven’t read that book, you should. It’s full of productivity gems. Patrick ( http://www.lawyerkm.com )

  • Patrick

    I almost never answer my personal phone (the work phone is a different story). The best money I spend every month (only a couple of dollars), is for the voice mail to email service called PhoneTag (previously called Simulscribe). It saves so much time – both in avoiding answering the phone and “listening” to voice mails. It is so much faster to read a transcribed voice mail than to call in, go through the prompts, and listen to someone’s recorded voice. Also, you can read voice mails in places where you cannot put your phone up to your ear and listen to them. And it is all done on YOUR schedule.Before I started using PhoneTag, my outgoing message on my voice mail said “… leave a message, or better yet send me an email at patrick…@gmail.com…” My friends found that to be a bit too much. Good points about cutting to the chase, too. Tim Ferris, author of The Four Hour Work Week, is also a proponent of answering the phone as you suggest: “This is Tim. How can I help you?” http://www.fourhourworkweek.com/blog/. If you haven’t read that book, you should. It’s full of productivity gems. Patrick ( http://www.lawyerkm.com )

  • LawyerKM

    I almost never answer my personal phone (the work phone is a different story). The best money I spend every month (only a couple of dollars), is for the voice mail to email service called PhoneTag (previously called Simulscribe). It saves so much time – both in avoiding answering the phone and “listening” to voice mails. It is so much faster to read a transcribed voice mail than to call in, go through the prompts, and listen to someone’s recorded voice. Also, you can read voice mails in places where you cannot put your phone up to your ear and listen to them. And it is all done on YOUR schedule.Before I started using PhoneTag, my outgoing message on my voice mail said “… leave a message, or better yet send me an email at patrick…@gmail.com…” My friends found that to be a bit too much. Good points about cutting to the chase, too. Tim Ferris, author of The Four Hour Work Week, is also a proponent of answering the phone as you suggest: “This is Tim. How can I help you?” http://www.fourhourworkweek.com/blog/. If you haven’t read that book, you should. It’s full of productivity gems. Patrick ( http://www.lawyerkm.com )

  • Patrick

    I almost never answer my personal phone (the work phone is a different story). The best money I spend every month (only a couple of dollars), is for the voice mail to email service called PhoneTag (previously called Simulscribe). It saves so much time – both in avoiding answering the phone and “listening” to voice mails. It is so much faster to read a transcribed voice mail than to call in, go through the prompts, and listen to someone’s recorded voice. Also, you can read voice mails in places where you cannot put your phone up to your ear and listen to them. And it is all done on YOUR schedule.Before I started using PhoneTag, my outgoing message on my voice mail said “… leave a message, or better yet send me an email at patrick…@gmail.com…” My friends found that to be a bit too much. Good points about cutting to the chase, too. Tim Ferris, author of The Four Hour Work Week, is also a proponent of answering the phone as you suggest: “This is Tim. How can I help you?” http://www.fourhourworkweek.com/blog/. If you haven’t read that book, you should. It’s full of productivity gems. Patrick ( http://www.lawyerkm.com )

  • Aaron

    I really enjoyed the tips and the article. I own a Retail store as well as a computer service business. I find when my employees and I are working on systems, if we don’t answer the phone we get more done and don’t go into 15min+ conversations that aren’t fruitful. Do you all think it is still a good idea not to answer the phones? I have a pretty sophisticated phone system to auto answer and such so I can get back to people if I need to. I find if it is important, people leave messages. I also find if a customer comes in the store he/she deserves to be served vs. people on the phone. What do you all think, I would like to get your opinions on the subject if I am not off the topic.

  • Aaron

    I really enjoyed the tips and the article. I own a Retail store as well as a computer service business. I find when my employees and I are working on systems, if we don’t answer the phone we get more done and don’t go into 15min+ conversations that aren’t fruitful. Do you all think it is still a good idea not to answer the phones? I have a pretty sophisticated phone system to auto answer and such so I can get back to people if I need to. I find if it is important, people leave messages. I also find if a customer comes in the store he/she deserves to be served vs. people on the phone. What do you all think, I would like to get your opinions on the subject if I am not off the topic.

  • http://www.completedietinfo.com/?s=diet+tips+to+lose+weight diet tips to lose weight

    That’s a practical way ^_^ and i like it thanks a lot for the suggestion. yeah i got annoyed sometimes because of those unwanted calls while im my work. it will me a lot. thank you.

  • EASTeam

    re @TMNinja <~ Agree 100% Also applies when ALREADY ON THE PHONE, ie, talk to 1 person @ a time or create a conference call, but not much is as rude as putting someone on extended hold #in

  • EASTeam

    re @TMNinja <~ Agree 100% Also applies when ALREADY ON THE PHONE, ie, talk to 1 person @ a time or create a conference call, but not much is as rude as putting someone on extended hold #in

  • Charlie Lyons

    Tim Ferriss in “4 Hour Work Week” (http://amzn.to/vZELVo) [affiliate link] addresses this very thing, including the proper technique for leaving an outgoing VM message that allows you to define when and how a reply will come back to the caller.

  • http://www.charlielyons.ca/ charlielyons

    Tim Ferriss in “4 Hour Work Week” (http://amzn.to/vZELVo) [affiliate link] addresses this very thing, including the proper technique for leaving an outgoing VM message that allows you to define when and how a reply will come back to the caller.

  • Liza_K

    Just stumbled upon your blog and ended up by reading everything from the very beginning :) I generally agree that phone calls can be a big interruption and sometimes it annoys me when people get offended if you do not pick up immediately. However, I have one exception. I ALWAYS pick up (or at least call back immediately if i missed the call) when my family or my closest friends call me. Even if it is for 5 seconds to say “Hey, everything ok? I will call you back then”. Just because it can be an emergency and they might be counting on me.

    • http://www.timemanagementninja.com/ Craig Jarrow

      Liza, glad you found my site! Welcome! Hope to see you on here. :)