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Time Saving Tips for Phone and Email

By DJ Watson
Posted Thursday, December 9, 2004

Time savers for your electronic tools - how to manage phones and emails so that you can actually get something done today! The telephone is an essential tool in your life, but it can also be your worst nightmare. Then along came email – once the words you’ve got mail” brought joy to our hearts – now they send some of us running for cover. If you feel you are being held hostage by the electronic media in your life, read on.

Here is a collection of useful techniques, tried and tested by individuals as well as large corporations.

Telephone Tips

o Ignore it! Designate phone free periods of the day to work without interruptions. Let your co-workers or family know so they can support that time. Take turns in the office to give everybody one to two hours per day of uninterrupted work time, if possible.

o Nip it in the bud. When you send information to a number of people you may trigger a series of phone calls that tie up lines and phone time. Head this off by accompanying the information with a reply memo, and be sure to include enough space for comments to be sent, faxed, or E-mailed back to you.

o Confirm it in writing. When making an agreement or reaching an understanding by telephone, jot down the highlights, read them back and send a quick note to the other person with a copy to yourself.

o Preprogram frequent numbers. Use the speed dial options for your fax and phone. Programming most machines is not difficult, and an uninterrupted hour with the manual to key in frequently dialed numbers can save countless minutes later. Most have the capacity for at least ninety-nine numbers, so update and add to this monthly. One touch dialing is heaven, once you are used to it.

o Avoid small talk. Try to stick to the business at hand by avoiding such clichés as talking about the weather, etc.

o Use Tele-services. Many businesses, such as banks, offer the convenience of conducting basic transactions via voice-mail and a push button phone - take them up on it.

o Headsets. The comfortable way to conduct phone calls and have your hands free to write. Ergonomically safe too.

o Voice mail. Don’t overlook this time-saver, both for incoming and outgoing messages that need no response. Research shows that 58% of people would like to leave messages with voice mail rather than a secretary and 18% of workdays are consumed by telephone interruptions. Enough said?

o Meeting on the Phone. Telephone conference calls can save the large amount of money spent for travel, food, lodging etc, plus the time it takes to make all these arrangements. Additionally it enables you to bring together people at scattered locations that may not ordinarily be able to meet. Information can be distributed rapidly with instant response. These days, the Internet provides opportunity for forum conferences, another option for “meeting without a meeting”.

o Troubleshooting. Sometimes a short, fast, call can head off possible problems. For instance, you can give key customers information before it is published, verify information before you take action, notify people of schedule changes, and usually just save time by using the right words, right now to avert difficulties later.

o Keeping projects on target. Incorporate phone calls into your action plans and set deadline dates for checkups at crucial stages during every important project. Regular contact with all those involved will be of tremendous help in assessing needed changes, averting problems and keeping the project on track.

o VIP lists. Keep a list of the more important people and those you call most often within reach of the phone. Include the names of their secretaries, assistants, staff, or anything pertinent you might need to remember about them.

o Cross-index directories. If you forget a person’s name, finding their number will be hard. To avoid this dilemma, cross index your address directory by company or service, and also by name.

o Remember Parkinson’s Law: “Any task expands to fill the time allowed for it”. If a salesperson needs to make ten calls and schedules two hours for this, the calls will probably consume the entire two hours. If however, forty-five minutes is scheduled, the ten calls are likely to be completed in this shorter time.

o “Eat a live toad first thing in the morning!” (And nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day). In other words, make the call you least want to make first so it doesn’t “hang over your head” all day.

o Tag....you’re it! If you call for someone who is not in, ask when they may be available. Leave word that you would like them to return your call and give them the best time to reach you.

o Call early. Experts have found that people are likely to be in their offices first thing in the morning and can be reached between eight a.m. and eleven a.m.

o Dial direct. Whenever possible, find out the direct line or extension for the party you are calling. Avoid going through the operator.

o Let them know it is a return call. If you are returning a call, say so to the person who answers the phone, it will help expedite your call.

o The 3-point introduction. When phoning a business, the 3-point introduction is widely recommended: your name, affiliation and reason for calling give the other person a succinct, basic frame of reference for an effective conversation or referral.

o Be prepared to get a machine. Have a “script”ready for the voice mail or answering machine.

o “Baby don’t lose that number” Leave your number at the beginning and end of message, speak slowly.

o Can we talk? Give the person you are calling the opportunity to let you know if it is not a good time to talk and arrange for a better time.

o Bounce back from interruptions. If you are engrossed in a task and the phone interrupts, jot down a few key words just before you take the call. With the notation as a reminder, you will be able to pick up where you left off at the call’s conclusion.

o The “talker”. To keep conversation brief when you phone someone who is a “talker”, place your call at a time when the other person isn’t likely to linger: just before lunch or quitting time, for example.

o Call waiting. This tip is for home offices: instead of call waiting, think about having incoming calls forwarded to a voice mail or message system when your line is busy. Check on the latest features offered by your local phone company. Interrupting a call to take someone else’s, will ALWAYS leave the impression that the other is more important.

E-mail Tips

o Place your contact information in the reply, including phone number and/or extension

o Create one e-mail per subject for easy filing and retrieval

o Be sure subject line matches contents - change the subject if a message has been going back and forth for a while

o When responding to a question or specific issue, refer to that item in your response; don’t assume the person remembers the question

o When forwarding an email, clean up the "junk" transmission information at the top and bottom of the email you are sending. Make sure people don't have to scroll down a bunch of old information to get to the good part (because most won’t)

o Write as though you are talking to that person, messages that are too cryptic or short may create the wrong impression. However don’t make them too long either, better to send two with new subject lines

o When you must send a mass email - use the "bcc" or "blind copy" function when composing the message and put your own email address in the "send to" box. This way people will only see their address and your address in the email header and others can't "spam" off your list of recipients. Your friends and clients will appreciate the privacy

o Check spelling, grammar and general appearance of the message

o Use upper AND lower case, messages in upper case are too hard to read

o Never send unsolicited jokes to ANYONE, don’t assume people want to be on “the list”

o Be aware of well meaning virus alerts and other “safety” messages that often turn out to be hoaxes – check it out at: (http://urbanlegends.tqn.com)

o Don’t assume that your messages were received, ask for confirmation when necessary

o Allow people 24 hours to get back to a message or identify a time line

o Send your e-mails when promised

o Keep a record of your sent messages so you can follow up

o When possible, send documents as attachments that can be printed out, AS WELL as copying the text into the email. Not everyone can open attachments or uses the same software you do, so let the reader know which software you used and what to do if they can’t open it.

o Make it easy to respond to you, add a signature line at the bottom with your information

About the Author
DJ Watson is a work-at-home mom and business owner with a mission: to help clients eliminate the “toads’ taking over our lives, causing guilt, stress and overwhelm. You can reach her at (http://www.VirtualMVP.com) –to receive her free ezine “10-Minute Nuggets™” – productivity tips and sanity savers you can apply in less than ten minutes.