By Vicki Voisin, ACP
The key to getting more done in your day is to minimize interruptions. If you answer your telephone every time it rings, you’ll have no block of time to complete your work. Controlling your phone time allows you to maximize your day and get more work done in less time.
The answer? Use voice mail to avoid disruptions. When you have a deadline to meet or need some uninterrupted time to think and work, let your calls go to voice mail and deal with them later. This will avoid calls from those people who need ‘just a minute’ of your time and end up talking for fifteen minutes. Your telephone will become one of your favorite time organization tools.
Your outgoing message should give your callers lots of information. Plan this carefully so you will know exactly what the caller wants when you retrieve their message. In fact, you may not have to return the call if you manage to get enough information from your caller. If you just say, “Hi! This is #subname#. Leave your number and I’ll call you back.” you’ve not helped yourself at all. Be clear and concise and give your callers as many details as possible. Let them know when they can expect to hear from you, how to bypass your message or speak with someone else, and let them know if there are alternative ways to reach you. Then ask them for a detailed message.
Voice mail is a two-way street so the message you leave must also be effective. Plan your return call and be concise. No one wants to listen to a message that rambles on and on. If you have to, make notes so there’s no stammering, no lost train of thought, and no forgetting an important detail. Let them know the best time to reach you and then tell them precisely what you need. If you do a good enough job, you may even avoid exchanging phone calls. For instance, “This is #subname# calling. Please fax a copy of Dr. Smith’s IME report for John Jones to me at 231-555-5555.” should get the results you want without spending any more time on the phone. Remember, too, that you’re not in a race to talk as fast as you can. Say your name and telephone number slowly…and then repeat both before you end the call.
Try to return calls all at once. In other words, do this in one chunk of time; don’t drag the calls out all day long. Experts will tell you that the best times to return calls are first thing in the morning or immediately after the lunch hour. The last two hours of the day are also good. These are the times when most people are in their offices and you’ll have a better chance of avoiding the dreaded game of phone tag.
One last thing: your voice mail message reflects your image. Whether it’s the message your callers hear or the message you leave for someone else, this is your opportunity to project a professional image. These messages may be for people you’ll never meet face-to-face. Act accordingly.
Your challenge: Take control of your voice mail. Carefully consider the message your callers currently hear. Does it include enough information so that your expectations are clear? Prepare scripts for different situations (you’re at a meeting or a seminar or on vacation, etc) and update your voice mail as needed. Then move on to the message you leave when you get someone else’s voice mail. Be sure you are, again, including enough information so that they know why you’re calling, when they can reach you and what information you want when they call back. If you take these steps, you’ll be on your way to making the best use of every minute of your day.
© 2008 Vicki Voisin, Inc.
Do you want to use this article in your newsletter, e-zine or website? You can, so long as you include this entire blurb with it: Vicki Voisin, also known as The Paralegal Mentor, publishes the bi-weekly ezine ‘Strategies for Paralegals Seeking Excellence’ where she offers tips for paralegals and others who want to create lasting success in their personal and professional lives. Get tips and information at no cost at www.paralegalmentor.com.