A friend was recently venting about people answering the phone with “I’m in a meeting, I’ll call you back.” It got me thinking about why we feel obligated to answer the phone just because it’s ringing?
Part of the issue is that the ringing or buzzing of the phone demands our attention, it cries out for action. It becomes very urgent even if it’s not important. This goes back to the priorities matrix, what is important or not and urgent or not. Part of it may be that we welcome the interruption, are looking for a distraction and that phone call is perfect.
If we answer the phone everytime it rings:
- It can interrupt our work flow
- It can bring us a new assignment
- It can be information that we are waiting for
- It can bring news – good or bad, or
- It can be a request for help or information.
If you are involved in something else this call may interrupt your productivity. When you are working on something and things are flowing well the interruption can break your train of thought and stop the productivity. Once you break that flow it can take additional time to get the momentum going again. This is the essence of lost productivity.
Every time the phone rings we have a decision to make: to answer it or let voicemail pick it up. Too often it seems that we have no choice to make – we have to answer the phone, even if we are in a meeting. However, you do have the right to choose to answer it or not. If you are focusing on getting something finished by a deadline or you are with another person or in a meeting it is likely best to let it go to voicemail. If the caller needs you to get back to them they will let you know what action is needed from you. If they are calling with information for you they can leave it in a message. Either way you continue with your project at hand and can deal with the message when the timing is right.
With caller id you can determine if you need to talk to that person right then or not. If you are waiting for data from a particular person and they call, by all means you need to get the data to complete your work. Otherwise it may be okay to let the call go for that moment.
The key here is that you do have a choice when the phone rings. You should guard your productivity closely and let calls go to voicemail (where appropriate) to maintain that flow. When I have to focus on a task I will turn my phone off and let it go to voicemail without interrupting me. When I’m done with the task I will turn the phone on, check messages and return calls as needed. This puts me in charge of my time.
Take charge of your time and answer the phone when the time is right for you!