But I have another pet peeve and that's the telephone. In the old days when email and texting didn't exist, before answer machines and caller ID (yes, believe it or not, this was less than 30 years ago,) the good old telephone, with a cord, and maybe a rotary dial, was the primary method of communication. When the phone rang, it was fun! It was exciting! Who could it be? Wow - someone wants to talk to me! And generally, it was someone we wanted to talk to. At home it was a friend or family member. At work, it was someone who needed to talk about a business issue. If we missed a call because we weren't in, or at our desk, the person calling had to try again; there was no way to leave a message and start the phone-tag game.
The problem now is that a phone call can be more of an intrusion than a pleasure. Blame telemarketers for starting that. In addition, our days and nights are more packed than ever before, with meetings, after-school activities and travel. The ability to be able to talk to someone 24/7 via portable devices means that instead of becoming more productive, we get less done because we're all jumping to reply to the next "urgent" phone call, or, we're at the mercy of someone who's on a long car journey or sitting at an airport, bored and wanting to pass the time. But there is a way to avoid this.
I'll use myself as a prime example. When I worked in an office, I was in meetings most of the time so phone calls rarely got answered in real time, and even if I was at my desk, I was working on something that really needed to get done and I usually ignored calls, letting them go to voicemail. This wasn't being rude: rather a deliberate decision on how to spend time wisely. The problem was that these calls still needed to be responded to. Who hasn't had the feeling: "Phew, well, I did call, but I got voicemail so now they'll have to call me back!" Productive, right?
Now, I work from home, and I generally plan phone calls. Why do I do that? Because I appreciate and respect my own time and that of other people. It's rare that I get an unscheduled business phone call, and it's also rare that I call someone out of the blue. My version of electronic etiquette means that I usually send someone an email first, asking what their schedule looks like for a chat. I find it much more productive to do this. A planned phone call means that both parties are prepared for a conversation and are looking forward to the call. How many times have you been blindsided by someone calling to ask something that you weren't prepared to answer? You feel unprofessional even when you do have your act together. It's just that you were probably working on something completely different and your brain was in a different place.
Now, don't get me wrong, I don't ignore all phone calls. I will pick up for friends and family and if I have a sense what the person on the line may want, but if I'm in a meeting, I won't, unless it's an emergency. Treat people how you would like to be treated, If I'm in a meeting with you, I'm with YOU, no-one else, and YOU will get my full attention.
Need to chat? Just drop me an email and I'll get right back to you.