The phone is a wonderful invention, and it’s supposed to be a tool. Too much time spent on the phone can easily divert you from tasks at hand. This is true at work and at home. To help you manage your time productively, implement one or more of the following:
1. Keep a phone log for one day. Write down the exact start and stop time for each and every phone call you make – including personal calls. What do you notice? If you do a phone log for one day at school, then also do one for one weekend day or other “non-school” day. The patterns are likely to be informative to you.
2. If you spent more than ten minutes during the day on personal calls, learn this phrase: “I’m sorry, but I can no longer take personal calls at work.” You don’t have to explain yourself beyond this statement.
3. Get a good headset so you can walk around while you’re on the phone (both a “landline” and your cell phone). You should NOT attempt to multi-task while you’re on a key call, but you could put stamps on the mail, get a new box of tissues out of the supply cabinet, straighten up the desks in your room, etc.
4. If your conversation should really involve more people, say “We can’t really make any progress until the counselor is on board. I’ll send out a quick email that copies all of us.” Then close out the conversation.
5. When you are in the middle of a big task (like grading a giant stack of essays), have someone else pick up your calls or (gasp!) unplug your phone. You’ll be distracted by the ringer or the answering machine if you leave it on.
6. Check your cell phone for messages at designated times of the day – preferably only once or twice. So many people stare at their cell phones as if they’re searching for the Holy Grail.
7. When the caller asks if you have a minute, say “No” or “Not right now” (depending on which is true). With some people, don’t say anything else. The caller will fill in the “dead” sound with an apology and will quickly hang up. Depending on who the person is, of course, you might add something else. If a parent calls and says, “Do you have time to talk right now?” say, “No, but I can call you back in about 2 hours–would that work?”
8. If the caller has been efficient and helpful, say so. “I appreciate your brief call rather than having to track down this information myself. Have a great day!”
9. Instruct your family/children that you are not to be called at work unless it’s an emergency. If they do (and it’s not an emergency), charge them your appropriate rate of pay. It only takes once.
10. When the call should conclude, but you find it going on and on, stand up. Somehow people can read the “vibe” you send that says this conversation is over. Putting one or two of these into practice is likely to give you back 20 – 30 minutes AT LEAST each day. It’s possible to recapture up to 90 or 120 minutes per day by implementing all of these strategies. If you have colleagues, subordinates, bosses, friends, and/or family who need this information, please send this along to them. Or print and post it.
As an educator, you need every moment to dedicate to your mission–whether that is related to your teaching or taking care of your home and personal tasks. Avoid frittering away time on the phone that doesn’t support your productivity. Educators have the most influential positions in our society–and need every bit of support that can be mustered. Two resources that will help increase educators’ sense of peaceful, predictable productivity are Meggin’s weekly emails from Top Ten Productivity Tips and Keeping Chaos at Bay.