- Leave great phone messages
If you've reached someone's voicemail, leave a message with useful details so that the recipient has enough information to take action.
“Hi. Joe here, just callin’ you back. Well, uh, go ahead and give me a call when you get this”. (actual real life message I get frequently).
Here's a better approach:
“Hi. Joe here. I got your message. The name of the new page we said we want is “Photo Gallery”. Thanks.”.
Now, instead of having to call Joe back – again – I can go ahead and create the new page and keep moving forward. Joe confirmed who he is (helpful if there's a bad connection or he's calling from a new phone line), confirmed that he got my previous message AND he answered the question. Hallelujah!
- Pick up the phone
If you have a complicated topic, call instead of emailing. Calling is the best way to work through things and come to a conclusion or course of action. It's much more effective than a volley of emails. And now you know how to leave a great message, that will help speed things along.
- Respond mindfully to emails
We're all busy, but skimming through an email and firing off a partial response makes for MORE work, not less. Take a moment to read emails and address all of the questions they include. Notice that I didn't say "answer" all of the questions. Sometimes you need to research something, in which case you can say, "About your third question, I'll check and get back to you". What a joy that is! Now when I get the two answers I don't have to wonder if you saw the third one and send you a follow up message asking about it separately. Take a mindful moment before you hit Send to make sure you've kept things moving forward.
- Change the subject line to represent your message.
If you find it's fastest to create a new message by hitting Reply on an old email then take a moment to update the subject line so it matches your new topic. Why? As humans this helps us understand the communication but more importantly, many email programs group messages by subject line - meaning that your new email may get buried under that old set of messages. Want to do less emailing? Make your subject line match your message.
- Texting is for quickies
Reserve texting for quick questions that you believe your recipient can answer on the fly. If you're message is more intricate, use email. Most people can type much faster than they can text and if your request requires looking something up, the respondee needs to be at their computer. Tapping out a lengthy response via smartphone is not a good use of anyone's time.
- Keep it formal!
Whether you're leaving a voicemail, email or text, get in the habit of saying hello and thank you. Through thousands of years of communication we have learned to say hello (ask for someone's attention), present our message (engage with the person) and say thank you or goodbye (conclude the message and/or acknowledge the response). These are not optional niceties, they are the ancient framework of friendly communication and they are as important today in business communication as they have ever been. If you take a moment to engage with people as people you will find your messages flowing back and forth with much greater speed and ease.
Field Notes Blog
News and thoughts on UI/UX, web design, and more.
Email and voicemail are the cornerstones of how many of us work now. These valuable tools keep us in the loop and allow us to work any time, anywhere. But they also have a dark side - they unnecessarily gobble up a ton of our time. Do you love emailing and listening to voicemails? Do you wish you had more of these every day? If so, then skip this. But if not, read on! Based on my experiences with real world clients over the course of the past year, I humbly offer these SIX simple tips to spend less time emailing, dealing with voicemails and even texting.
About the author
As the owner of Pixel Lava Interactive I've helped hundreds of small businesses and nonprofits with websites, graphic design and more. I hope you'll find this blog full of useful information.
~ Ame Stanko