15 ways to make the most of your phone calls and keep in touch

April 13, 2008 by Jared Goralnick

cellphonetalk Don’t feel you keep up enough with your friends? Have a lot of things to do around the house that never get done? Here’s how to solve both of these problems.

I don’t like doing chores around the house, and sometimes I feel too busy to take phone calls (yes, even outside of work hours). But if I can do both at the same time, then I feel productive. Caveats and warnings are also provided below…

Step 1. Get a Headset

You need a headset for your phone that you can wear around the house. If you use a landline then buy a portable phone that accepts a cell-phone headphone headset. Without a headset your hands won’t be free to do other things.

Note: when purchasing a headset, whether corded or Bluetooth, always be sure that it’s compatible with your phone.

Tasks you can Perform while Talking on the Phone

Many of the items on this list I’ll put off until I get or make a phone call. The order below is from least to most distracting. Consider becoming very familiar with the mute button, just in case…

Note: I don’t do these things when I work at home, as I need to take notes and there’s a different expectation for engagement. More caveats after this section.

  1. laundrytofold Folding laundry
  2. Making the bed
  3. Charging batteries / devices
  4. Putting laundry in the washer/dryer
  5. Emptying the dishwasher
  6. Emptying the trash
  7. Washing the dishes
  8. Dusting / sweeping
  9. Sorting mail (postal mail–and not reading it, just sorting it)
  10. Putting the dog out
  11. Basic bathroom cleaning
  12. Tossing frisbee with the dog
  13. Cooking (be super productive and cook meals for later that you can refrigerate or freeze)
  14. Filing papers (i.e., they’ve already been read, but need to go into a particular folder, which should be obvious)
  15. Rotating and cropping photos

These tasks should take little to no thinking power. The more thought they take, the less likely you are to be engaged in the conversation…so BE CAREFUL.

Caveat: How to be on the Same Page on the Phone

Being polite and respectful should always come before convenience. I wrote about this at length on my personal blog back in 2001 & 2005 in The Setting of Conversations from Afar:

When I talk to my clients I can roughly assume I’m in a similar situation–me at my desk and they at theirs. But it’s nothing at all like this with friends or significant others–one of us might be in the car or dancing around in the room, the other might be lying in bed or staring out the window. One may be wholly involved in the conversation and the other distracted by seven things going on at once. While people’s moods tend to be somewhat contagious, one has to be careful of being in an appropriate setting when talking to people one really cares about.

Before you go and apply any of the above tips, seriously consider both what the conversation is about and the mood of your friend–if it’s emotional or serious then it’s important to give your full attention.

An Excuse to Call People

The best application of this advice would be to use this as motivation to keep in touch with more people–think of it as an opportunity to reach out to old friends you’ve been meaning to call.

Once you’ve gotten used to multitasking on the phone you’ll find yourself keeping in touch with more people and feeling like you’re better using your time. Agree or disagree? Have additional tasks to perform on the phone? Let readers know in the comments.

This article is the first in a series on Everyday Productivity. You’ll find at least four more posts in April about using your everyday time wisely. If you enjoyed this, I’d love if you subscribed via RSS or email.

You might also enjoy these similar articles:

Photo credits: desi.italy and KellyK

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6 Responses to “15 ways to make the most of your phone calls and keep in touch”

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  1. Grant D Griffiths

    Jared — Per your twitter request. Usually while on the phone, I am at my desk if in the office. I multi-task too much. I might answer an email or a twitter. I use a JawBone BT earpiece with my iPhone so I have both hands free.

    If I am not at my desk and need to get up and move around, I go to the back yard if the weather is nice. Or I sit on our front porch. Good post BTW.

  2. Jared Goralnick

    Thanks, Grant! I’m genuinely curious to hear people’s thoughts on this. You bring up a great point about how we multitask too much.

    I’m NOT a fan of multitasking–at least not in so much that it kills the quality of most of our performance while slowing us down. But I think some activities take very little mental energy (like folding laundry) and could benefit from a little of it. Not when talking to clients, but when driving or talking to a friend…

    Thanks again for your thoughts!

  3. Elizabeth

    I use phone calls to take a break from multi-tasking or from doing work. If I’m going to take a break anyway (just like if I need to fold laundry anyway), it’s nice to have some good conversation and catch up with friends. I end up feeling refreshed when I go back to getting things done.

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