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3 Tips to Streamline Your Voicemail

Voicemail. It is all around us. Use these three easy tips to
spend less time jumping through voicemail hoops. Some simple
changes to the way you use your voicemail can bring big time
savings and increase your information flow.

First I use the same plan with voicemail that I do with my
email. In Tame Your Email I recommend you only check your
email three times a day. For me that is morning, noon, and
afternoon. I actually check my personal email at night also. But
for work use the three I just described.

I put voicemail on the same schedule. Only check it three times
a day.

—– Note —–
If you are checking your work email/voicemail do the final check
at least an hour before you leave. Why? If something has cropped
up that needs your attention before leaving for the day you
still have time to handle it. If you wait, you may find yourself
staying late at the last minute.
—————–

To make checking messages easy to remember I put both my email
and my voicemail into a scheduler on my computer. Windows,
Macintosh, and Linux operating systems all have built in
schedulers. Simply set them to launch your email application at
predetermined times. Then get in the habit of waiting for the
scheduler to fire off before you check your email.

For voicemail set your scheduler to pop up a little message
window saying “Check your voicemail!” Simple and easy. If you
scheduler does not have a way to pop up a message simply set an
appointment with an alarm in your calendar or PIM. Set it to go
every day you will be checking your messages.

Second – encourage others to leave good messages

You know what I mean. You call someone and ask them to call you
with the details of something. They call get your voicemail and
all they say is “Call me.” Why they didn’t leave the details you
asked for is one of those mysteries of modern communication.

How do you solve this? In your outgoing voicemail message tell
your callers to leave a detailed message. In the past I have
used a phrase like “don’t play phone tag – leave a detailed
message so we can keep this moving forward.” At times I have
also stated that without a detailed message I will not return
the call.

—– Note ——–
Some people always get a call back regardless. You know who the
people in your circle would be. Don’t ignore the really
important people in your life.
——————–

For people who repeatedly insist on just leaving a “call me”
message I simply email them at my convenience and ask what they
wanted. They pick up on the process pretty fast.

The key is not to be rude and to encourage the flow of
information.

Third – Leave good messages yourself

The system I follow when leaving a voicemail:

– State my name
– Clearly state my phone number
– Leave the details of my message
– Repeat my name
– Repeat my phone number and best time to call me

This sequence saves the other person time. They don’t have to
replay to the message to catch your phone number.

Strange fact: I use one phone number for all outgoing calls and
a different number for incoming calls. The first number shows on
Caller ID. Many people just call me back on the first number –
which I never answer – and don’t listen to the message. Why? It
is another mystery.

Bonus Tip: Receive your voicemail as email

For your personal email you can use a service that takes the
voicemail and forwards it to email. The file comes in as a sound
file and you listen to it directly on your computer. This fits
our check messages three times a day plan perfectly as the
voicemail is already in the inbox when you check. It also gives
you only one place to check for new information rather than two.

The service I use for voicemail and fax is K7.net. The service
is free and you can receive your faxes or voicemail in your
email or check them over the Internet.

K7.net assigns you a phone number to use in the 206 area code in
the United States. With the inexpensive rates today the call is
inexpensive. In fact many just assume that is a cell phone
number.

The potential downside to K7.net is your phone does not ring
directly. That is a bonus to me as I prefer to return calls at
predetermined times. The important people in my life already
have my private phone numbers and call me directly. Anyone I
need to speak to immediately receives a number I can be reached
at in the message I leave them.

—– Note —–
If you use K7.net be aware that they will cancel your number
after 30 days of inactivity. If you have an infrequently used
fax number make sure to fax yourself something every week or so
to keep it active. Why every week? If I wait longer than that I
forget.
—————–

There are other options for all of this. Skype is a service I
have been looking at lately. It is still to early to tell how I
will use it. I find it very compelling so far. The quality is
high and the price is right. I had good success with both audio
and the video conferencing using just a simple webcam. The fact
that Skype-to-Skype communications are encrypted to a degree is
a bonus.

To test the service I paid the $8.95 U.S. for unlimited calls to
U.S. and Canada land lines and mobile phones for three months. I
have not tested the incoming call/voicemail service. It may be a
compelling alternative to K7.net for voicemail.