For many managers, communications technology tools—our phones, e-mail programs, handheld devices—are the greatest toys ever invented. Everyone who has used these tools knows they can become a little addictive. They provide us with the sensation of activity, the subconscious feeling of power, the excitement of being always in the know—none of which necessarily helps us communicate or do our jobs better.
Gain insight on whether you're a tech junkie with the following quiz. For each item, rate yourself from 1 ("never") to 5 ("always"):
- If my phone rings while someone is in my office, I tell the caller that I'm in a meeting and I'll call back.
- I try to respond to my incoming e-mail in batches, once or twice a day.
- I do the same with voice mail.
- If I'm out and get several e-mails, when I return I read all of them before I respond to any of them.
- If I call someone who isn't available, I ask whether the person who answered can help me before I go to voice mail.
- I time my phone calls.
- When I have a scheduled appointment with someone in my office, I have my calls held.
- I also close my e-mail program and silence my cell phone or handheld device.
- I never use call waiting; if someone calls on another line when I'm on the phone, they just have to leave a message.
- Unless my work for the day is specifically to make a lot of phone calls, I spend less than an hour on the phone each day.
- When I call people and leave voice mail, I let them know the time I plan to try again if I don't hear back from them.
- I do the same with e-mail.
What do your answers mean?
If you scored from 45 to 60 points, congratulations! You're doing a great job of making your tech tools work for you, and not the other way around. You're probably the kind of person who looks forward to being "out of pocket" and sets aside times during your day or week when you choose not to be accessible by phone or e-mail. That's a practice many managers could adopt.
If you scored between 28 and 44 points, you have the right idea, but you can probably adapt some better habits that will make you more efficient. You'll notice, for example, that we had three pairs of items (2 and 3, 7 and 8, 11 and 12) that dealt with the phone and e-mail separately. Are you using the same good habits with both tools?
If you scored fewer than 28 points, you might often wonder, "Why don't I have enough time in the day?" or "Why am I always feeling stressed?" Well, here's one answer. Remember, these tools only have as much power in—or over—your life as you choose to give them.