In this age of multitasking, it’s often more productive to “singletask.” By concentrating on one assignment at a time, you can deliver better results and minimize error.
It’s easier to focus on a single task if you prepare diligently. Before an important phone call, for example, create an environment free of distractions.
Mute all ringers, chimes and pings from various electronic devices. Shut down your computer screen so that you’re not tempted to glance at it during the call.
Deactivate social media alerts and smartphone apps that threaten to divert your attention. Better yet, put your smartphone in a drawer or otherwise keep it out of sight.
If you like to look out the window, don’t let the view interfere with your ability to listen. Visual stimuli might derail your focus on the conversation at hand.
Keep your office space tidy. A messy desk may induce stress and draw you away from the speaker.
If you’re pressed for time, begin the call by letting the other person know. Start by saying, “I’m glad we could connect. I have 10 minutes to go over tomorrow’s agenda.”
As the clock winds down, mention that you “only have two or three more minutes so we should wrap up.” People appreciate when they’re given a chance to raise other topics that they deem important before you need to leave.
Even though callers cannot see you, don’t assume you can get away with multitasking. Signing a few forms while you listen might seem harmless, but it poses a risk if your mind strays for a moment and you miss a key comment on the other end of the line.
— Adapted from Singletasking, Devora Zack, Berrett-Koehler.