Tips to Streamline Your Voicemail

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 till 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 The service is free and you can receive your faxes or voicemail in your email or check them over the Internet. 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 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 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 for voicemail.

More on Skype in a future article.

Give these ideas a try and see if you spend less time keeping up with the information flow in your life. In a nutshell I am suggesting you spend less time checking voicemail and take steps to increase the information flow.