Too many phone calls and e mails can stress out a solo professional. Follow the practical tips in this article to help get you out of overwhelm and regain control of incoming interruptions.
One easy way to avoid unwanted telephone interruptions is to install a separate office line, leaving the home phone on answer phone. Of course, make sure those who need to, know how to contact you in an emergency.
If you have small children, train them not to answer Mummy's office phone, or they may tell that brand new prospective client that Mummy can't come to the phone right now as she's in the loo!
I know it's hard to do, but if you're working to a deadline you may choose to put the office phone on answer machine some of the time. It can be a scary thought as you may worry you'll miss an important call, but sometimes circumstances may dictate this. Just make sure you return calls within a reasonable time. And why not turn off the ringer on the office phone at the end of the day?
When I call someone I always ask if this is a good time. Unfortunately most people don't ask this question at the beginning of a call. However, you can take the call, get the gist and then agree a time when you will call them back. Even if we do pick up the phone we don't have to get embroiled in a long call if it's not convenient.
Also, caller display can be a great boon. At least some of the time you'll have advance warning of who's calling and can decide whether to pick up or not.
Choose whether you will use a mobile or a land-line as your main method of taking calls. Because I am mainly home based, I use a land-line for my business and am very sparing with who I give my mobile number to. A friend of mine who's a Personal Fitness trainer does the opposite as she's out and about most of the time. Having one main phone really can reduce stress!
E-mail is probably the top distraction for home based business owners who spend a lot of time in front of their computers. In an ideal world, I'd recommend checking e-mail three, or at most, four times a day. Apparently, each time we are interrupted in a major project it can take as long as 20 minutes to get back to the level of concentration and involvement we had when we were interrupted.
Filter your e-mail for spam and create separate folders for each "stream" of e-mail. Turn off the "ping" that says there is new e-mail and set your e-mail preferences so that you only get e-mail on demand. These two actions alone could save you hundreds of interruptions every year.
Be very selective about any e-zines you subscribe to and consider having a maximum number like a top 10. I used to subscribe to far too many and then worried I might be missing out on something as they piled up unread. Cutting right back has felt really liberating.
The bottom line: Remember, we are in control of dealing with incoming phone calls and the e-mails that are allowed into our in boxes. Use voice mail and the delete button on your computer!