Some curse voice mail (depending on which side of the call they're on), while others praise its simplicity and convenience. Make your voice mail work for you by doing the following:
- When recording your message, if your system has the capability, let the caller know within the first few seconds how he or she can bypass your message. In your contact management software, card file or the address book within your planner, note how you can bypass others' messages.
- Keep your outgoing message short, simple and professional. Include the basics and exclude extraneous information. Don't forget to include your Web site address for callers who need more information. Review your message after you've recorded it to ensure your voice sounds clear and there are no unwanted background noises.
- During your greeting, ask the caller for the best time to return his or her call, and return the consideration when you leave messages for others. This simple request spares you the agony of phone tag (let's be honest . . . you'll also know the best time to call and leave a message for a long-winded client or friend.) Also, ask the caller to leave his phone number in case you don't have it with you while you're out of your office.
- If you're out of your office most of the time, consider combining your voice-mail system with a paging system. When someone calls, you can give them the option of paging you immediately.
- Don't save all your voice messages. Instead, take action. After writing down or entering the message and number, just erase.
Lisa Kanarek (http://www.everythingsorganized.com) is a home office organizing expert and author of several books, including Organizing Your Home Office For Success (Blakely Press) and 101 Home Office Success Secrets (Career Press).
Brother home office expert Lisa Kanarek advises corporations and individuals on all aspects of working from home and writes the blog Working Naked. She is the author of several books, including Working Naked: A guide to the bare essentials of home office life.