The all-to familiar business ritual of setting up a phone call, where it takes a day-long series of emails and calendar checks to even agree in a time, is the worst type of procrastination: the kind that makes you feel as if you’ve done something productive. Scheduled business calls should be eliminated entirely, the internet entrepreneur Philip Kaplan argues in a blog post.
Obsessing over scheduling serves to postpone calls that should only take minutes for days, wasting both people’s time, he says. And anyhow, it works on the outdated assumption that you need to be at your desk phone to make a call.
We agree that for most business interactions, scheduling calls is a waste of time. Business calls are better than emails only when there’s a subject that requires discussion, clarification, and back and forth. Postponing that communication for a day only means that something won’t get done until then. With smartphones, texting, and email, it’s far easier to communicate on the fly.
Kaplan, an entrepreneur and programmer famous for chronicling failed startups (paywall) during the late-90s tech bubble on his website, suggests a pretty simple approach. When someone tries to schedule a phone call with him, his response is “Call or text any time! My mobile number is….” If he’s not available, he’ll suggest calling back in an hour or the next day, but most calls happen rapidly.
Of course this means the occasional missed call or interruption, he says, but ultimately more productivity. The benefits he lists include ending the scramble for a mutually agreeable time, shorter calls that happen sooner, a much less cluttered calendar, and a more natural and friendly tone.
There are exceptions to this rule: Long calls, those that require preparation, and any kind of group call necessitate scheduling. But even transferring a small proportion of calls from a hazy future to right now has the potential to avoid a lot of unnecessary hand wringing and procrastination on both sides.
If you’re going to go through all that trouble, you might as well meet in person. And who has time for that?