1.Budget (yes, budget) your phone time. With six calls to make, allow yourself no more than thirty minutes to complete all of them. Obviously, this constraint will discipline you to get to the point, cover the point and make an exit.
2.As I have just indicated, batch your calls. Instead of scattering them throughout the day, make your calls consecutively. You'll shift into a "telephone mood," comparable to what athletes call "the zone." The second call becomes easier than the first, the third call even easier. Your efficiency escalates, and you accomplish more sooner.
3. Rely on E-mail more consistently. This is my favorite way to avoid phone tag. E-mail allows us to send messages at our most convenient time. Too, we will probably use fewer words (and time) than we would use by phone.
4. Make calls from your cell phone, if you can handle the phone safely while driving. When you tell someone, "Hi, Ted, I've got a couple of minutes to chat as I'm driving into downtown Atlanta," you're triggering them to get to the heart of the call instantly.
5. Outline what you intend to cover in the your calls. The outline keeps you from rambling, and from having to call again to cover an item you forgot to mention--embarrassing as well as time consuming. Ordinarily, I use a key word outline that resembles a grocery list. For example, in calling to get details about my next speaking engagement, my notes might include: time, duration, microphone, handouts, number attending, introducer and convention theme.
6.Call people just before lunch and just before closing time. I guarantee they won't be longwinded then.
7. When you have said what is important, make a summary statement and say farewell: "Barbara, it's my understanding that you have given me permission to exceed two or three budget items as long as I stay within the departmental budget. Thanks for the clarification. That's all I needed to know. Goodbye."