I hung up from a phone call with a client and quickly looked at the call time that appeared on my screen. That conversation lasted for all of three minutes and 42 seconds. “What a waste of time,” I muttered to myself, as I tossed my phone back on my desk.
Sure, the call itself was short, meaning I couldn’t exactly qualify it as a colossal timesuck. But, it still felt like it threw a wrench in a few minutes that I could’ve spent doing other work.
For the record, yes, I know that I sound like one of those quintessential Millennials who generally prefers to just stay off the phone.
Immediately after processing how ridiculously short that call was, I had another thought: “That’s just another phone call that could’ve easily been accomplished over email,” I said, feeling perturbed and self-righteous.
However, after stewing on that for a moment, I began to think: Would email really have been more efficient? Or, does it just seem that way?
The Trap of Email’s Perceived Efficiency
There’s no denying that email is an incredibly convenient way for us to communicate — trust me, I love it just as much as the next person. And, the fact that we’re able to answer what we want, when we want, and where we want makes it easy to think that it’s the most efficient communication method by default.
But, consider this: In that phone conversation with my client (that lasted less than four minutes) I was able to get my questions answered, gain a better understanding of the angle for the piece, jot down the contact information for my sources, and even receive my deadline.
How long would that same amount of progress have taken me if it had been done strictly over email?
Chances are, my client would’ve sent me an email sharing some details of the assignment. I’d write back to ask some questions. After a period of waiting, she’d get back to me with answers. At that point, I’d identify a few other areas I needed clarification on and write her another email. Do you see where this is going?
I’m willing to bet that I’d spend a lot more time reading her messages and crafting my own than I did on that three minute and 42 second phone call. Plus, our voice-to-voice conversation totally eliminated all of that pesky waiting time — meaning I was able to get moving on my article immediately.
Sometimes You Need to Pick Up the Phone
The point I’m aiming to make is this: We’ve all echoed the complaint that various meetings and phone conversations could’ve been (and, in many instances, should’ve been) emails. But, just because email is easy doesn’t mean it’s always the most efficient.
So, the next time you get discouraged by a short phone call that managed to wedge itself into your workday, take a deep breath and remind yourself that — even if it doesn’t feel like it — you might’ve actually saved yourself some time.
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.