Is there anything worse than receiving a voicemail? I just checked my personal phone and there are 21 voicemails that still show as new. I should probably just delete them, but I guess there’s a fear that I may need to listen to them someday. The real question is why would a person willingly spend their time listening to someone uncomfortably babble on about something that could have just as easily been communicated via text message?
At work, voicemails are even worse. There’s email, instant messaging, video calls, random pop-ins, or any other number of communication options. I wonder sometimes why we even have desk phones in this day and age. When I first started changing my weekly voicemail message, I’d receive a few messages each week. Now, I’m lucky to receive one per month.
Despite my dislike for voicemails, every Monday I diligently reset my voicemail on my work phone. The script is something along the lines of:
Hi, you have reached [my name] at [company]. This is the week of [month/day] and I plan to be in the office all week. Please leave a message and I’ll get back to you as soon as possible. Thanks!
Just typing that out makes me question my sanity. So, this past week when going through my weekly routine I paused to question whether or not I should continue this habit. A more generic voicemail message would be just fine.
Against what may be my better judgment, below are a few reasons why I’ve decided to keep the tradition going until they finally take away my mostly useless desk phone (I guess I’ll have to start setting it on my cell phone).
Small Tasks Can Be The Start of Something Big
For years I never made my bed unless we were having company over to visit. If nobody sees my bedroom anyway besides me or my wife, why spend the time to make it look nice?
At some point, I came across this video on how making your bed every day can help you change the world. If you don’t watch the video, the premise is that every morning making your bed allows you to accomplish a simple task. That task provides a bit of pride and builds the momentum to accomplish another task and then another and so on. Making your bed is basically the momentum builder that hopefully leads to many more accomplishments throughout the day.
The video also points out that if someone cannot complete small and simple tasks correctly, how can that person be trusted to accomplish bigger tasks? I’ve seen this play out often at my day job. All of us have administrative tasks that we don’t really want to do but have to. At work, we have a few of these tasks. One example is entering our out-of-office time in our time tracking system. If a person can’t take 30 seconds to properly enter vacation, sick, travel, or work from home time then why should they be trusted for much bigger responsibilities?
So as I was debating if I should continue with the tradition of setting my voicemail every week, the video linked above came to mind. Like making my bed, setting my voicemail every week is that simple task that helps jump-start my work week. Let’s face it, even if we love our jobs we need a little nudge to get moving on Monday mornings.
Listening to Your Own Voice is Uncomfortable
Once my voicemail message has been recorded, our system requires us to listen back through our message in full before finalizing. Like most everyone (except psychopaths) I hate hate hate listening to the sound of my own voice. (Seeing myself on video is infinitely worse.) Yet, every Monday I put myself through this tiny bit of mental anguish. Why?
Well, first of all the uncomfortableness is far less than it was four years ago when I started this habit. The more you do something that is uncomfortable, the more comfortable it becomes. This is also how we grow as humans.
The periods in my life in which the most intense growth has occurred have been during times when I was most uncomfortable. While there is a fine line of when too much discomfort could result in extreme anxiety or even failure, we often need to be placed outside of our comfort zone to grow.
So, while at this point setting my voicemail probably isn’t leading to intense growth in my life, it is a subtle weekly reminder that I need to put myself in uncomfortable situations to grow. If I’m not feeling those butterflies in my stomach and have a little anxiety at some point during the week I’m probably not developing.
It Makes a Positive Impact
In the rare moment when I feel compelled to leave a voicemail for a colleague, I’m impressed when the individual actually updates their voicemail weekly. It’s a tiny way of showing that they are on top of things. Maybe not everyone has this reaction, but I do.
On the other hand, we’ve probably all heard someone’s voicemail stating they were out of town in June when we’re sitting here in November. That provides very much the opposite reaction. This goes back to the comment that if you handle the small things then people will have confidence in you to handle bigger responsibilities.
No matter what job we’re in almost all of us are in some type of customer service role. Customers can be the general public, coworkers, your boss, or any number of other people. If taking two minutes each week to set my voicemail may improve the customer experience a tiny bit when I receive a rare call, in my opinion, it’s worth the effort.
Why I Still Change My Voicemail
On the surface changing my voicemail doesn’t add much value to me or my organization. However, when you start to peel back the layers there are some underlying benefits. I really believe that small habits lead to big wins down the road. This is true in other aspects of our lives as well.
For example, in personal finance, the act of tracking spending for a month can lead to big revelations. In fitness taking the stairs instead of the elevator can provide the spark to get another workout in later in the day. And the simple act of making your bed can lead to a day of many tasks being accomplished.
Big changes don’t happen quickly. They’re often the result of a combination of small habits that gain momentum and turn into something much bigger. So the next time you question a habit that you think is silly, such as changing voicemail when you hardly get any calls, be sure to look several steps down the line to see if that seemingly meaningless habit happens to be the spark that leads to something much bigger.
Mark is the founder of Financial Pilgrimage, a blog dedicated to helping young families pay down debt and live financially free. Mark has a Bachelor’s degree in financial management and a Master’s degree in economics and finance. He is a husband of one and father of two and calls St. Louis, MO, home. He also loves playing in old man baseball leagues, working out, and being anywhere near the water. Mark has been featured in Yahoo! Finance, NerdWallet, and the Plutus Awards Showcase.