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Four Ways to Be Productive While You’re on Hold with the IRS

Have you ever been on hold with the IRS? It’s no picnic. Whether you have a seemingly simple question or a complex issue, you have to wait your turn in a very long call queue – especially if you have to call during busy tax times like in January when 1099’s and other documents are due, in April when personal returns are due, or at any other time there’s some type of tax deadline.

I had the pleasure of needing to call the IRS this week because of some red flags from my identity theft monitoring service. I spent a total of 2 hours, 45 minutes and 17 seconds on the phone during a single call to the Internal Revenue Service. Of that amount of time, a total of 10 minutes was spent speaking with two different agents.

If time lengths or math computations are not a part of your natural brain waves, you might not have calculated that a total of 2 hours and 35 minutes was spent on hold. I could have watched The Shawshank Redemption.

Whether you need to wait on hold with the IRS or a bank or any other business, here are four steps you can take to stay productive.

Choose an obligation-free window to make your call.

Before you dial, make sure you don’t have any meetings, appointments, phone conferences or kids to pick up any time soon. It would be an even bigger time loss to wait in a call queue only to have to hang up when you need to give someone else your full attention.

Notate your thoughts before you dial.

You might be on hold for so long that you forget you’re technically on the phone. When you hear a human’s voice, you might actually jump out of your seat and then not recall why you were on the phone in the first place. This is why it’s important to have your purpose, questions, requests and objectives listed somewhere so you can refer to them while your memory comes back to you. At one point, I was on the phone for over one hour straight. The hold music became background noise, and I almost forgot that I was in a calling queue!

Use a phone with a speaker.

This will allow you to use both hands and do other things while you’re on the phone.

Have low-brain tasks lined up for completion.

Being on hold is very distracting, which lowers brain function. You won’t be in the best mood because you’ve been dreading this call. You’ll be annoyed that you have to spend time doing this. Every time the “hold music” or message changes, it will interrupt your thoughts because you think someone has finally picked up the phone. You might have to talk to multiple humans (with hold times in between) before you reach the one who has a higher probability of handling your request. It is nearly impossible to complete high brain functions efficiently and effectively when your brain is in this state. That’s why you should have low brain tasks that you can knock off your list, and it’s not a big deal if you’re moody or get interrupted. I sorted through mail, completed some low-level data inputs, captured some notes for this blog post, and cleaned off my desk.

If you’ve read my book, The Inefficiency Assassin, you know that I don’t believe in multi-tasking, which is the act of attempting to complete two higher brain functions. However, I’m a firm proponent of what I call ghost-tasking – working on lesser-thinking items while another task is happening in the background. Completing simple tasks while waiting on hold is ghost-tasking – and an excellent way to make the best use of your time if you need to be on hold for any amount of time.

About Helene Segura, M.A. Ed., CPO®

As The Inefficiency Assassin™, Time Management Fixer Helene Segura empowers professionals on the go with the tools to slay lost time. Personal inefficiency at work leads to increased stress levels, lower morale, higher absenteeism, more turnover – and rising spending on employee health care and hiring. Why not improve productivity, decrease stress levels, and increase profits instead? The author of four books – two of which were Amazon best-sellers – Helene Segura has been the featured organization expert in more than 200 media interviews. She has coached hundreds of clients to productivity success and performance improvement by applying neuroscience and behavioral modification techniques to wipe out destructive, time-wasting habits. Helene turns time management on its head by sharing both client case studies and pop culture examples to teach her mind-bending framework for decreasing interruptions, distractions and procrastination so that companies can spend more time generating revenue.

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