How to Screen Phone Calls. With all the features of modern telephones, there's no need to drop what you're doing and race to answer a ringing phone. At the office, answering phone calls can greatly decrease your productivity; at home, unwanted phone calls can ruin a pleasant evening with family or friends. Don't feel guilty about phone call screening. Just follow the steps below to learn how.

Develop the habit of checking your caller ID before picking up the phone. If you don't recognize the name or phone number, let your answering machine or voice mail system take a message.

Listen to the message as the caller is leaving it (if you have an answering machine with a speaker) so you can decide whether you need to return the call right away, return it later or ignore it.

Consider leaving an outgoing message on your office phone that explains that you only return calls at certain times of the day. Give an alternate phone number for emergencies--preferably your assistant's or the receptionist's. Callers will know when to expect a return call and will feel that they can still reach you about urgent matters.

Use calling services offered by your phone company, such as call blocking to keep certain numbers from connecting or distinctive rings so you'll know when your spouse or children are calling.

Buy computer software that allows you to specify which calls will be sent to voice mail and which will ring your phone. You can see who is calling from your monitor, listen to messages, and forward calls to your office or cell phone. You can even eliminate your phone altogether and use your computer to answer the phone or make phone calls.