TechCrunch founder/Editor, Michael Arrington has a piece on voice mail which is very much on the money.
It's on the money because he's presenting a viewpoint based on real world experiences. I'm pretty much in the same boat, though I don't get nearly the number of calls that he does from people who don't matter to me as much.
These days, those closest too me know that the best way to reach me is:
1) Schedule the call in advance
2) Call me during off peak hours, I may actually answer the phone
3) Instant message me and then turn the chat into a voice or video call
4) Send an email
5) SMS me
The last one is one of the only weaknesses of former client GrandCentral that Arrington referenced. Post Google acquisition they never got around to implementing SMS passthrough, something that would have made the best even better.
As someone who is on either a Nokia Smartphone (the new E71 rocks and the E90 is a workhorse for me in Europe) or a Blackberry all the time these days, I'm finding that IM on a Smartphone (Blackberry Messenger is how my Doctor wife I and tend to communicate during the day) is ideal, and even the aggregation IM tools prove valuable too. Instead of voice mail tag, the Instant Messaging (IM) or SMS basically gets me to the point of talking, not playing tag.
Bottom line-Voice mail is at a point in my life where it's one of lowest means of communications that matters.