My battery life was pretty bad at first too. The guy at the Verizon store said that a Task Killer was a "must have" app. This being my first real smart phone, I complied. I quickly learned from others on this forum that a task killer was not necesssary, and getting rid of the task killer helped my battery life significantly.
I am connected to an exchange server, and push email is my other big drain on battery. I have set my work email to push only on weekdays from 7AM to 7PM, and I don't push my personal email, but rather check it about every 15 minutes. I see a noticible difference in battery life when I'm pushing versus not.
I usually unplug 5:30-6:00 AM, and plug back in between 10-11 PM with 30% left. I'm not a heavy data user (mostly email and facebook). And I probably have 30-40 minutes of talk time each day.
Regarding answering the phone, I have had to set my brightness higher now that I'm out in the sun more. I did notice bit greater drain on the battery since increasing display brightness for the summer.