How accessible do you need to be?

Last week we were talking about managing distractions (really interruptions) and I wrote:

Dan Kennedy says “if they can’t find you, they can’t interrupt you.”

Then I asked: How can you make yourself inaccessible?

Well, you would have thought I suggested something completely radical! I can’t tell you how many people said, “But you just don’t understand! In my profession (my office, my company), I have to be available all the time. I have to take the call. I have to answer the email – right away.”

Really? How well does that work for you? Did you ever think that you are training your environment – your colleagues, clients, prospects – that you are always available? And then you complain that you get calls at ridiculous hours, you can’t have a meal without the phone ringing, and you are answering email late at night and on the weekends and on vacation. And you and your family resent it. You have given up any boundaries and have completely given up control of your time, energy and resources to whoever is on the other end of the phone or computer.

The bad news – the flood of calls and emails and interruptions aren’t going to stop anytime soon.

The good news – you actually have a lot of control over it.

I know a lot of people who review their email for the last time in their workday about an hour or so before the end of the day. This gives them time to deal with any really time sensitive matters (of which there are relatively few). Others have an end of day routine that includes sending out a bunch of messages to clients, colleagues, etc., to clear their own desk. They are not expecting an immediate response – they are just shifting things to the next state of action. Sort of like a tennis player hitting the ball back over the net.

If you are one of the people who receive this kind of message, you might think you need to stop and bang out a response immediately. But, trust me, the person who sent the message is not expecting an immediate response.

Why do we always assume an immediate response is required? We have been trained that way. Instant messaging. Instant coffee. Fast food. Frozen dinners (that take longer to heat than making something from scratch). The default reaction is get it done now, fast.

I’d like you to consider a different response. Take control of your energy. Take a moment (or two or ten) to think, to plan, to breathe, to focus. Turn off the phone. Turn off the computer. Walk away.

Where have you given up control? Where do you operate in default reaction mode? Pick one area and give up reacting. Just try.

I promise you two things. First, you will make massive progress on your goals. Second, you will find yourself far less stressed out.

Because, really, without a life, what’s the point?