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?


  1. Yah! Love it!

    I’m a big fan of honoring yourself, your energy and your time. Being an artist I often work in the studio with my phone unplugged. I make sure I take the time without distractions.

    Then when I’m working with a client doing a soul art session I can be totally focused on them because my energy is nourished and invigorated!

  2. Lisa Manyon says:

    Once again, great info about business boundaries. When I started scheduling client calls on Tuesday and Thursday only my productivity increased dramatically. The key is to honor those boundaries. 🙂

    Write on!~


    • ofyl says:

      Thanks Lisa! Boundaries – why do we feel the need to cross them so often? They are there for a reason!

  3. Wow, I was just thinking something similar to this, but you said it much more eloquently! Great blog.

    • ofyl says:

      Linda, I think this is why my clients call me “Captain Obvious” – the issues are so common and so universal!

  4. Ellen Martin says:

    This is fabulous information. One of my clients once said to me that she felt the need to immediately react to email because she expected immediate response to email that she sends out. So, we also need to manage our expectations of others. Put ourselves in their shoes and realize that we are all dealing with varying priorities and that we are not always going to be at the top of that list.

    Thanks so much for another great bit of knowledge!


    • ofyl says:

      Thanks Ellen. When my clients tell me the same thing, I just ask them “how is that working for you?” Stops them dead in their tracks, because they have just been telling me how much they hate all the interruptions!

  5. Sue Painter says:

    I do believe in being available, but place it at certain times, not all the time. Otherwise, you don’t get the “focus” time you need, or at least, I don’t!
    You make great points.
    Sue Painter

  6. This really hits home with me – I’m a big fan of slow food and taking time off but in work mode I tend to be the “do it now” type. BUT recently I have been doing as you suggest – no phone, no email and just working on the task at hand – and there is massive progress as you say!

  7. So true, Terry! We DO have much more control over our lives and its “distractions” than we sometimes give ourselves credit for. ♥ Katherine.

  8. Mitch Tublin says:

    These are great guidelines everyone should take to heart. Did the world fall apart the day you decided to turn off all of your electronics? If you do not respond to or even read email. Probably not. Nice write up thanks.

    • ofyl says:

      Thanks Mitch. Always a little bit of a surprise to discover how easily everything goes on without us… But freeing, too.

  9. Kiyla Fenell says:

    With all the technology we have available today, we could set it all up for an instant response from a system rather than an instant response from us personally. Customers demand immediate attention many times and if they do not get it from us, they can easily call a competitor that will. Defining clear boundaries for scheduling, returning calls and electronic responses from us personally is so important for effective business and life management. Thanks for the article.

  10. Great article. Having scheduled times to return calls or emails helps to free up a lot of time in my schedule.
    Dr. Robert Fenell

  11. I have found myself turning off my computer and walking away at least once every day. This gives me a chance to stretch and open my mind to new opportunities. Now, I just need to work on the phone 😉 Thank you!

  12. Phil Dyer says:

    Great post, Terry! I have a saying…

    “Your clients/customers will treat you the way you TRAIN them to treat you.”

    If you are instantly accessible, 24/7, via phone or e-mail, that’s exactly what your clients will come to expect and they will – inadvertantly in most cases – run you ragged.

    If, on the other hand, you train them that you don’t do weekend appointments or return phone calls after 7 PM at night or answer e-mail while on vacation…they will come to expect that as well!

    One of my clients is a successful real estate agent and was complaining that her clients called her at all hours and it was ruining her sleep. I simply suggested adding “…calls received after 7 PM EST may be returned the next day.” on her cell phone and office phone messages.

    Net result? Her “after hours” call dropped ~ 75% in one month and over 90% within two months. She is sleeping much better now!



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