How Being Unreachable Makes Me More Productive

Want to know a secret?

I am not always reachable.

I don’t always answer my phone. Sometimes, I don’t check email all day.

And I get a lot more done because of it.

Knock, Knock, …and Knock

One day I was in my office having a meeting on an important topic.

Meanwhile, a colleague emailed me. Then he texted.

Then he rang my desk phone, followed immediately by my cellphone. (I am not making this up.)

And finally, he came downstairs and knocked on my door.

At this point, I figured that something critical was going on, so I stepped out of the meeting to see what was so important.

It turns out he was simply looking for a reference document that he had misplaced.

It was not urgent.

Yet, this individual did not see the issue in repeatedly pinging and interrupting me.

In fact, he was frustrated that he could not immediately reach me.

Limiting the Interruptions

I am a big believer that our communication tools are there for our benefit. Not for the benefit of others to constantly interrupt our lives.

The answer to the question, “Why didn’t you answer your phone?”

is, “Because I was busy.”

When I am working on something important, I tend to shut out all outside interruptions.

I go to my unreachable island of isolation so that I can get work done.

Here are some of my favorite tactics to limit interruptions:

  1. Don’t Answer That Phone – If I don’t know who is calling, I don’t answer it. Plain and simple. That is what voicemail is for.
  2. Use Privacy Mode to Limit Callers – I take control of who can ring my cellphone by using Privacy Mode. That way only the people who I allow can actually ring my phone.
  3. Only Read the Important Email – I don’t read email very often. When I do, I make sure that I read the important ones first. I use the new VIP Inbox and a great service called Sanebox to make sure that my most important email is what I see first.
  4. Don’t Read Unsolicited Email – Lots of people complain about spam. I don’t get much. But, the ones I do, I just don’t read. Delete, delete, delete.
  5. Use Quick Forms of Communication – A quick IM, text, or tweet can be much more efficient in some circumstances. Sometimes it is not necessary to get on the phone or have a face-to-face chat.
  6. I Shut My Door – When I am working on something that needs concentration and uninterrupted creative time, I shut my door. Don’t let some misguided open-door policy prevent you from getting your work done.
  7. Set Expectations – One of the best ways to limit interruptions is to set expectations with your team. Ensure they know the preferred methods of communications and when it is appropriate to interrupt.
  8. Practice the Right to Decline – Many people feel guilty if they do not answer their phone or immediately respond to an email. Give yourself permission to decline the interruptions.

Isolate Yourself When Necessary

I can go to my own island to avoid interruptions.

And I may be unreachable, for a time, while I am getting work done.

You are welcome to join me.

Just make sure you turn your phone ringer off.

Question: Do you ever make yourself unreachable in order to get work done?

15 thoughts on “How Being Unreachable Makes Me More Productive

  1. Craig, so happy to have found your article via twitter. Because I work in a virtual office, making myself unreachable can be a challenge, but this is definitely something I need to work on. #’s 2 and 7 are great tips that I can implement right away, and I love your idea of going off to an island. Thanks!

  2. Craig, loving the site – but in the context of this article, do you have any suggestions for those of us who work in open plan offices?

  3. Thank you for another great article. When I am working on a project, I often turn off my phone so I am not interrupted. And I set a specific time frame to go through emails instead of looking at them as they come in. It is a much more efficient way to work.

  4. Craig, I too use the “close the door” strategy and it works wonders. I also have one morning a week that I work from home which is the most productive day of my week..

  5. I really dislike people who can’t work out the difference between important and critical and just wanting an instant answer. I also use your techniques and luckily not working from an office means I don’t get disturbed by folks often. It also helps not using a mobile number and just Skype!

  6. I go on isolation mode when I need to write. This way, I can do it at one sitting in one day instead of over three days with multiple interruptions. Once, an intern who seems to like the attention purposely walked over to where I isolated myself (when it was so clear to everyone else I wanted to be alone) just to say “hi”! I was flabbergasted and gave him a frustrated look because his “hi” made me lose my trend of thought and cost me another hour of “getting into” the writing.

    1. Writing and other creative arts definitely need periods of uninterrupted quiet.
      I tend to write early when others are asleep… and further isolate myself with music. 🙂

  7. I love you guys!! I have been looking for someone to tell me what I need to do and you guys seem to have nailed it 😀 I am going to try this stuff right away

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