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Why it’s Okay to Be Unavailable Sometimes

Posted November 2, 2012 by Marcy Twete in Life After Five

There’s a tragic episode of Sex and the City where we see Mr. Big’s character crumble over a woman. He’s fallen for a movie star and continuously laments, “She can reach me. But I can’t get her,” over and over. And somewhere in the fact that she’s unreachable, he becomes more and more attracted to her. We’ve all seen this play out in our lives as well. When that boy didn’t call you back in high school, you called him over and over until he picked up (thank goodness for the days without caller ID, right?). When you’re waiting for an email about the job you just applied for, you press refresh over and over hoping it will suddenly appear. When someone or something is unavailable to us, we chase it relentlessly. It’s just a part of life.

Why, then, are we so addicted in this day and age to being available all the time? We go into meetings and though we silence our phones, we often keep them out in front of us “just in case.” We keep our email open while we’re working on very important projects to ensure we don’t miss anything. We have CNN on mute in the background of nearly every restaurant, bar, and coffee shop we walk into. Why? Because we never want to miss something that might be so important we’ll feel left out.

Being unreachable, though, can actually make you more powerful and, according to one writer, more productive as well. Craig Jarrow at Lifehacker.com recently wrote, “How Being Unreachable Makes Me More Productive,” and we agree wholeheartedly with his ideas here. Jarrow recommends:

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

Other ideas to make yourself a bit more unreachable? Try these tactics as well:

  • Marcy Farrey recommended it recently, and I’ll recommend it again here now. Turn off your wireless! And it’s so true. I did this recently while working on a chapter of my book and worked through three blissful hours of nearly entirely uninterrupted work. Three hours in, I turned back on my WiFi to Google a specific question I needed to answer for the chapter I was working on and suddenly I realized nearly an hour had gone by and I hadn’t clicked back to my book chapter. I’d checked Facebook, Twitter, email, etc. all because my WiFi was back up and running. No WiFi=productive!
  • No phones when you’re eating. A friend of mine shared an article about this months ago, a challenge to lay off the phone usage during social gatherings like dinners with friends and family. I’ll take it a step further: eat in peace without your phone. It will make you more mindful of your surroundings and your stomach.

Try a few of these tactics in the next few days, and it may be that the important people who really need to talk to you and find you unreachable will be like our 15-year-old, boy-chasing selves…they’ll find you, they’ll chase you, they’ll make their importance known. And those people and questions that aren’t important? Guess what? They’ll figure it out themselves and they won’t need you to put out the fire.

So do it — go unreachable. It could change your life.

About the Author

Marcy Twete

Marcy Twete is a career fundraiser turned corporate responsibility executive, a career and networking expert and the author of the book "You Know Everybody! A Career Girl’s Guide to Building a Network That Works."