Why I Don’t Answer My Phone

If you call my phone right now, I probably won’t answer unless:

  1. We have a call scheduled for right now (and I try to avoid those)
  2. You’re my wife, immediate family, or cofounder
  3. You’re in my address book (which is family, friends, and a few clients)

If #1 or #2 applies, I try to pick up 100% of the time. If #3 applies, it’s more like 25%. If it’s not one of the above, the chance is about 0%.

I know what you’re thinking: “How rude! Who is he to decide that he’s just not going to take my call?”

I know it’s frustrating to call someone and have them not pick up. That’s why I’m writing this post, actually…maybe it will shed some light on why I think this rude, antisocial behavior is actually polite.

I spend most of my day writing. It might be sales copy, a blog post, emails, or code, but it’s all hard. Maybe not for some people, but it’s hard for me. So hard that I have to get into a particular mental state to be able to do it with any degree of quality. And that mental state is ever so delicate (read Paul Graham’s Maker’s Schedule, Manager’s Schedule for more). The cost of a 15-minute call that comes in the middle of that time and derails my mental state isn’t 15 minutes, it’s hours, maybe the whole day.

Everyone wants to be the only and most important thing in the world, but they can’t all be. We all have to shuffle and prioritize and decide who we’re going to take care of right now. Trying to please everyone all the time is a recipe for failure. Trying to pick up your phone for every call is a recipe for never getting anything done.

However, I do understand that there are emergencies, so I try to always check my voicemail, email, and text messages within a few minutes after a missed call, to ensure that I’m not dropping the ball. Typically it’s something that can wait, so I wait until I’ve gotten to a good stopping point, and deal with it then.

So while it might seem rude that I don’t answer my phone, it’s actually my best attempt to be respectful. I want to deliver the best I can for my readers, my clients, and my customers. And when we do get on the phone, I want to be able to give you my full attention, instead of being distracted and frustrated by the interruption.

So if you need to talk to me and I don’t pick up my phone, you can leave a voicemail, send me an SMS, or send an email. Just don’t call back later, because I probably won’t pick up then either.

You’re welcome :)