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  • Writer's pictureLacy Starling

#55: The Myth of Availability

Yesterday, I wrote about taking time for Deep Work—shutting off your phone and computer and notifications and just working on something substantive instead of reacting to everything that comes across your desk. Then the objections started.

Every time I bring this up, I hear the same things. "I can't go dark - I have kids/an aging parent!" "What if a customer needs me? Don't I have to be available 24/7?" "What if the world ends while I'm unreachable?"

I have answers to all these problems.

First, I have both a kid and an aging parent who lives five states away. You solve this problem by setting up your phone properly. Every single phone has Do Not Disturb settings that allow certain people to break through. My mom, my daughter's school, my husband, and my daughter's father and stepmom can all reach me at any time, no matter what. And do you know how many times during my deep work they've needed me? ZERO. But it gives me peace of mind to know they can get to me if there is an emergency, and I don't feel compelled to check for notifications all the time.

Second, most of us live in a world where customer "emergencies" are not emergencies. We treat them as such and then create the expectation that we will be available 24/7/365, when in fact, this is completely unnecessary. So, you work for 90 minutes on something important, and then you respond to whatever happened in that 90 minutes. Easy-peasy. Now, I have worked in an industry where there are legitimate customer emergencies that need to be handled immediately (freight don't wait.) In those cases, have a buddy who can handle issues for you while you do deep work. And then do the same for them. Brief them before you start on what's going on, and make sure they understand the one or two VERY SPECIFIC reasons you should ever be disturbed and to not bug you otherwise.

You can also schedule your deep work for times when customer emergencies are less likely to happen. I write from 7 a.m. to 8:30 a.m., EST, a time when most people are not working and therefore will not expect availability.

Finally, if the world ends while you are doing deep wouldn't have been able to stop it anyhow. And at least when it happened, you were doing something you loved.

So, set up your phone, manage customer expectations or get a buddy to help you and stop worrying about the end of the world. I know it seems more likely now than ever, but you still aren't going to cause it if you decide to spend 90 minutes focused on something important.

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