Just Because the Phone Is Ringing Doesn’t Mean You Have to Respond

Visual Freedom

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I usually visit my grandma once per month so that we prepare dinner and enjoy some time together. Last time, one of her closest friends called her while she was preparing the dinner table. I asked if she didn’t want to respond and she said no.

15 minutes later, the same friend called once more, and again, my grandma ignored it and cheerfully continued to prepare dinner.

She didn’t even mute her phone, but the ringing didn’t bother her because cooking with her grandchild was more important.

I saw her doing that many times in the past but still find it weird when she just ignores the ringing as if she didn’t hear it. But this time, her behavior reminded me of a lesson I came across in Oprah's book What I Know For Sure:

“Just because the phone is ringing doesn’t mean I have to respond. I control what I do with my time. We all do, even when it seems out of control. Protect your time. It is your life.”

How often do you tell yourself or others that you don’t have time?

For most people, the honest answer is too often. But the truth is that “I don’t have time” is one of the biggest lies we repeat over and over.

Most people deceive themselves by thinking and saying that they’re busy, while the reality is that they lack priorities.

In fact, you can’t have “no time” because you can’t own time.

Whenever you say “I don’t have time,” you actually mean “I have other priorities.” That’s a significant difference.

We all have 24 hours in a day — regardless of our jobs, responsibilities, and living standards. And in the long run, how you spend those hours defines who you are and what kind of life you live.

It’s Your Job to Protect Your Time

If you want to improve your life and be happier or more fulfilled, you need to take your pleasures at least as seriously as your responsibilities.

You need to work hard — but also play well and nourish your body, soul, and mind.

Most of the time, life is quite fair and you receive what you put into it.

If you eat healthy foods and take care of your body, you’ll feel good.
If you prioritize yourself and take care of your mental health, you’ll feel good.
And if you stress yourself and respond to each call or email immediately, you might soon feel burned out.

It’s not always that simple. But quite often, it’s the simple rules that can make the most significant difference in our lives.

Your life is full of treasures, but if you always feel stressed and act reactively whenever you receive a phone call or message, you’ll miss out on most pleasures of life.

As long as you’re worried about what others think of you and try to satisfy everyone but yourself, you’re controlled by them.

The moment you detach yourself from the external world and make decisions based on what you want is when you finally start living for yourself.

This includes deciding whether you pick up the phone or not.

Along with mental and physical energy, time is your most precious resource. Most people believe that wasting money is the most hurtful, but the truth is that wasting your time is way worse.

Even if you waste thousands of dollars, you can theoretically earn it back. Money isn’t limited and if you know how to do it, you can always increase your income, no matter how much you lost in the past.

But you can’t ever get your time back.

By reacting to each phone call, email, and disruption immediately, you let others decide how you spend your time.

Often, people write emails or call someone because they’re too lazy to solve a problem themselves.

Every time you face a challenge, you can email someone and hope that they’ll present the solution. By doing so, you essentially put your to-do in their hands and hope to save time.

But this can be quite disrespectful.

I get at least two emails every week from aspiring writers who want to make money writing online and ask me what they should write about.

They don’t study the market, don’t reflect on their strengths and weaknesses, but instead write an email hoping that I’ll give them a proven, risk-free solution. Well, guess what I do with these emails? I delete them.

I’m happy to support anyone who’s doing the work and putting effort into achieving their goals, but I won’t waste a single second talking to someone who’s trying to save time by wasting my time.

The Solution: Specific Timeframes

The most effective way to manage your emails and phone calls is to specify a certain timeframe and a time budget for these activities.

You can, for instance, block 30 minutes in your calendar each day, which you spend replying to emails and messages. It might take some time to get used to this kind of schedule, but you’ll be much more productive once you formed that habit.

If you’re not careful, replying to phone calls and emails can cost you a significant part of your workday and your mental health.

Most of us grow up thinking that we need to reply to each call or message we receive, but that’s not true. If someone’s calling you, it’s your decision whether you respond or not.

By the way, it’s also up to you to mute your phone and make it impossible for others to disturb you if you don’t want to get disrupted.

My phone is muted 99% of the time and I only open my email program once per day, sometimes even once every two days.

If your job is responding to support emails, you obviously won’t be able to close your email program, but in most cases, you don’t need to be available 24/7.

This is particularly relevant in the business context, but it can be as important with private messages and phone calls. Just because you have a phone doesn’t mean you need to be available for everyone at any time.

Your phone is a fantastic opportunity to connect with your loved ones and stay in touch, but this doesn’t mean that you need to be accessible all the time.

Next time your phone rings, remind yourself of Oprah's wise words:

“Just because the phone is ringing doesn’t mean you have to respond.”

It’s your life, so you get to decide whether you mute your phone and keep doing what you’ve been doing or if you want to pick it up and talk to someone.

You need to guard your resources. And if you waste your time, you’ll likely waste yourself living for others' expectations instead of doing what’s truly important to you.

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