Being in a leadership position in the military, especially while deployed across multiple locations has driven one thing home for me more than anything else: people expect 24/7 accessibility.
Technology and cell phones are a paradox these days. On one hand they make separation and living away from home bearable. Internet offers you accessibility to your friends and family almost as if you weren’t gone at all. I couldn’t imagine not having messenger or FaceTime.
Then there is the fact that your name and phone number is on a roster that is made accessible to a few hundred people. Now you’re receiving phone calls and texts from unknown numbers, and they always want something. Most of the time whoever it is hasn’t even gone through the proper channels to contact you, but being the nice person you are you will answer anyway.
Now, God forbid you don’t answer that phone! Doesn’t matter who it is, they will be upset. They honestly think you owe it to them to answer.
YOU DON’T OWE THEM ANYTHING.
We live in this culture of 24/7 availability. That you must always answer. IMMEDIATELY. The more technology and accessibility we have to people, the more we want to know why people don’t answer us instantly. You see someone online and you think that is an invitation for an immediate answer. What we fail to see is that this is disrespectful and incorrect.
I stopped answering my phone. If it wasn’t my direct supervisor or a few select people that I knew would only call me if they actually needed immediate assistance, I didn’t answer. The outrage and surprise people have expressed has been quite amusing.
They can’t figure out why I say “I don’t answer my phone. Text me”. I don’t try to hide it. I don’t hide out from answering them at all. I will text. IF they text me. If they call and don’t text, I don’t bother. Why? Here’s why:
I had a discussion with an individual that was upset with me for not answering my phone on a weekend. I actually had the day off (which during the earlier part of any deployment is a pretty rare occurrence). A call popped up from an unknown number and I chose not to answer. The text that followed verified that I had no idea who this person was. They were of course asking questions concerning my job and were not time sensitive. It was a question that didn’t require immediate answering and wouldn’t change the outcome if I waited.
This individual saw me a few days later. I had texted the person back on that Monday to answer their question. When they saw me they wanted to know what they could do to get a quicker response out of me. I said, “If I had answered you immediately, would it have changed the outcome whatsoever?” They replied no, and I said “Okay, here is what you have to understand. It’s not just you that I have wanting my time, it’s you and a hundred other people. If I made myself accessible all the time, I would literally never have any time for myself. So guess what, if I get texts or calls on my day off and it’s not something time sensitive, I wait until the next day to answer.”
Here is my takeaway for you: you don’t have to make yourself accessible constantly for just anyone. You are draining yourself for things that honestly probably don’t even matter that much.
Be honest with your friends and family. If you want some time to disconnect, say so. They will be understanding as long as you are upfront about it.
Don’t forget to take time to recharge yourself. Constant connectivity to others will drain you until you have nothing left of yourself. Take care of YOU before you have no energy left to take care of anyone else.