How to Get More Done: Escaping Your Telephone


If you know me personally then you may have noticed that over the years it has become increasingly harder to get me to answer the phone.

It’s not that I’m busier, and I’m not necessarily unavailable. I’ve just decided that picking up the phone is a waste of time.

The Phone Call Audit

At some point, I took a little time and I thought of all the phone calls I had received for the last few years and I noticed something.

  • 80% of all of the calls were from people who wanted something
  • 20% were people who had something to give

It was the good old Pareto Principle in full effect. The strange little equation that seems to be true in almost every aspect of life.

The Pareto principle (also known as the 80–20 rule) states that, for many events, roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes. wikipedia

Here’s how the calls broke down:

The 80%

The 80%’ers wanted something. Normally one of these things:

  1. To hang out
  2. To borrow money
  3. To ask me for advice

The results of the 80% calls were normally that I invested time, energy or money and got nothing in return.

  • The callers who wanted to hang out became time vacuums.
  • The callers who borrowed money never paid it back.
  • The callers who asked for my advice never used it.

So, being that nothing was being accomplished on 80% of the phone calls – I decided to stop answering the phone completely.

The 20%

So what about the 20% of the people I actually wanted to talk to? Easy, I just return their calls later if and when I have the time.

It might take an hour, several hours, a day or even several days to get back to them, but I get back to them. And as long as there’s no emergency, it’s really no big deal.

An Observation

The funny thing is that the 20% people normally understand that if they leave a message I will call them back as soon as I have time, even if that means the next day. They don’t freak out.

But the good ol’ 80%’ers want answers immediately and will leave multiple messages and or send several text messages constantly asking me to respond right away to solve their problem.

And they wonder why I never pick up the phone.

How To Escape Your Phone

Is your phone killing your productivity? Let me ask you a few questions:

  • Is your phone with you at all times?
  • Do you sleep with it?
  • Do you take it to the bathroom with you?
  • Is it within arms reach of you right now?

If you answered yes to the questions above you’ve probably got a problem and you’re it. Which is good news… because you are the only you can change…

So there is hope.

Reducing Friction

You may not be able to stop people from calling, but you can reduce the friction their calls create by changing the amount of time you spend near your phone.

Here are a few things I recommend:

  1. Turn The Ringer Off and Leave It In Another Room. If you really need a break turn the ringer off and put the phone in another room. That way, even if it buzzes or dings you won’t be able to hear it. (ala @dr_ngo)
  2. Change your voicemail. Change your message to something like “Hi, my phone stays off between the hours of 9am and 11am. Leave a message and I’ll call you back after that time”. This let’s them know that you’re busy and won’t be calling back right away. It may also stop the multiple calls and text messages asking you if you got their call.
  3. If All Else Fails, Turn It Off and Hide It In A Drawer. Out of sight, out of mind. One of the biggest problems is that if you see the phone, you’ll check it. And if you read one text message you could end up losing the next 10-20 minutes on Facebook, email and Instagram. Hide the damn thing in a sock drawer, seal it up tight and go to work. Hopefully you’ll forget it’s there and have a few hours of distraction-free time.

That’s what works for me. If you need to, you can give it a try.


It wasn’t long ago that people were mailing letters. You’d write your thoughts down on paper, put it in the mail and 2-5 days later the person would receive your message and reply.

So if someone asks you why you didn’t call them back right away. Just say: “I swear I’m not being a jerk, I’m just reliving the good old days.”

  • Pete

    Stopped answering phones a few years back. If it’s someone I know and urgent, they can message or email and I’ll answer within 24 hours. Also, I have 2 phones; 1 for personal and 1 for business.

    • Malan Darras

      nice Pete. I only have the 1 phone for both and it’s normally in a drawer haha

  • Zach

    Out of curiosity, how do you react to other people when they are attached to their phones? After implementing most of what you’re talking about, I have become alot less accepting of other people being “attached” to their phones. (e.g. When out for a meal and people text/FB/skype/Tinder while we’re “talking.”)

    How do you deal with this? I’ve resorted to cutting alot of these people out of my life.

    • Malan Darras

      Zach – there’s not much you can do. almost all of us are guilty of it. and i’m no saint, i’ll pull my phone out at dinner sometimes.

      i don’t hide my phone in a drawer while i’m working because I have full control over it… i hide it because i can’t stop the impulse to check things.

      I wonder if someday they’ll make it illegal to make devices so addictive. they are designed to mess with our heads. not unlike alcohol & cigarettes.

  • Joe

    I agree 100%. Phone conversations are incredibly inefficient 90% of the time. People really love to hear the sound of their own voices 😉

    • Malan Darras

      Joe – right, sometimes I just sit there and listen like: “I wonder if they even know I’m here?”

  • John Marino

    Great article. I will say that friends wanting to hang out don’t necessarily “want” something from you or aren’t always time vacuums. There are moochers and downers, but usually friends want to enjoy your company and having a healthy social life is important.
    That being said, I agree that too many people are addicted to their phone and can even get anxiety without it.

    • Malan Darras

      agreed John, i seem to do best when I balance things out. And yes, having the “right” friends is the key. I’d rather have 1-2 good friends then 20-30 assholes who just wanna pull me down

  • Marlene

    Totally agree ,, I like your positive vibe ,, I’m not into marketing but totally enjoy your honestly about everything , and your willingness to give back ,, it’s totally awesome to see that ,, an of course you’re easy on the eyes (very handsome) I don’t do other social media only Twitter,, you have a great day ????????

  • Valentin Cavelier

    Very interesting. I’ve been doing that for a few years and my life has changed as I don’t have any ringtones for calls, nor texts and my internet connection is always off on my phone, so no notifications. That’s a blessing 🙂

    The only person who keeps telling me I’m too hard to reach is my mother haha