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Jurgen Appelo calls himself a creative networker. But sometimes he's a writer, speaker, trainer, entrepreneur, illustrator, manager, blogger, reader, dreamer, leader, freethinker, or… Dutch guy. Since 2008 Jurgen writes a popular blog at www.noop.nl, covering the creative economy, agile management, and personal development. He is the author of the book Management 3.0, which describes the role of the manager in agile organizations. And he wrote the little book How to Change the World, which describes a supermodel for change management. Jurgen is CEO of the business network Happy Melly, and co-founder of the Agile Lean Europe network and the Stoos Network. He is also a speaker who is regularly invited to talk at business seminars and conferences around the world. After studying Software Engineering at the Delft University of Technology, and earning his Master’s degree in 1994, Jurgen Appelo has busied himself starting up and leading a variety of Dutch businesses, always in the position of team leader, manager, or executive. Jurgen has experience in leading a horde of 100 software developers, development managers, project managers, business consultants, service managers, and kangaroos, some of which he hired accidentally. Nowadays he works full-time managing the Happy Melly ecosystem, developing innovative courseware, books, and other types of original content. But sometimes Jurgen puts it all aside to spend time on his ever-growing collection of science fiction and fantasy literature, which he stacks in a self-designed book case. It is 4 meters high. Jurgen lives in Rotterdam (The Netherlands) -- and in Brussels (Belgium) -- with his partner Raoul. He has two kids, and an imaginary hamster called George. Jurgen has posted 145 posts at DZone. You can read more from them at their website. View Full User Profile

Why I Won't Take Your Call

01.25.2013
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It seems not a day goes by without people asking me if they can call me over Skype or phone. I always politely decline.

Sorry, I don't do calls.

I prefer email, SMS, Twitter DM’s, LinkedIn or Facebook messages, and any other kind of asynchronous communication. Some people find this hard to understand. After all, “isn’t a phone call more efficient?”

Yes. But I aim for happiness, not efficiency.

Please allow me to explain.

I Need Flow, Not Interruptions

My main activities are writing, reading, speaking, training, socializing, and traveling. None of these activities are easily combined with making phone or Skype calls. In fact, calls are interruptions. They are a pain for a person like me who needs focus and flow to do his job. Keeping a phone as an ongoing distractor would be terrible for the quality of my work. It is my hope that people hire me because I am improving my skills as a writer and speaker, not as a conversationalist.

I Need Awareness, Not Stress

Of course, a call can be scheduled. But that means I will be committed to a time slot, and everything else must flow around it. But I cannot predict my engagement during a conference, the duration of dinner with organizers, socialization after a course, the delays while traveling, or the size of my jetlag. Basically, agreeing to time slots for calls means adding stress to my work day, and deterioration of my awareness. (And I already find it difficult enough to be aware of my surroundings!) When you interact with me face-to-face you have a right to get my full attention. I should not be worrying about other people’s calls.

I Need Documentation, Not Synchronization

I have a bad memory. At the same time I have interacted with 6000+ people in the last 5 years, according to Google Contacts. You can imagine the challenge of managing dozens of scheduled speeches, courses, articles, and other work items, in collaboration with people all over the world. Therefore, what I need is documentation of conversations. I don’t care that it’s faster to use a phone call to agree on a topic for a speech. What I need is finding the answer to the question, “What did we agree on three months ago?” And I need that answer within seconds from Google. Not from memory.

I Need Convenience, Not Hassle

I have noticed a heavy correlation between organizational competence and the ability to communicate with messages. The best business partners I have worked with take care of everything, and they need only three sentences in an email to do it. They arrange hotel rooms, airport pickups, equipment that actually works, and anything else I might need. While the ones who prefer talking over messaging are more often than not also the ones who forget everything, including payments. In a sense, my requirement for asynchronous communication can be considered a qualification test for organizers. Those who can’t handle messages, probably can’t handle logistics either.

Beware, I Am Not You

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t expect you to organize your job in the same way as I do. I don’t do complex stuff, such as coaching and consultancy. Almost all communication around my work involves simple questions, such as “Shall we book your flight ticket?” (No, I do that myself), “Do you have a photo and bio?” (Yes, they are here), “Can you give us exclusivity?” (Yes, but I won’t) and “Are you a vegetarian?” (Yes, but only with drinks, not with food). Being a non-consultant I have it easy. I am not expected to save companies from bankruptcy with a couple of hectic long-distance calls. My work is actually perfect for messaging.

But I'm sure there are some other things that you need for your happiness. Maybe you only feel good wearing black. Maybe you hate Monday mornings. Maybe the company coffee makes you sick. Maybe you need yoga exercises in your office chair. Whatever it is, if these things are necessary for you to stay sane you don't let people take them away. You don't compromise on happiness.

I’m Keeping the Job I Love

When you have a job you love (as I do) you must organize your work life according to your needs. Certainly, phone calls are an efficient form of communication. But it is a good example of local optimization. I aim to optimize my entire work life, not just individual conversations. To keep enjoying and improving my work, I need flow, awareness, documentation, and convenience.

I apologize to those who would prefer an easy Skype call. I feel privileged that I have a great job. But I would stop doing this awesome work if I was required to handle a dozen calls a day. That’s why I won’t do it, and I prefer no exceptions. By switching to messages, you allow me to keep loving my job, stay happy, and keep improving.

Thank you!

I wrote this post at a Starbucks in Tokyo. I didn’t need to silence my phone, because I knew nobody would be calling me. When I finished I just realized almost 2 hours had gone by. Without interruptions.

Published at DZone with permission of its author, Jurgen Appelo. (source)

(Note: Opinions expressed in this article and its replies are the opinions of their respective authors and not those of DZone, Inc.)