True story. The other day I was trying to reach a colleague and became extremely frustrated. He had put gate after gate, barrier after barrier, limitation after limitation between us. Possibly in an effort to limit distractions and focus his time on an important project, but possibly for another reason: to isolate himself.  Maybe even to “protect” himself – or avoid me. Whatever he was doing, it left me feeling small, unimportant, and insignificant. I eventually gave up.

Courtesy of fecktv.tumblr.com

Courtesy of fecktv.tumblr.com

Confession: I know I’ve done this. You probably have as well.  And if you’ve read my book, The Intentional Networker, you know that Chapter 5 (which I really enjoyed writing!) is called “Say No with Grace: Setting Limits, Boundaries & Policies.”  It is important to not say yes to everyone or everything or we will never get anything done — and slowly lose our cotton-pickin’ minds.

But here’s the point: Not EVERY day has to be a Guard-My-Time-Attention-and-Privacy-No-Matter-What kind of day.  I mean, really, are you THAT busy ALL the time? That self- important?

Is complete isolation what you really want?

Along those lines I saw a video recently that suggested we should “protect our personalities.” I thought, “Why?” What’s the point of having one then?

Sure, it’s good to set priorities and have days where you just are not available. But I suggest finding a little balance so you don’t completely alienate the people who love you, support you, want to share something with you, want your advice, or (hey!) have a fantastic opportunity to send to you.

Here are 10 little ideas on how to avoid making isolation a habit. (And to any of you trying to reach me lately, I promise to follow these myself):

  1. Pick up the phone and answer it now and then; don’t send every call to voice mail.
  2. Yes, that means even when you don’t know who it is / don’t recognize the number. (I nearly missed out on a speaking opportunity and might have had I not answered the call. Whew!)
  3. Call people back when they leave a message. As promptly as possible.
  4. If you can’t talk for very long (and this is why you don’t call back) try to be more honest and assertive about this. (“Hey, Mary, wanted to be sure to call you back but have only about 5 minutes to talk. What’s up?”)
  5. If a longer conversation is necessary, schedule it or let people know what day(s) or time(s) are best for you.
  6. Respond to emails, texts, and other messages that have fallen through the cracks.  Unless they are spam or blatant sales pitches. Those can go to the trash bin immediately.
  7. Choose one day a week as a Reconnect Day.  I like Friday’s for this.  You might choose another day.
  8. Send more note cards. (I definitely need to follow my own advice here, although I’ve given up the Christmas Card Frenzy.)
  9. Apologize if you’ve been absent or hard to reach.
  10. Try to contact / connect with at least 2 or 3 people a day.  Or at least post something on social media so your friends know you are alive.

As I said, I’m guilty of isolating myself too much, especially when I get busy or am just tired from being on the road. But I vow to do a better job of staying in touch because I know how frustrating it is when you just can’t connect with someone.

As always, I’d love to hear your ideas and thoughts about this.  Share ’em below.
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I’m so excited to be a part of Austin’s first Small Business Festival, which has been recognized by Inc. as one of the Top 5 Small Business Events in the country. I’ll be speaking at a community event on May 5.  Get preliminary information here