Communications Overload: When Saying ‘No’ is OK

Controversial question of the day: “Do you return every phone call, text message, and e-mail?” I’d love for you to answer in the comments section below, because I don’t. I don’t believe we’re obligated to respond to everyone who calls, e-mails, or otherwise reaches out. Certainly we want to be nice, and we never want to be rude or condescending. However, if you’re going to accomplish something significant with your life, you simply can’t say YES to everyone.


Think about it. If I called Director Steven Spielberg right now, what are the odds that he’d actually respond? Pretty low. Steven has much bigger fish to fry.

But today, people feel powerfully compelled to answer the phone, even in the most awkward situations. I was talking to a friend the other day and his cell phone rang. He actually interrupted our face-to-face conversation to answer the phone and say, “I’m sorry, I can’t talk right now. Can I call you back in an hour?”

Wait – isn’t that what voice mail is for?

If you spend all day responding to phone calls and e-mail, then you’re spending your day responding to other people’s priorities. – PhilCooke

Communications Overload: When Saying 'No' is OKIt’s especially difficult for our team because Cooke Pictures is a service provider. We work with clients helping them use the media more effectively, so we always want to be available to them. But even our clients know that we’re not helping them by constantly being in “response mode.” They also want us working on what we do best, because that’s what helps them the most.

The point is – start valuing your time. Start focusing on your work. If you can gang up your return calls and e-mails later in the day fine – but even then, prioritize who you respond to and why. For now, consider yourself free from the overwhelming need to respond to everyone.

It’s not only not necessary, but if you don’t, it will eventually derail your creative career.


This article originally appeared at and was published with permission above.

An internationally known writer and speaker, Phil Cooke has produced media programming in over 60 countries around the world. In the process, has been shot at, survived two military coups, fallen out of a helicopter, and in Africa, been threatened with prison. And during that time – through his company Cooke Pictures in Burbank, California – he’s helped some of the largest nonprofit organizations and leaders in the world use the media to tell their story in a changing, disrupted culture.

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