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The phone rings. Immediately, no matter what you are doing, you stop, pick up the phone and answer... only to find out that it was a telemarketer. You know that a call at that time has every chance of being unimportant, yet it seems impossible to resist picking up the phone when it rings.  

Why is that?  

It's because of a small part of your brain, called the reptilian brain, or primitive brain, that we have in common with most animals. The primitive brain's function is to keep you alive, both by taking care of all the automatic functions you need to live, such as heart beat and breathing, but also to keep you alive in the face of danger. As part of this latter task, it assesses any unexpected element in your environment and triggers the fight-or-flight response when it deems it necessary.  

Here's the rub, though: this part of your brain doesn't think, it just reacts instinctively.  

Until the very recent past (think the pioneers crossing the Rockies toward the West Coast, for instance), unexpected sounds and movements were usually a sign of immediate danger, such as a bear about to pounce on you. So your primitive brain learned to react to every sound or movement as if it was a potential danger, forcing you to stop what you are doing, assess the danger, then resume your task if it was a false alarm.  

Today, an unexpected sound or movement is much more likely to be the phone ringing or an email arriving in your mailbox than an oncoming bear, or even a car barreling towards you. Yet your primitive brain doesn't make the difference between true danger to your life and the phone! So every single time the phone rings, it triggers its alert system, makes you pay attention and assess the danger, if any.  

Add to this alter system some cultural and psychological elements such as the fact that until voicemail boxes, it was the rule to answer the phone every time it rang, because you could miss something important; or the fact that it makes us feel wanted or important when someone calls; and you have a recipe to make it extremely difficult not to pick up the phone when it rings.  

Yet this has a huge cost, as any of you who is constantly interrupted by calls and emails can attest... It's distracting, slows you down, and sometimes even gets your adrenalin going for no reason whatsoever. So turn off the phone every once in a while to get what you need to done, knowing that any important call will result in a voicemail!  

Yours in Daily Mastery,
Karin

PS: If you're not sure how to master all your interruptions, either email me or [Link Removed] . It gives you strategies to "cheat" your primitive brain into not reacting unnecessarily to sounds and movements, and to minimize your interruptions to you can be more focused and have more time.


Karin, Your links have been removed, please consider upgrading to premium membership.



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Member Comments

    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Jenni0811 wrote Jun 15, 2009
    • Interesting...estatic



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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Tina Sickinger wrote Jun 15, 2009
    • Funny, I ignore my phone all the time! happy



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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Marybeth Pitner wrote Jun 15, 2009
    • My caller ID flashes on my TV screen so I know who is calling.  Sometimes when I’m really busy I just let it ring...I still look though to see who’s calling.  I guess it’s about the same thing, I’m still being interrupted.



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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      (華娃娃) ChinaDoll wrote Jun 15, 2009
    • I was raised to rush answering when it rang.  Nowadays, I de-sensitized myself to all kinds of rings, that include door bell, alarm clock, cell and home phone.  I turn my speakers off the computer and so no more instant chat for me either.  Or am I going deaf??? tongue out



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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Nyterisa wrote Jun 15, 2009
    • I used to be that way.  But I now let it ring.  I look at the caller ID.  If it is someone I want to talk to I call them back, or ansewer then.

      I look at it this way the phone is for my convinence, not someone elses.  

      Sounds rude, but you know what, I am sick of telemarkerts calling me.   So I answer when I want to.  Let the machine pick up for you.



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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Karin Vibe-Rheymer-Stewart, Ph.D. wrote Jun 15, 2009
    • Guess what? It’s not rude to not answer when you are home/in the office, unless the person specifically knows that you ARE home/in the office... Otherwise, how are they to know whether you are out for an appointment, at work on a critical project, or lounging in front of your TV? estatic

      I personally think that the voicemail is our best friend... it definitely is mine!  

      Love to all of you for being so faithful readers!



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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Kandykahne 5 wrote Jun 15, 2009
    • There are times I ignore the phone and then when it’s convenient for me I’ll go look at the caller ID to see who it was and I’ll check to see if they left a message.



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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Linda Binns wrote Jun 16, 2009
    • I no longer answer the phone every time it rings. I love Caller ID and will look to see who is calling and if I want or have time to speak to them then. If I’m really busy I don’t even look to see who it is. If it’s important they will leave a message and I will call back. If it isn’t important, well at least I haven’t wasted any time.

      Just because the phone rings it doesn’t mean you have to drop everything to answer it. I agree with Karin, voicemail is our best friend.



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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Denise Richardson wrote Jun 17, 2009
    • Thank goodness for caller I.D I answer only for those whom I want to talk to lol.



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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Angell Villafañe wrote Jun 17, 2009
    • Voicemail is DEFINITELY my best friend!! estatic I love screening my calls...caller id is the best thing they invented since sliced bread...lol! estatic



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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Karin Vibe-Rheymer-Stewart, Ph.D. wrote Jun 17, 2009
    • Voicemail is my best friend too. estatic

      We all use it quite often at home, but just as often I see my clients use voicemail and caller ID to screen calls at home, only to answer every call at work...  

      We see our home as our sanctuary, and our time there as valuable, but we don’t seem to value our time at work as much. Why is that, do you think?



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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Judah1 wrote Jun 17, 2009
    • Yes, caller Id  is the greatest thing
      and now it can be seen on your TV if you have cable
      you can ansewer or not ansewer
      and get some rest and get back with those whom you like to return calls back too.
      and not miss a beat

       just love ithappyhappy



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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Gogreen wrote Jun 21, 2009
    • I have learned when to have “quiet time” from everything and my eyes hurt after I look at the computer for a long time...so it is easy for me.



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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Fraz764 wrote Jun 22, 2009
    • It is very easy for me to ignore the phone..I can have it in my hand and not answer it.



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