We’ve all been there. Working really hard and completely on task, when, suddenly, our phone buzzes. Who can resist peeking at the text?

Maybe it’s Sarah, asking for some help with the math homework, or James, who needs you to proofread his essay. When there are nearly 8 billion people in the world, someone needs something practically all the time.

When you see Sarah’s text, what do you do? When John’s email already has the essay attached, it’d be so easy to just pause and help him out, right?

If you want to accomplish great things, you just don’t respond. In fact, you might even remove your phone from the room.

Does that induce panic? It certainly did for me. What if they need my help?

Well, do they?

The example I use in coaching is this: If Sarah texts you for help on the math homework, and you don’t respond, what is Sarah going to do? Is she going to sit there, not doing anything, just waiting for you to respond?

Of course not! She’s going to text another classmate, asking them for help too.

When you do finish what you’re working on, perhaps several hours later, you might text Sarah back. “Hey, I saw your text. Do you still need math help?”

“Oh, no, not anymore. John helped explain what we’re doing. I get it now! Thank you so much for checking, though.”

By simply remaining strategically unavailable, everyone wins. Sarah got the help she needed, John had the time to provide it, and you completed the task you were working on. No one got frustrated and no friendships were damaged. If anything, they were all improved.

This isn’t to say you should ignore any and all requests from friends. Part of friendship is the natural give and take as you support one another. But, by being strategically unavailable, you can save time and improve friendships.