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Hey, freelancers and consultants, please don’t phone me early A.M. about business!

It happened again this morning. I received another ezine recommending that I phone executives before their offices open so that I can catch them at their desk, where they promptly answer their own phone.

The concept appears to have been popularized by Tim Ferriss of The Four-Hour Workweek, but many other “experts” have taken up the message as well.

The alleged “wisdom” behind this advice is that executives became executives because they put in more desk time than anyone else. So when the rest of us are sleeping, the big shots are already attaching post-a-notes to the crap in their inboxes.

And because they are slaves to the ring of their phones, they immediately answer each call because their assistant is still abed. (That’s why they’re the boss and the assistant isn’t. The early bird always catches the worm.)

The experts never specify what is an acceptable time to call. (I’d love to see an exact time.) So I’ll propose that if you are going to chop your workweek down to four hours by calling your targets in the early A.M., you should start phoning them by 7:00 to get in enough calls, along with your other work.

Have you ever actually called an executive who is not a close friend at 7:00? I tried it once.

I felt like a total idiot.

Apparently my mark hadn’t read Ferriss. Believe it or not, she was not at her desk.

I don’t know where she was. Probably wheeling and dealing at a 6:00 breakfast. Or putting in the miles to win her next marathon. All the superior things that motivated winners do to put pathetic people like me to shame.

Anyway, what message do you leave at 7:00? My typical message starts with “Sorry I missed you . . .“ But I feel ridiculous saying that when I have no right to expect someone to be at work so long before the official workday starts.

If the individual is at work, why would they answer? Someone who rates an assistant and knows how to manage his time leaves phone call procedures to the assistant. This is especially true now that most everyone has caller ID. If they don’t recognize the ID and they’re at their desk early for a reason, they don’t answer.

I’ve been self-employed in a home office and I can’t remember the last sales call I’ve received at dawn. In the early hours I may be up, but I expect that any phone calls at that time will report a family emergency that occurred during the night or a change in today’s lunch plans. Don’t expect me to give your call a warm reception at sunrise.

I suppose that’s why I haven’t been on the cover of Fortune or Forbes. Yes, I am pathetically lazy. . .

The problem is even more acute as more people carry their office phone line with them 24/7 via their smart phone. By making early calls, we may even be wakening them and pissing them off. Rightly so, the pissing off, that is.

What is the earliest that it is acceptable to call someone? I prefer to call after 9:00 THEIR TIME, but I may call as early as 8:15. Never before that time unless they are an active client and I am phoning them about work that is on deadline.

Note that there’s a new problem on the horizon. People travel with their phones and therefore have phone numbers that don’t match their current time zone. Some people keep the same phone number for years though they have relocated several time zones away.

I’m still thinking this problem through, but if I phone a 212 NYC number at 9 am and it’s 4 am at their Honolulu hotel, I haven’t done anything wrong. But while I’m not at fault, it doesn’t get the relationship off to a positive start.

Originally posted 11-25-13

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