I can understand the people who aren't responsive to the emails and phone calls because they're busy shipping stuff. Making things happen. On the other hand I assume when someone is responsive to emails and phone calls they're not doing much important stuff. But how is it possible that there are people to do both: ship and are responsive?
We all have 24 hours
We all have 24 hours any given day. That's the biggest equalizer in life we have. Somehow though certain people seem to defy this rule. They do projects, they write books, they blog, they do business and still they are able to reply to every email and be there for people that really need them.
I'll try to find reasons how it's possible.
Time Spent is Time Spent
One clarification first: Time is bit like money. When you spend it on one thing you cannot spend it on something else. Because it's gone. Unlike money, we all have the same amount of time. So how come some people seem to have 10 times the time I do?
Reason 1: Iron Schedule
Perhaps they have a calendar that's working well for them. A calendar that has slots for all the things that are dear to them: their projects, reading, responding, creating, etc. Some kind of daily or weekly schedule they stick to no matter what.
But it doesn't exactly answer the daily amount of time issue. The "shippers-responders" seem to do a lot more than others... Let's dig deeper.
Reason 2: Not Doing Something
This is vast. The amount of things you could be doing is infinite! I mean that the pool of things in-possibility is huge. There's just much more in the world we could do than we have capacity for. I don't only mean not watching TV or not slacking off on Facebook.
The "shippers-responders" are not doing a lot of things they "should" be doing. "Should" understood as stuff-people-like-me-do. I mean things like participating in additional projects, going to irrelevant events. They probably don't follow other people's expectations to what they should do. Not mowing the lawn, not cleaning the windows as often as their neighbors do.
Being able to pick the essential things that need to be done from the infinite pool of possible options requires a magic skill.
Reason 3: Ruthless Prioritization
Deciding on the priorities means clarity on what NOT to do. Once you know what's important for you in a given time period, you can easily say "no" to anything that's not on the topic.
Sidenote: That's why I love the concept of "The /now page movement". It helps people do exactly that: ruthless prioritization.
Reason 4: Fear Conquered
One more thing... In order to be able to do important work and often show it to the world the most important thing necessary is the courage to do so. Plenty if not most of our work is a result of hiding from this uncomfortable place of being judged. Showing your stuff makes you be vulnerable to criticism, to shame.
But not only that. This fear manifests in a form of rationalizations, excuses, etc. You may find legitimate reasons to check that design just one more time, to fiddle with wording of that blog post some more, to do a bit more research before sitting to do the tough work!
The "shippers-responders" ignore that. They acknowledge the fear and move on.
Reason 5: No Meetings
As mentioned by Seth Godin in the comments: no meetings. Meetings are other peoples' requests of your time, attention and energy. Whenever you're going to a meeting, your not getting stuff done. Moreover you're sacrificing your most precious resource!
I must admit this one is tough for me to fully implement. How do you align, train or interact with multiple people without meetings at all? Especially given how hard communication is. Someone writes a sloppy email, someone else reads the stuff the way they want to read it or not at all... I already avoid meetings and am cautious when organizing them. But giving up 100% on them is hard for me to even imagine. I need to find ways to do it.
Anyhow the key is to decide on priorities, exclude irrelevant things, schedule the rest and ship. Then move to the next project. With equal focus, priorities, schedule and courage.
Update: A similar post on this topic: On Priorities and Focus.