Making yourself available can be one of the most important traits in business.

Customers know they can reach you. Your boss (or your board of directors) won't scratch that heads trying to locate you. Even your family won't have to text you frantically--you're always within reach. It's a sign of good time management, lower stress, and higher aptitude when you are not constantly being pulled in different directions. Picture the founder of a company, able to chat for a few hours about tech trends or marketing ideas because the company is running so smoothly she doesn't need to run around like the sky is falling all day. That's someone who is available.

Yet, there are two other traits that will interfere with high availability. You want to be detailed-oriented and efficient as well, but from what I've seen over the past two decades studying leadership, meeting with founders of companies, and also in my own work, it's impossible to be efficient, detailed, and available all at the same time. In fact, most of us can only pull off two of those at work since they tend to cancel each other out.

Here's why that is.

For starters, efficiency and details are at odds with one another from the get-go. They are dramatically different beasts. Details are important--doing the deep dive into company financials, meeting with the marketing team to go over a social media campaign, or leading a sales team through a new CRM app all take time. It's important, and it might be your job to be the one who does that deep dive. Efficiency is an act of reduction. What can you cut that isn't a priority? If you get really good at cutting out the fluff, you can then focus on enough details to run a department, contribute on a project, or even lead a company. The good news is that efficiency and detail are possible.

The problem is that it makes you unavailable. Few of us can become masters of efficiency and also grasp the deep details and then suddenly have enough time to shoot the breeze all day with a new investor. You could become detail-oriented on a few projects and make yourself available to your team, but then you lose efficiency. You could trim your involvement level and become an expert at juggling your priorities, freeing up tons of time in your day to allow great flexibility, but that also means you'll be as thin as butter across bread (and that might be totally fine). You benefit from being spread thin in a company because you suddenly make gains in efficiency and availability.

These three spokes on a wheel can't coexist. They cancel each other out. If you don't believe me, try to master all three. Sit idle with a cofounder at Caribou Coffee and see if you start out on missing details (even if you are able to prioritize). Try emphasizing the details on that new app development project and still serve as a lead on a few other projects and see if anyone can find you in the building. It won't happen, even though many of us keep trying. The three spokes pull you in different directions.

So what's the answer? From what I've seen, you have to pick two of the three. Which ones you pick and emphasize in your job depends on which one of those factors are the most important to you, who you have on a team, and your own personality and interest level.

Here's an example. I've met with founders of companies and talked to them about their social media efforts. It's amazing with smaller companies that the founder is sometimes the person who does the actual posting on Facebook and Twitter. (That's getting detailed). It's often because this person has a personal interest in writing the posts and enjoys looking through photos of the last company outing. The founder has decided to make social media a priority, and this person has done an excellent job leading the marketing and sales efforts. Availability is not as important. Also, maybe the founder is more of an introvert and availability is not as important as the tasks at hand.

OK, that's one approach. Another leader might decide--you know what, this act of handling social media is something that's easy to delegate. It's not really that fun or efficient. People are more important than posting pictures on Facebook. This founder wants to be out with the masses, chatting people up at the coffee-bar. The company will take on a certain demeanor--the founder is available and efficient, but don't bother asking him about the latest company financials. The CFO handles all of that (and a lot more).

The real answer once you pick two of the three traits is to communicate about your strategy. Remind people--this is the person who will give you details. If you're highly analytical and want to be the person running the Excel spreadsheets, and yet you also want to have more time, hire an efficiency expert who will manage projects and set priority levels for everyone else. The three traits will work against each other, so it's often a matter of hiring the right people, communicating about the strategy you've picked, and--in many ways--accepting the fact that you can't do all three.

Do you agree or disagree with me on this? Have you been able to do all three? I'd love to hear how that's working out for you and how you make it all work. I'll tell you the two I've picked. I'm more interested in being available, especially to my wife and kids. And, I'm more into efficiency. I rely on colleagues, more detail-oriented people than me, and a few paid services (more on that another time) and apps to help me with the details. I'm a whiz at prioritizing my time, but please don't ask me about the details.

Ironically, this has led to a lower stress level. Once a project I'm working on is complete, I move on. It goes out of my mind as quickly as it came into it. I dig down just deep enough into details to finish tasks and stay on top of things. I'm not detail-oriented. Yet, I also spend a lot of time not working. I'm sure other people love details and that's perfectly fine. If you're that person, let's have a nice talk. I have plenty of free time for that.