How did you start off your workday today? What’s the first task you set for yourself? If you’re like millions of professionals around the world, you probably poured yourself a cup of coffee, and then cracked open your inbox. Unbeknownst to many, this is the WORST way to start your day.
If you’ve been struggling with productivity, constantly disappointed to find how little you have done by 3 in the afternoon (or in the morning, depending on when you work), the answer isn’t to get up earlier or use time tracking software. The solution is to IGNORE YOUR EMAIL.
I know, I know, this probably makes you feel nervous. Email is my main line of communication with clients, vendors, and subcontractors. It’s how I track progress on projects or pitch new work. It’s the central command hub of this entire operation. Without email, everything comes crashing down, RIGHT? Wrong.
Like me, you’re probably thinking: “But I can’t ignore my email, WHAT IF THERE’S SOMETHING URGENT IN THERE? Here’s a mind-blowing truth about your email:
There’s nothing in there that can’t wait one hour. Maybe two.
Let’s be honest, 90% of what comes into your inbox is likely junk. Advertisements, newsletters you don’t read, and Groupons for things you’ll never buy. Even legitimate stuff like client complaints, proposal requests, content revisions can wait 60 minutes.
By checking your email first thing in the morning, you allow the outside world to dictate the course and tone of your entire day. By giving your email precedence over your actual to-do list, you say “I have no direction, inbox, please tell me what I need to be doing!” When you start your day with email, you’re heading down a rabbit hole with no end in sight.
Email will always be there. In fact, you’ve probably noticed that it continues to stream into your inbox all day long. It’s never done, and if you start your day by checking it, you’ll never be done either.
Want an instant, money-back guaranteed way to increase your productivity before lunch? Spend the first hour of your day tackling the first thing on your to-do list. To qualify, this thing must be a billable task, or directly related to the accomplishment of a billable task.
Try it. It’s gonna be hard. It will feel weird. But just DO IT. Instead of looking up after the first hour (or two) of your work day and thinking, “Damn, I really need to get to work” you’ll be able to say, “Damn, I got some work done, and I’ve only been at it for an hour!” You might even be so excited and encouraged by your progress, that you spend another hour working on Task 1. Or maybe you’ll move on to Task 2!
Or maybe you’ll have email withdrawals, but that’s OK. After the first hour of focused, calming work, you’re in a much better state of mind to tackle those client questions and management problems in an efficient manner. And even if you end up down the rabbit hole, you’ll still have one completed task under your belt for the day.
Want to learn more about this fascinating practice of ignoring your email? Check out:
Never Check Your Email In The Morning: a book by Julie Morgenstern
Image via BuzzFarmers/Flickr