Another week, another inspirational nugget and technical article.
Inspirational Nugget of the Week
Don't Read Emails Before Lunch
Except for this one, maybe :).
This was a revelation to me when I tried it out. And I must say that I'm a bit disappointed that it took almost 15 years into my career to recognize this simple productivity hack.
One day, I consciously decided not to read my emails first thing in the morning, because I had to finish writing a document that I didn't finish the day before. So, instead of opening my email client, I opened up my document and got to work. After two blissful hours, I was done.
Only then did I let myself look into my inbox. And guess what? The world has moved on without me reading my emails. Sure, some emails required my attention. But no disaster happened while I was "in the zone" working on my document.
This felt so good that I made it a habit to schedule an hour or two every morning to work on important things instead of urgent things.
Take control over your day. Reading emails first thing in the morning is giving up control over your day. You start the day in a reactive mode instead of in a proactive mode. This will shape the rest of your day. After spending the first hour of the day answering emails and following up on all the updates in your inbox, all these emails and updates still float around in your mind, distracting you from whatever you want to work on. This makes getting "into the zone" to finish an important task much harder than it needs to be! It doesn't need to be hard! Just don't read your emails in the morning and it will be much easier to get "into the zone". Start the day with an activity that you control. A nice side effect is that control gives a strong sense of purpose. When you decide what you're going to work on, your work will be so much more satisfying.
Identify the things that control you. Your inbox is probably not the only thing that craves your attention in the morning. What other things are there that want to take control over your morning? For me, there is the company Slack that always has new notifications for me in the morning. Working in a global company, someone's always working and sending around Slack messages during my night. Then, there are the browser tabs that are still open from yesterday. Wasn't there some tab that I wanted to read, yet? Whatever tries to control you in the morning, disable it for the first 2 or so hours of the day.
The world goes on without you. At least for an hour or two, I promise! Email is asynchronous, and everybody knows it. No one expects an answer straight away. The same is true for a chat like Slack. If you find it hard to resist the temptation of looking into your messages, repeat this mantra: "No one expects me to answer first thing in the morning". If you need more convincing, write down the worst things that can happen if you don't answer. The worst thing on that list will probably be that you might not be the first person to know about the new company gossip.
Pick your morning task the day before. If you pick what you want to work on the day before, you have more purpose in the morning and it will be so much easier to resist looking into the inbox. It doesn't need to be hard, you can make it easy to resist! The worst possible scenario is that you need to look into your inbox in the morning to figure out what you need to do. Bam, you're caught by the temptation of your inbox. If your work comes from your inbox, write the task on a sticky note in the evening so you don't need to open your inbox at all.
With a few tricks, it's surprisingly easy to resist the temptation of your inbox in the morning. Use the most valuable time of the day to work on the important things that advance you instead of working on the urgent things that advance others.