Stop Checking Email and Get Some Real Work Done

Stop checking email and get some real work done!

I despise my email inbox. It’s a constant wave of newsletters, random inquiries, sales pitches, co-workers messages, and occasionally grant acceptance award letters. I admit, I’ve struggled with letting email rule my day. It’s a terrible habit, first thing in the morning to start on that endless, and mostly useless, pile of steam.

Why do I allow everyone else to set my priorities? Who says that latest Blackbaud update is the most important thing I should be thinking about? Who says I should field a half dozen sales pitches before I even finish my first cup of coffee.

Stop it!

Declare this with me: I will take back control of my morning. I will focus on the most important thing each day, not the thing that pops up on the top of my inbox because some marketer is really good at timing his email delivery times.

This tip will change your life.

I’m about to share with you the single most life changing habit I’ve ever tried. This habit has saved me from the daily death spiral that is email, Facebook, Twitter, and a dozen other urgent distractions. It has changed my work day beyond measure, increased the quality of my work, and alleviated huge loads of guilt.

Here we go.

  1. Create a 2-3 item priority to-do list. The first thing I do every day when I get into the office is create a very short priority list. I take five minutes and assess what are the two or three things that if accomplished will make this day a success. There are a million things I could do each day, but what are the tasks that will move me one step closer to the bigger goals. I use a Trello board to keep my daily task list, a weekly task list, and a long term goals list.
  2. Get those things done! Spend the next one or two hours working exclusively on those items. Yep, don’t check your email. Don’t even check your voicemail. Don’t get pulled into a tangent in the break room. Allow yourself to focus solely on the tasks that will have the most impact.
  3. Shove that guilt into the shredder! You don’t have to feel guilty for not checking your email or voicemail first thing in the morning. Nothing is going to come crashing down if it takes you an extra two hours to respond to someone. This is in fact what you were hired to do. Don’t feel guilty, feel empowered!

I do have to warn you. Your co-workers and boss are going to notice something different. They’ll notice more of the important stuff getting done. They’ll notice that you’re always one step ahead when it comes to what’s really important and they’ll notice you’re a lot happier.

This habit has changed my work life. I’m happier because I’ve given myself permission to work on the most important tasks first, while I’m still refreshed and energetic and I’m more productive because I’m no longer distracted by high urgency but low priority tasks.

You too can achieve this productivity bliss. Why not give it a shot?

Share your morning routine in the comments below. What habits keep you happy and productive?

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