Hidden Pages

Why you should NOT check email first thing in the morning (part 3 of 7):

Ignorance Is Bliss!

As Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “There are many things of which a wise man might choose to be ignorant”.

When it comes to email, ignorance is bliss. That’s why starting your day focused solely on accomplishing one or two or even three of your highest priority tasks (before you look at email) will make you both feel and actually be more productive.

Avoid checking email for as long as you can - any new information that arrives via email will only cause you to get distracted, lose focus and be less productive.

We should use what Timothy Ferris* called ‘selective ignorance’ so that we can stay focused on what really matters. If you are blissfully unaware of what fires need to be put out, if you don’t know about the special sale that’s on today and if you don’t see that funny joke your colleague has sent you, are you really any worse off? You’ll find out about these soon enough. But meanwhile, you’ve made progress early in the day on the things you’re responsible  rather than struggling to get them done later in the day, under time pressure and with sagging energy levels!

* The Four Hour Work Week by Timothy Ferriss


Why you should NOT check email first thing in the morning (part 2 of 7):

Starting with email makes you REACTIVE instead of PROACTIVE

Managing email effectively begins with having the ‘bigger picture’ of your overall workload and productivity in mind. By starting your day looking at your calendar, diary or to-do list, instead of your in-box, you’ll start the day with a better perspective of your existing commitments and priorities for the day. Many of these are unfinished actions resulting from emails you received yesterday or even earlier!

The in-box need only be accessed at a time of your choosing, when you’ve set aside a block of time to properly read and process each message. In fact, email is so important these days that we must address it with a clear, focused mind rather than in the distracted manner we so often give it when it arrives as an interruption.

Improving your productivity involves changing from an in-box-based, interruption-driven, reactive style of work to something that is calendar or diary-based, plan-driven and proactive. Aim to work on the things that are important to you (regardless of their urgency) rather than simply start the day with the urgent (but often less important) items in your inbox.


Why you should NOT check email first thing in the morning (part 1 of 7):

The In-box is NOT your to-do list

Do you start each day with a clear understanding of the most important tasks and activities for the day? Do you know the first thing that should be done this morning? If you do, then go ahead and do it! This is what distinguishes successful, productive and high achievers from those who struggle to keep up with their workload.

On the other hand, by checking e-mail, you risk getting caught up doing what somebody (anybody!) else wants you to do.  Every time you open an e-mail, consider whether it’s more important than everything that’s on your task list. If you don’t ask this question, you’ll find yourself assuming the new email is more important and you’ll end up doing tasks for everyone else at the expense of the ones you’re responsible for.

Let’s be honest, the emails in your inbox are someone else’s to-do list, not yours. But who should be in control of your time – you, or the people emailing you?


Why Email Interruptions Are Such A 'Killer'

Most of us are aware that constant email interruptions at work are a ‘pain’ and prevent us from getting things done. However, most of us ‘put up’ with them, accept them as a nuisance and just ‘part of the territory’ in a busy workplace.  

What most are not aware of is just how much time we lose to these interruptions - it adds up enormously and actually costs us our ‘life’. Ask yourself how much of your life you spend ‘after hours’ catching up with work wasn’t completed during work hours due to interruptions (many of them from email)! 

Even worse, we are often unaware of just how much additional time is lost AFTER we’ve dealt with the interruption, trying to get back ‘on track’ mentally with what we were doing before the interruption. This ‘recovery’ time is often far longer than the time lost to the actual interruption!

Research shows interruptions plus recovery time add up to 28% of the day. And most of these interruptions are neither urgent or important! That's just way too much time to lose in one day, let alone every day! 

So what can we do about it? 

The answer is to simply turn off all the email alerts. That way, email still arrives but you are blissfully ignorant of exactly when it arrives. If you schedule to check email 3 or 4 times a day, these messages will have accumulated in your inbox and you can go through them in a focused block of time making decisions about the appropriate NEXT action(s) you need to take for each message.  

What's more, the quality of your thinking, decision-making and response messages will be significantly better when you have given the email messages your full attention in a scheduled block of time, rather than in a distracted manner 'on the run' when their arrival has interrupted you from some other task. 

In fact, these days email is so important that we must address it with our full attention! 

Just watch this short video showing you how to turn off alerts in Outlook 2007 or Outlook 2010 

I hope this works well for you. Let me know of your experience after trying this (use the comments section). 

All the best,


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