This post will help you identify a potential productivity roadblock and take quick action to move past it.
Lately, I’ve been trying an experiment to see if I can get back some of the time I waste every day. I know I’m not alone here either. You know the feeling of spending time being busy, busy, busy and then having nothing to show for it? Or, at least you have not taken one single step towards any of your major goals. Sure, you can put your mind at ease by saying things like “Well, it’s got to be done!” or “It’s just a necessary evil”. What I’m talking about here is email.
While I won’t argue you need to keep up with it or it WILL drown you, I will say WHEN you decide to do it can make ALL the difference. Let me explain.
How Do You Bookmark Your Morning?
You get yourself out of bed, eat, workout, meditate, journal or whatever you do to put your body and mind in a creative work zone. You sit down ready to tackle that tough project. Here’s where the mental error occurs. In the time it takes me to write this sentence, you decide you’re going to “just take a quick scan of email.” Thirty to forty-five minutes later, you’re more stressed and completely out of that creative work zone.
What happened? That “quick scan” did something destructive to your mindset. You basically have now bookmarked your day! Let me explain what I mean by this.
Nearly every email you look at requires you to register a thought about it. Do you need to do something now? Can it be put off? Did I really blow it on that project? Why does Sue seem pissed at me? The list goes on an on. Every one of these little thoughts, analyses and questions robs you of your energy because they require a placeholder or bookmark to keep track of. You may not even be aware you’re doing it but your mind is. Especially, if you’re like me and have a really good recall of nearly everything I come across. That only adds to the burden because you’ll store more descriptive info about each bookmark. Here’s an example.
Instead of seeing an email from Sue and thinking “I need to call her about this project” you think “I need to call Sue by 2:00 to see if she wants version X or Y before we move into the contract phase where I’ll charge her X”. Do you see what I mean?
By the time you’re finished with your email “scan”, your mind is loaded down with “need tos”. When you then try to get to work on something really important, you’re creative capacity is either asleep or your anxious monkey mind has bumped it out of the picture. Have you ever tried to do your best work while thinking “I’ve got so much to do. I don’t know how I’ll ever get it all done”? You don’t really do great work while you’re thinking that do you? It just seems like too much and your work suffers for it.
Try This Bookmark Solution
For me, I’ve used the example of morning because I believe most people do their best work before noon. I know it’s not true of everybody so you can adjust this hack to fit your particular energy.
Here’s what I’ve been doing since last week and it seems to really be helping. I made a vow not to touch my email until the afternoon when I’ve pretty well exhausted my creativity. Doing repetitive tasks is best left for when you’ve got the big stuff behind you. There’s at least two reasons for this.
First, when you’ve tackled the important stuff, you’re relieved and in a much better frame of mind to interact with your colleagues, customers, vendors, VAs, etc. That sense of accomplishment goes a long way towards making you feel like you’ve got some breathing room. That mindset will make you more available to them than if you were trying to just get an answer out quickly. You may even have an epiphany about one or more of your contacts. Your mind is more receptive. That is for certain.
Secondly, doing repetitive tasks like email can actually have a calming effect on you if you don’t feel you’re under the gun. It can be a very relaxing end to a day when you can finish and know you’ve put in a good day’s work and really made some tangible progress. You don’t get that feeling when you carry the weight of “need tos” into every project you work on. You’re just not present for any of it. At least, that’s been my experience.
Make a One Week Commitment
Still not sure this will work for you? Just make a one week commitment to not open your email until the afternoon. I mean NO email until the afternoon too! Because you know as well as I do when you go looking for trouble, you’ll find it. Even if you’re just looking for one email from a particular client. You KNOW you’ll find more scanning the sender or title and then you’re off to the races! Mired again in email hell-LOL!
So, like Yoda says “Do or do not. There is no TRY.” If you don’t want to do it, then don’t. But don’t say “for the next week I’ll try to only open my email in the afternoon.’ That is sheer nonsense. Don’t do it!
If after one week you don’t see any benefit (and you know you’ve really stuck to your commitment), by all means, go back to whatever system you were using. You’ve at least shown yourself you have the discipline to see a very difficult goal through to the end. How could that be bad?
Easing the Transition
Here are a few quick tips to ease the transition to afternoon email. They are:
- Email your important contacts (maybe your email provider would work best?) and let them know what you are doing and why. They can’t have a problem with you trying to serve them better and that is the reason you’re doing it, right?
- On the day before your first day, check email at your regular time AND check it again at the time you’ll be looking at it each day. That way, you don’t start out with a day and a half’s worth of email which can be very intimidating. We want to make this as easy as we can.
- Finally, if you accidentally open your email out of habit, just close it without taking any action. The only thing you should be looking at is the email application menu to find “Quit”, ok?
Tell Me How You Did
I’m not going to lie to you. It’s NOT easy to do this. Part of you wants to keep on top of everything and it can’t stand not knowing what’s out there. The other strong force is the part of your mind that’s afraid of tackling the tough projects that is looking for ANY distraction it can find. It can’t stand not having an excuse for not doing what must be done.
After one week, please stop back by here and tell me how you did. What was the toughest part for you? Will it work for you but maybe in reverse? Like if you do your best work in the afternoon (or night) can you just make that adjustment and make it work? Also, if you’ve enjoyed reading this article please share it on your favorite social media platform using the buttons provided below.
Finally, be looking for an upcoming article on slimming down your email burden!
To your success,