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A Better Approach to “Never Check Email in the Morning”

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You’ve heard the conventional wisdom: never check email in the morning.

That sounds great, unless your job involves communicating with people, or if you happen to care about what people have to say to you. In either of those cases, you very well might want (or need!) to see what’s happened overnight just as you sit down to work.

It’s also true, though, that it’s easy to get sucked into replies and never end up creating or building or just working on something that requires long-term focus, all because you can’t get your nose out of the inbox.

Years ago I found a better way that I still use most days of the week. Here’s how it works:

I check email every morning—not always “first thing” but usually pretty early. I take a quick scan, delete or archive anything irrelevant, and send any urgent replies. This quick scan takes an average of 10-15 minutes on average.

Then I set out to accomplish something on my real task list, which usually consists of a) writing, and b) moving things forward in various projects.

After working on something for a while and making measurable progress (1,000 words written, two posts scheduled, a draft chapter reviewed, or similar), then I get back to email and pay attention to it off and on throughout the rest of the day.

I think the difference is important:

1. Check email quickly in the morning

2. Do other stuff that involves creating or long-term progress

3. Come back to email after you’ve accomplished other things

That’s the goal: Forget about the goal of “never checking email in the morning,” yet don’t get sucked into spending all your time on it. Try out this approach and see if it works for you.

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Image: Stephen

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