Email as a Productivity Suck

Think Different Wordle
Think Different Wordle (Photo credit: Ian Aberle)

Email.  Love it or hate it, most of us rely on it as a speedy, efficient way to communicate.  I use it for everything from general shared things (links and pictures), to grocery lists, to business matters.  It’s faster than old-fashioned “snail mail” but less invasive than a phone call.  I’m in the habit of checking my primary two email accounts daily, and I used to check them both every morning while sipping my pre-breakfast water.  But an article I read which one of my fellow Indies posted changed that.  (That link is well worth the read.)

As I read this list, even in the midst of our absolutely insane last month, two things resonated with me the most:  #2 – “Don’t check your email first thing in the morning,” and #6 – “Define your goals the night before.”  Wow.  With two events and three large orders, how easy it would be to implement at least those two goals in order to be more productive.  So, the next morning, I denied myself the obsessive urge to check my business email.  I skimmed my Facebook feed, tidied up my Gmail a bit (that’s my social email address), then ate breakfast and read for a few, completely oblivious to what might be in my business inbox.  After breakfast, I showered, then focused on some of the items I needed to get done for my events and customers.  In fact, it wasn’t until early afternoon before I ever got to my email, and nothing needed my attention.  That night before going to bed, I wrote my to-do list out on the dry-erase board and slept soundly, knowing there wasn’t anything that I was forgetting.

The article points out that reading email first thing in the morning makes a person more reactive than proactive.  The day before, my time was my own, focused on my goals and my agenda.  There was nothing I had to deal with that had cropped up, leaving me free to work as I wished.  The second day, I got cocky and checked email in the morning as was my habit.  In amidst the usual notifications and alerts, there was an email from one of my wholesale stockists.  Yes, I read it.  While I didn’t respond to it then, it stayed in the back of my mind until I did deal with it, distracting me from giving my tasks 100% of my focus and attention.  That alone was enough to encourage me to stick with waiting before checking my business email.

It’s been ridiculously easy to liberate myself from looking at my business email first thing in the morning, though I have had to become even more intentional about that since fixing the email app on my phone.  It all comes down to boundaries.  During the day, my time belongs to my girls, my business and myself.  While my customers are certainly the lifeblood of my business, there are many times when my business itself needs to be my focus, when I’ve got to be OK with putting off emails and phone calls until that batch of soap has been put to bed, or while that batch of lip balm is setting up.  There are other days, though, when my lovely customers come at the top of my day, and I can push other things to afterwards.

The to-do list has been a harder discipline, not because I don’t know what to put on one, but because I keep adding to it all day.  During our academic year, I would identify 2-3 key goals for that day, and if I just met those goals for my business, then I could keep things going just fine.  This time of year, that list expands to 6-7 items just for my business, nevermind the plethora of household tasks that demand my attention.  However, my nights are more peaceful and my days more productive when I take 2-3 minutes to create a list before going to bed.

What tips do you have for improving your productivity each day?  Feel free to share for everyone’s benefit!