The most dramatic, effective way to boost your productivity is to completely avoid e-mail for the first hour of the day. Instead, devote that first hour every day to your most critical task. When you devote your first hour to concentrated work—a dash–the day starts with you in charge of it rather than the other way around. It's a bold statement to the world (and yourself) that you can take control, pull away from the frenetic pace, and create the time for quiet work when you need it…
When I say NO E-MAIL, I mean it—don't even peek at what's in there until your hour is up.
Think about it: E-mail is really nothing but a bunch of interruptions and distractions that appear in your in box without an invitation. Even checking your e-mail for a minute is a surefire way to open up all the different drawers of your brain and immediately distract your mind with a zillion other issues. Once that happens, prolonged concentration on anything, critical or not, is nearly impossible.
I can see how this would be the case. I open my email and I'm off and running…to various and sundry places and many times, nowhere in particular.
Typically when I sit down for my work time, I open my email first. But this week, I've decided to make Julie's suggestion my deliberate approach. I'm going to try my most important task instead—writing—for the first hour. Only after that will I open email.
I confess, I like to clean out my inbox first thing because otherwise I feel like I'm trying to get something done among clutter and disorder. It's the same reason why I clean up the kitchen before I start making a meal, clean off my desk before I start working or make the bed before I crawl in to go to sleep. I like starting with a clean, organized slate.
But I'm open to new things, so we'll see if it makes me feel empowered like she says.
Related: When I do get to my inbox, there are some standard rules I try to follow to keep my inbox empty. I outlined them in How to Keep Your Inbox Empty. You also might be interested in all my email tips.
What about you? Where does tackling your inbox fall in your daily routine? Got any tricks to share?
P.S. I posted a follow-up to this experiment here.
Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are referral links.