Be productive in spite of the experts

by Michele on March 6, 2012

Image of mail in the sunrise

Email in the morning

I admit it, I’m a productivity junkie! I devour information on the subject – books, magazines, newsletters, blogs, etc. – I want it all. Apparently, I’m not alone – there’s a running joke in the productivity communities I frequent about procrastinating by studying how to be more productive.

I’m also a big fan of the scientific method and use it in my daily life all the time. I’ll read about something interesting, test it and decide if it works for me. My personal productivity and time and task management are no different. I’ve got an ever-changing system to keep it all together.

One of the rules I hear most often from experts on productivity is that nobody should check email first thing in the morning. The idea behind this is that it is reactionary – you open your email and start handling whatever is there regardless of how it fits into your business success plan. Once you get into your email, it can be hard to get out. By the time you get to the bottom, more messages have arrived. “Just a peek” turns into hours. A quick question and response leads to a live chat. These long email firestomping sessions rarely lead to anything profitable and they take you out of the driver’s seat for your day. I’m sure you’ve experienced being sidetracked by email – I know I have.

Many experts say you should start your day with something other than email. That something could be an activity you decided on yesterday, your current profit-making project, whatever you find most difficult, what your morning energy level dictates or any other intentionally-chosen project you decide on. It makes a lot of sense, given how easy it is to get sucked into the email rabbit hole. However, this is one area where I don’t follow the experts’ advice

I have a list of things I do first thing every day and email is one of them. I love getting my daily business “housekeeping” out of the way and having a clean slate going into whatever I do next. I like having an empty inbox going into my day so I can spot any urgent messages more easily. It’s great to know that at least once a day, my email inbox is at zero messages and I’m no more than one work session away from zero again.

I think one of the reasons this works for me is that I have a process for handling my email and a specific end point which is an empty inbox. Once I process all the messages that I had as of a certain time, I’m done until tomorrow except for urgent messages.

So what’s the point of my telling you this? First, by all means read what experts have to say but then test and assess for yourself. What works for most people may not work for you. Second, I wanted to give you an alternative to what you might read elsewhere about handling your email.

How do you handle email? When in the day do you look at your inbox? Do you ever buck the advice of experts in this area or others? Tell me about it in the comments.


  1. Mozette says:

    I make sure I turn on the computer after 9:30am. Before that I get out of the way as much as I can off-line. I go out to the post office, do some chores around the house (as I do my online stuff from home) and then, when it’s around 9:45am, I turn on the computer.

    Today – for example – I had to get in and fix up my back yard. We’ve had a lot of rain so my lawn grew, plants needed moving, edges needed doing and, basically, the yard looked like a forest. So, I got in and fixed it up. It took 40 minutes and I’m happy with it. By the time I was online it was almost 10am. However, I didn’t check my e-mail first up, I jumped on facebook and Bookcrossing and my two blogs and checked them for any comments that people may have left. Then – after around 20 minutes – I checked my mail. And you know? There wasn’t much there.

    I also give myself around 3 hours online so I have the rest of the day to myself. Today, I have to clean the kitchen and lounge room, put away laundry and sort through the dirty laundry for tomorrow (I thought it may have rained to day; but it didn’t). After that, I’ll be getting into some cleaning up. Yep, I’m still doing that here; still have things to toss out and tidy up… it’s getting easier to do now I know what I want in life.

    1. Michele says:

      That’s a great idea to turn on your computer later in the morning. When it’s on, the temptation to just check it or look something up really quick is very great. There are even apps you can buy to actually block you from using your own computer if a person isn’t as disciplined as you. Michele

  2. I start with email and I know most experts will want to hang me for this.

    The way I see it, I want to get any client questions out of the way and then start working with complete peace of mind.

    1. Michele says:


      Me too! I love having a clean slate to start the day – there’s a lot less noise to work in. I too like the peace of mind – I don’t like a bloated email inbox hanging over my head.

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