Most of my friends know that I’m somewhat obsessed by the intersection between creativity and productivity. I have multiple to-do apps on my computer and mobile devices, I’ve created “Unique” – a popular print planner, I’ve read plenty of the best books on productivity, and I really know how to work email. However, there has always been one hang-up I’ve had with one standard piece of advice:
Never check your email first thing in the morning.
You probably know the rule: Create a morning routine that focuses on what’s really important to you. Write a chapter of your book, read, study, pray, organize your day, meditate, work out – whatever is critical to your success and well-being – put that into your morning routine. That way you don’t let other people’s priorities (like email messages) get in the way of your productivity. Then, later in the morning, dive into your email.
It’s great advice I strongly support and advise you to consider it. However, it never worked for me for two reasons:
1. Our company – Cooke Media Group – is a client driven company. That means we serve a wide range of clients and need to be responsive to them. If you have a full time job, then you also know what I mean because you report to a boss and/or other members of your team. Our clients are our priority.
2. I’m on the West Coast. In Los Angeles, we’re on Pacific Time, which means that by the time we’re up, most of our clients across the country (and sometimes the world) have already been up for at least 2-3 hours, and some, 8 or more. As a result, by the time I’m up, I already have a list of messages I need to respond to from clients.
The challenge becomes that if I check my email first, then it’s easy to get sucked in, and before I know it, it’s 11am and I’m still answering email.
So here’s how I’ve learned to solve the problem:
When I wake up, I do a quick check of emails from my phone. Is there a client emergency? Is there an important change or request? Is there something I need to deal with right now? In most cases, there isn’t anything critical, and even when there is, I rarely need my computer – I can just respond to it from my phone right then and be done with it. The critical key is the discipline to not allow yourself get sucked into dealing with other non-essential emails that early in the day.
Then I kick into productive mode for the next hour or so: I work out, read the Bible, pray, reflect, plan my day – so by the time I reach my desk, I’m ready to go with whatever’s on my task list.
I’m writing this because chances are, a number of readers have struggled with this challenge as well, and from my perspective, this is a great way of dealing with the problem.
Perhaps more important, understand that no matter what principles of creativity and productivity you learn, as I’ve done here, always adapt them to your personal situation. If you’re not driven by immediate client or company needs, then fine, get up, focus, and do what you prefer to do. But if you have a full time job or clients to serve, then take my advice and feel no shame for doing the quick email and text message check first thing after waking up. But as I said before, don’t allow yourself to get derailed by dealing with non-essential emails first thing in the morning.
I’m writing this post from Helsinki, Finland, so I especially feel the need to respond when I have such a big time difference with most of my clients. But the truth is, I struggle with this no matter what time zone I’m in, and this technique has made a huge difference for me.
Not only will it increase your actual productivity, but it will dramatically lower your level of anxiety, and after all, that’s one of the most important reasons to be organized.