Do you start your working day by opening your inbox and responding to email? Do you end your working day frustrated because you didn’t get your stuff done? Know there is a connection between the way you start your day and the satisfaction you experience at the end of the day.
Your mailbox is the priority list of others
Checking your email seems a logical way to start your day. After all, your inbox is the place where urgent matters await your attention. That is, however, precisely the problem. ‘Urgent’ doesn’t always mean ‘important.’ Moreover, ‘urgent to the sender’ does not necessarily imply ‘urgent to you.’
“People often confuse what’s urgent with what’s important.”
Important are those activities that contribute to your long-term goals and ambitions. These are the tasks you were hired to perform. These tasks are not easily delegated to someone else and are strongly related to your company’s success. Important tasks often require a lot of expertise, focus, and concentration — for example, developing a new product or writing a proposal. When you immediately react to all urgent matters and switch continuously between your task at hand and your inbox, these important tasks suffer.
How do others deal with their inbox?
Most people open their mailbox the moment they sit down behind their desks. There is a reason why remarkably productive people have ditched this habit. As soon as you open your email, you get into a reactive mode. You’ll feel called to respond. ‘It’ll only take a moment’, you fool yourself into believing. Before you know, a whole morning has passed without any of the important stuff getting done.
The power of plans
No, not the power of plants. Even though they’re great as well. The power of plans. If you’re only going to change one habit, let it be this: plan your day before opening your mailbox. This small change will significantly enhance your productivity and concentration.
Instead of turning to your inbox by default, pause for a moment, take a sip of coffee or that lovely tea of yours, and ask yourself: What are my three most important tasks for the day? Reserve time in your calendar to work on these tasks first.
Willpower is limited
Doing important work first is crucial because willpower is limited and decreases during the day. At the start of the day, your self-control, and focus are at their peak. Reserve this time for tasks that require your full attention. Save your inbox for times in which you have less willpower and energy, for example, after lunch, or after you have performed deep work for an extended period.
My customers expect a direct response
Of course, it depends on your job description how often you need to respond to your mail. Some jobs demand a higher level of customer service and faster response times than others. Nonetheless, even when your job requires a high level of responsiveness, most customers will prefer a longer response time when it elevates the quality of your work.
In short, unless it’s your mission to help others reach their goals, make it a habit to ignore your inbox more often. Especially in the morning.
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