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Just Got Into Work? Don’t Open Your Email

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Many of us start our day by checking our work email, sometimes on our smartphones before we even get out of bed. The siren song of a teeming inbox is even harder to resist when we get to the office. After all, you can't just start your work day by ignoring your email -- can you?

Many of us start our day by checking our work email, sometimes on our smartphones before we even get out of bed. The siren song of a teeming inbox is even harder to resist when we get to the office. After all, you can’t just start your work day by ignoring your email — can you?

email 

(Photo Credit: Biscarotte/Flickr)

That’s exactly what productivity experts and successful people suggest.

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“Jumping into email first thing in the morning is a sure way to let other people’s agendas trump your own work objectives,” writes Robin Madell at US News On Careers. “It’s easy to spend a whole day responding to non-urgent requests and emptying your inbox, while never getting to any of your key deliverables.”

Of course, no one is suggesting that you put off checking your inbox forever, but postponing that initial check-in until a set time has benefits, including the possibility of saving hours of work each week and making the time you do spend more productive and satisfying.

Here’s how to do it.

1. Pick times to check email, and communicate about it.

Many experts suggest checking email only two or three times a day. To do this effectively, of course, you’ll have to make sure that your manager and/or reports are aware and on board. This is especially important if you’ve been checking email every time your alert goes off.

And speaking of those alerts: turn them off. There’s no bigger time waster than that little envelope popping up in the corner of the screen. Don’t let someone else’s email automatically dictate how you spend your time.

2. Have an alternate way of getting in touch.

Tumblr founder David Karp tells Inc that he checks email when he gets into the office — but crucially, not until then.

“I try hard not to check e-mails until I get to the office, which is usually between 9:30 and 10 a.m. Reading e-mails at home never feels good or productive,” he says. “If something urgently needs my attention, someone will call or text me.”

Make sure your people have a way to get in touch with you, if they need you immediately. Email isn’t the most efficient way to get an instantaneous answer, anyway.

3. Park your devices.

Set times to work on certain projects at the office and to relax when you’re home, and then make sure to put your phone somewhere less accessible. If you sit on the couch with your phone in reach, it’ll be too tempting to check in with the office just to make sure everything is OK. Same with meetings at work — unless you’re on call for a project, or need to make sure people at home can reach you for personal reasons, leave your phone at your desk.

Focus on what you’re doing, when you’re doing it, and you’ll be more productive, feel less harried, and enjoy both work time and time off.

Tell Us What You Think

Do you check email first thing? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.

Jen Hubley Luckwaldt
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Brooke
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Brooke

I agree that the advice in this column might not work for everyone; but, the concept is truly priceless. Instead of ignoring your email for several hours a day, maybe try checking only once an hour, or after a task is completed not while in the middle of it.

S
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S

I would add a caveat, if you are waiting on e-mail response you should go ahead and check for those as often as necessary, just ignore the other messages.

prasad
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prasad

it would be better, you check your e-mail after you complete the urgent works what you have in mind, else your attention will be diverted and run short of time.

LauraN
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LauraN

Unless you’re a big time CEO or your own boss, you cannot apply these rules…in a society where everything is at your finger tips, the expectations are to reply on the fly. I would get in big trouble if by 10am I have not replied to emails sent after i left the day before – i would get a call to say “I sent that email yesterday!”. Nobody cares what time it was, THEY were still working at the time.

WayneB
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WayneB

You’ve got to be kidding. Most of my work is so time sensitive that not monitoring email continuously, especially notifications related to services and customers, not only has the potential to cost the company a substantial revenue loss but could also cost me my job.

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