Unplug the Day Shredder

Lose an hour in the morning, and you will be all day hunting for it.
Richard Whately, Archbishop of Dublin (1787-1863)

This pearl of wisdom was said 150 years before the invention of the worst hour-loser ever invented—email.

Email is the shredder of your workday, and you MUST keep it under control or it will cut your productivity to ribbons.

If your email program is set up to ding whenever a message comes in, it’s hard to keep working. You just have to stop for a second and see what came in, right? And it might be ages before you get back to the original project, if you ever do. By the end of a given day, instead of a solid workday of finished projects, you have a bowl of shredded wheat.

So how do you tame this beast?

First, wait at least 30 minutes before checking your email each morning, and use those 30 minutes to set your priorities for the day, then stick to them. If you want to really turbocharge your day, add another 30 minutes to get started on a substantive project.

Second, schedule email time just like any other activity. Maybe you check it every hour on the hour. Open it, deal with it, close it again. Set a timer if you have to. Or maybe you schedule a 15-minute block every three hours. It doesn’t matter which you do, as long as YOU are calling the tune, not your email program.

Finally, clear your inbox every day. This requires dedicated time—and it’s worth it!

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