Today I'm writing about the latest productivity technique I have implemented in my everyday work - checking my inbox 2-3 hours after the beginning of the work day.
Plenty of techniques exist to increase one's productivity. While reading books, magazines (like Productivity Magazine), listening to talks, and reading blogs, I am overwhelmed with a number of new ideas on how to be more productive.
I’ve tried many of them, and checked how they work in practice. Some are very good and I’ve incorporated them into my productivity system (I will describe it soon). Many of those ideas do not work for me but they are still worth discussing. Maybe they will work for you.
My work is a mix of conceptual and operational tasks (strategic vs tactical). By conceptual, I mean defining new services, optimizing the way my team works, and creating reports. Operational tasks are all of those that I need to do every day to allow my team to work smoothly - e.g. task assignment, communication, and meetings.
I receive a lot of e-mails every day - several dozens. I bet you do too. Till now, checking my inbox was the second thing I was doing in the morning, just after planning my day. I am in the office at 7AM, which means that I used to process the first e-mails around 7:30AM. By processing emails, I mean applying David Allen's GTD methodology (Delete, Defer, Delegate or Do - this I will cover in a separate post). Very often "Do" means answering the e-mail.
Now you’re probably thinking - what is so bad about answering e-mail?
What would you do if I answered your e-mail? You would probably answer me back. This is what happens in most cases. One processed e-mail results in a new e-mail to process. Because of this, I end up processing e-mails for the first 2 hours of my day.
I’ve decided to change my approach to e-mail. For the last few weeks I’ve had a new rule - no Outlook till 9AM. What do I do instead? I work :) Now each morning is the most productive part of my day. This is the time when I do the most important tasks scheduled for the day. And after two hours, I can start working on other ongoing tasks. This simple change revolutionized my productivity. I’ve noticed that I have moved forward in many of the projects that I was stuck on because I had no time to focus on them. You may ask - but what do others think about your new approach? Aren't they impatient because you don’t answer their e-mail immediately? No! In most cases it is more than enough to answer them after 9AM. If there is anything that is very urgent, I will find out about it in a way other than e-mail.
In a separate post I will write about how I choose what to work on during those two precious hours.