Being productive is hardly ever about doing more. It’s about doing less of the things that you don’t need to do right now, and more of the things which are going to produce the largest results.
Assuming that you have either completely given up social media or use it only outside of work hours, then the one thing I suggest you do is this:
Don’t open your email inbox until midday.
Now I know for some of you that is a massive challenge. I can hear you saying: What if there is something important that I need to do or someone important I need to respond to?
Yes, there might be. I propose that if you don’t read your email before midday that those who send you email messages expecting you to act on them urgently will find another way to communicate with you, like text message or a phone call.
In the mean time you can use the first part of the day pursuing your own agenda, rather than someone else’s. On top of that, you can work on your most important priority before lots of other items start to fill up your mental workspace to capacity.
I’m certainly not the first to write about this idea, and it’s one I’ve been working on implementing into my own life over the past few months.
For me, the ‘downside’ to not reading email before midday is that I tend to ignore my email inbox completely for days at a time, which really doesn’t work.
In the ideal world I would completely empty my email inbox towards the end of the day. However, I always seem to be rushing to get something completed before I have to finish my work day, and checking my email has a lesser priority. Reading through my email even just once per day, let alone achieving inbox zero, is still a work in progress.
If waiting to read your email until midday just isn’t feasible, then James Clear suggested you could move it back to 11am, 10am or even 8:30am.
Personally I think that idea sucks and just opens the door to getting distracted too early in the day. I get that if you work in sales or other areas where responding to your customers quickly can make the difference, so you may need to bring the time forward to something more workable.
Being productive and performing at your best requires focus. Your ability to focus is greatly enhanced if you can eliminate distractions and be frugal about who and what gets to use up your mental work space.
Delaying reading your email is one of the most effective ways to ensure that you start the day off being truly productive. Now go and do your best work.