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How to Kick the Email Habit

Completely avoid email for the first hour of the day. Email is addictive. It interrupts continuity in our thought process and steals productivity. If you can fight off email the first hour of the day, you can control yourself all day long. Instead, use that hour to focus on your most critical, concentrated task.

Keep your email alarm off. Check email at designated times of each day – e.g. 10am, 12pm, 2pm, 5pm. If an issue is that critical or urgent, someone will find you!

Stop “just checking”. Process emails fully during your email sessions. Read, respond and immediately delete or file emails that can be answered in two minutes or less. For emails that require more thought or research before responding, schedule a specific time later in your schedule to deal with it.

And when I say NO EMAIL—I mean it—don’t even peek at what’s in there until your hour is up. Why not? Think about it, email is really nothing but a bunch of interruptions and distractions that appear in your inbox without an invitation. Even checking your email for a minute is a sure-fire way to open up all the different drawers of your brain, and immediately distract your mind with a zillion other issues. Once that happens, prolonged concentration, on anything critical or not, is nearly impossible.

By devoting your first hour to concentrated work, the day starts proactively, instead of reactively. It’s a bold statement to the world (and yourself) that you can take control, pull away from the frenetic pace and create the time for quiet work when you need it. There’s no safer hour than the first to be “off email”-because you have the rest of the day to catch up to anything that’s sitting in there. And truly—what’s so urgent that cannot wait 59 minutes for you to tend to it?

Develop your muscles of resistance one day at a time. The first day or two will be the hardest, but each successive day will become easier as you realize how little you are actually missing, and how much your productivity improves—when you proactively carve out time to think.

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