Have you ever wondered why some people get loads done but you often find yourself starting at your to-do list, irritated that it hasn’t moved! You’re sure you did something as you’re mentally exhausted and you have been busy since the moment you switched on your computer yet why haven’t you ticked at least one thing off the list?!
If this resonates with you, as it did with me many times, I would ask you to consider something that has made a big difference to me; the frequency of checking emails (and other forms of communication such as social media).
I’ve checked emails first thing before doing anything else, throughout the day, at the end of the day, and sometimes – although not for a long time now – kept them open so I’m notified the minute a new email comes in. The most productive approach has been when checking emails at the end of the day, and I’ll explain why.
Your inbox is everyone’s else’s to do list.
We think people are replying to us or approaching us as they’ve just discovered us (hence why we check regularly, or at least I did) but – and I’m going to be blunt here – they only email you once they get to you on their own to-do list. If you’re logging into your emails (or social media account) to see what someone wants you to do or to check if they have replied, then you are not in control of your day. They are.
At the end of the day, control is a bit of an illusion anyway (but let’s leave that for another blog) however what is happening in this situation, is that someone else is deciding what you do today (and tomorrow, and the next day).
If you have a manager then I think it’s ok that this happens, they are your boss after all so of course, they get to decide what you do. But if you are self-employed/ run your own company then I would strongly consider opting for a little less email checking (especially first thing in the morning) and a little more of checking your to-do list and setting some intentions* for what you would like to have happen during the day.
Get selfish (yes selfish because allowing someone else to control your day is perhaps a little on the people-pleasing side of things) and check your emails and/or social media account only after you have done the most important thing on your to-do list for today (and every day thereafter).
I appreciate there may be exceptions such as you really need some information before you can go any further on some of your to-do items but try to think ahead and get that requested in advance, where possible.
I know what I have suggested is not easy, especially as it’s the social norm to respond to emails (texts or social media messages) immediately, but I often find my most productive (and fun!) days are when I leave my emails to the last 30-60 minutes of my working day and I’m sure you will too. This way you get to control how much of your time is spent on nonchargeable work too!
I’ll give you a tip to digest this a little easier: communicate to your clients (and anyone else who is important) that if anything urgent comes up to call you, and if you’re unavailable then you will get back to them as soon as you can. I do this with my clients but very few people call. The reason being, because very few things are that urgent.
And remember, once someone has sent that email to you they have moved on to the next thing on their own to-do list. It’s about time you did the same!
*I discuss settings intention in my book Successful Business Minds. Intentions really help you to focus on what is important to you so that you reach the end of your day, week and month knowing you have lived your best life to take steps towards your definition of success. I also mention other time management & productivity tips in the book too but I always encourage you to experiment and find your own.