If you’re like most of us, you may wake up with a visceral urge to check your email in the morning. Somehow, email checking has progressed up the food chain to become an almost physiological urge that ranks just below going to the bathroom and brushing your teeth. While somewhat understandable given our 24/7 tech-driven environment, this seemingly innocent reflexive urge can really set us up for failure throughout our workday. So if you’re used to scanning your emails while you grab a quick bite (or even before), be careful. Real-time satisfaction might not be worth it in the long run, so you might want to reconsider this seemingly innocent habit.
The truth is, checking email first thing in the morning can actually set us up for chaotic and less productive work days. “Your inbox is nothing more than everyone’s to-do list for you,” says Carson Tate, Managing Partner of Working Simply, Inc. “If you start your day responding to emergencies and needs from others, you divert time and energy from your priorities. To reduce stress and improve productivity, it’s vitally important to start the morning behind the wheel – methodically and intentionally deciding how you will allocate your time and energy, and obsessive email monitoring can too often sabotage our ability to do it. How’s it going ? Consider these all too common scenarios:
· You always scan your emails while eating your morning oatmeal (healthy and effective, isn’t it?), And you’re devastated to read a straightforward email from your coworker Pam. By choking yourself a little while reading his brief post, you immediately start to become mentally obsessed with his post (and your intended response). Now you’re restless and barking orders for your kids to take their backpacks, rush to the door to carpool on time, and rant about your interpretation of the quick-read email.
Your alarm goes off and you pick up the phone to turn it off, then of course check your emails for anything urgent from your boss Lisa. One of the first emails is your daily entertainment news, and you can’t believe the latest celebrity snap. You knew it would never last, but you are still shocked to hear about the recent restraining order. After reading the linked article, you realize that you are now 15 minutes late to wake the children up. Shoot – now you’re late and probably won’t have time to prepare before your 8am meeting. Well you will need the wing.
Feeding your little one can take so long in the morning that you’ve gotten into the habit of checking email on your phone at the same time. This morning you are very happy you did, as you were able to respond quickly to an important customer message. Unfortunately, 45 minutes later, when you take a seat in your office and turn on your desk, you see an angry message from your boss. In fact, you sent the customer wrong pricing information (because you inadvertently typed it wrong during the spoonfuls) and now you’re going to have to explain it to your boss Carl… .yikes!
While checking email before brushing your teeth may seem eerily natural, it’s just a horrible way to start the day, and the habit is fraught with risk. Perhaps, more important than the explicit risk is the enormous opportunity cost – what it prevents us from accomplishing in the morning to prepare for success. “The most important way to start your morning is on your own terms,” insists Michelle Wax, founder of the American Happiness Project. “When we do this, we let go of our control in the morning and let outside factors determine how our day unfolds. Starting our days in “response mode” decreases productivity because we have not defined our own goals and priorities. “
Granted, there are no hard and fast rules about when and how often to check email and there will always be unique and extreme circumstances that will challenge best practices, but for the most part, get used to it. reflexively checking e-mail in the morning is a dangerous one. Consider your own habits. How long do you check your emails after waking up? Do you scan quickly or take the time to read your emails before breakfast? Do you actually respond to emails before the official start of your “workday”? If you answer “yes” to one or more of these questions, you may want to take a step back and consider how much this habit actually serves you. It might seem natural and easy at this point, but how does it really serve you? Remember, just because it feels good doesn’t mean it’s a good idea. In fact, more often than not the habits that are best for us – exercising, eating well, meditating, listening without interrupting – often seem the least natural or difficult at first and we just have to force ourselves to do them until. ‘they start to feel more natural.
If you agree that checking your emails in the morning is indeed a habit that you would like to get rid of, but are wondering what the best way to get rid of this habit is, stay tuned. for a future article on this subject.