Before Email 1 #B4Email1

Published on January 8th, 2019

“The most important thing is to keep the most important thing the most important thing.” I imagine few would argue with these wise words by the late Stephen Covey (author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People). However, habits and intentions don’t always align. I once had a screen time recorder on my phone that reported I had spent 5 hours in a single day on email and social media. Little, if any, of this time was spent on the most important things in my life: my family, my health, my career, etc.

In my experience, I have found that the most influential part of my day is the beginning because it is here where I make the critical choice of where I put my attention. If I immediately check my email or social media, I find that I’m allowing others the opportunity to tug at my attention and prioritize my to-do list for me. On the flip side, the days that I go as late as 10 AM or noon before even opening my inbox, I have significantly better odds (I would guess 3 to 5 times greater) of keeping the most important things at the top of my focus.

To that end, I’ve occasionally played a game I call #B4Email1. It's straightforward in theory, yet hard in practice. People like me have conditioned themselves to react immediately to notifications and continue to check-in on social media platforms to "keep up" with what's happening. So in this game, my goal is to wait as long as I can stand it before I open my inbox for the first time. On some occasions, I know that some issues are waiting for me and I need to open it as soon as I get to my office. Other days I push off to as late as noon. These days are magical because I have anywhere from 3-5 hours of opportunity to get into and stay within a state of flow rather than let the outside world take me off course.

If you find yourself having your day shredded into smaller and smaller moments of distraction, I would give it a try. You’d be surprised at how night and day different your day can turn out when you stay out of your inbox and focused on the most important things.

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About Rick Manelius

Quick Stats: CTO of Contact Mapping. Author of Winning the Lottery Within. Graduated from MIT in '03 (BS) and '09 (PhD). Life hacker and peak performance enthusiast. This blog is my experiment in creative writing, self-expression, and sharing what I've learned along my journey. For more information, read my full bio here or contact me.