Your inbox is not much more than a list of other people’s priorities. But those notification signs can fool you into thinking every email is urgent. Checking your email first thing sets the tone for running your day without regard for your agenda.
The morning is a glorious time. It’s when your mind is the clearest and your intuition is at its most fresh. So don’t waste it. Here are five things to do before you check your email.
Schedule your big things
All activities were not created equal, but adding them to the same to-do list makes them look like they are. Suddenly, booking a routine appointment commands just as much urgency as filming that video, creating that campaign, or writing that proposal.
Plan your day based on what’s actually important. Your real work, your calling. What you are paid to do or what will actually pay off. Differentiate those items on your list, from the smaller and mundane to-dos that can be sorted when your energy and attention has run out for the day.
Writers lock themselves away so they can avoid the meaningless tasks and finish their novels. It’s the same for anyone serious about putting the work in and getting somewhere. Copy their strategy and move the smaller things way down the list, or remove them all together.
Tackle the hardest thing first
Set your day up well by beginning something important before you do anything else. Block the time in your diary and get to work. Do the hardest thing, the most important thing or the thing that will make the most difference to your business. It’s likely obvious. The biggest challenge can be getting started, but assume the position of a professional and you’ll have no choice. Attention spans and deep work are scarce commodities and your monkey brain will do its best to lure you away.
Those that can, do, and those that can’t, don’t. They think they can, but they are waiting for inspiration to strike or for all conditions to be perfect. They’re blaming a bad night’s sleep or the noise outside or it being too hot to work. There will always be an excuse if you look hard enough for it.
Remember your purpose
The foundation upon which everything builds cannot be anything but sturdy. It’s true for buildings and its true for people who want to reach their full potential. Pursuing strategies based on goals you’re indifferent to is not conducive to a happy life or a productive day.
Before you do anything, ask, “So what?” Get to the heart of why it really matters. Are you trying to impress someone else? Or prove someone wrong? Or tick something off a meaningless to-do list? Operate only on your own version of success and your own unique contribution. Doing anything else is an injustice to the person you could become.
A night of sleep resets your brain. Whilst you’re resting peacefully, your mind is whirring away filing and organising your thoughts and memories ready to start afresh tomorrow. You can wake up feeling like a new person, with yesterday’s woes far away. This is the perfect time to journal.
I like to start journal entries by listing everything I know for sure. Finding the truths I believe, wholeheartedly, at that exact moment. They might vary week-to-week but overall they hold consistent and create heightened awareness of who you are and what you stand for.
Choose your mindset
Before you check your email, choose the day you want to have and the person you want to be. Choose your mindset and disposition and make a commitment to see it through. Accept that you will encounter bad drivers, rude people and incompetence. Don’t let yourself be surprised by anything and don’t let your day be thrown by external factors that don’t really matter.
Ask yourself this question, “How would the person I want to be, do the thing I’m about to do?” Step into position and act accordingly. When Beyonce performs, she’s Sasha Fierce. When a warrior puts on their helmet they’re ready for battle. When an actor is in character, they don’t wane for any distraction.
Own the day instead of it owning you by being intentional about how you spend your morning. Your inbox can wait until you’ve got your ducks in a row. You’re not here to be a professional email responder, so don’t let it become an excuse for progress.