Time Management Monday: Check emails? Don’t check emails?

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My desk. Prepping for the talk at noon.

A tip I see often on time management websites is not to check your email at the very beginning of your work day, but instead to dive straight into your most concentration-intensive work. The reason for this is at the beginning of the day you are fresh and your brain isn’t fatigued from making millions of decisions, so you are able to focus and be most productive.

In a way I understand that email can be distracting and a huge time suck, and by the time you resurface from the email flood it’s nearly lunch time and your most productive time of the day is done. But I can also envision a scenario where you crank away for hours on your project and then finally check your emails to discover a message detailing changes to the plan. Now you have to spend hours undoing what you did and start over.

Personally, I check my emails first but don’t get involved in things that can wait until later. I reply to things that need a quick response, incorporate new tasks into my day’s plan, and make note of things that need to be followed up on later. I limit myself to 30 minutes for this, then I get on with production.

Do you check emails first thing? Or do you wait until later so you can crank through work first?

5 thoughts on “Time Management Monday: Check emails? Don’t check emails?

  1. I try both ways. I do agree, if I come into work and go straight to a project I am much more focused and productive. I have ADD and need to be very mindful of things that kill my focus. The problem is the odd email which does have some salient bit of information which I need to deal with or know about. I supervise dozens of staff, and frequently they let me know of a last-minute schedule change by email. If I don’t see it, I can’t react to resolve any schedule issues. So I often take a quick look at the subject lines of my email first thing, and resist opening them until later in the morning. I am trying to think of a different way to handle these priority communications to eliminate the need to look at email, because email is SO distracting.

  2. I do like you do. I check my email first, answer urgent email inquiries, then do the most important tasks of the day.

  3. Always check email first. My whole day, sometimes the whole week, can change overnight. With several remote offices and people traveling all over the world, we primarily use email to communicate. Quite frequently (like this morning) they need me to make a multi-million dollar change promptly.

  4. Since I’m in academia and all, I need to check my emails on a regular basis. First thing in morning,then later in the afternoon, then in the evening before I wind down.

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