- Jen Glantz is a bestselling author and the founder and CEO of Bridesmaid for Hire, a boutique services company that offers professional bridesmaids who “take care of all your wedding dirty work.”
- Glantz had developed a habit of checking her email first thing every morning, which might seem like a good idea, but would often derail her day by distracting her from bigger tasks that needed to get done.
- For one month, she challenged herself to only check her email every one or two days.
- Glantz says this greatly improved her productivity, reduced stress levels, and allowed her to reclaim her schedule.
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You can tell a lot about a person by the very first thing they do in the morning, when their eyes open and they are officially awake. My bad morning habit (that I began when I started my first full-time job at the age of 22, almost 10 years ago) is to check my email the second my alarm clock goes off. I am instantly propelled into a day of people asking me for things, spam emails, and problems that all seem urgent. Before I know it, I go from calm to crazy, and spend the next 30 minutes putting out both work and personal life dumpster fires. It makes every day start with urgency and stress.
As a challenge, I decided to spend the entire month of February putting an end to this bad habit.
First, I made sure that I plugged my phone into an outlet at least 20 feet away from my bed. That way, when my alarm went off, I’d have to get out of bed, which would hopefully change the habit of tossing and turning while checking emails – something I wanted to fully stop doing in the morning.
The first week like this was unusual. When I heard my alarm ring, I’d rush to my phone to shut it off, but then inevitably found myself swept into checking my email.
But then I did something drastic, something that really helped me change: I deleted my email app off my phone. This allowed me to stop checking it in the morning, as well as approximately 25 other times throughout the day.
For the majority of February, I not only stopped checking my inbox first thing in the morning, but I often went a day or two without looking at my inbox. Here’s how it helped me increase my productivity and lower my stress levels.
1. It allowed me to focus on my work
Every time I would check my inbox, I pivoted from my game plan for the hour and got stuck answering emails and requests from other people instead. Hours later, I’d realise that I didn’t accomplish more than 75% of what I had planned for the day. Going a day or two without checking my inbox let me focus on the tasks on my calendar and stick to deadlines.
2. I could prioritise what was truly urgent
It was easier for me because I am self-employed, so I didn’t have the pressure of a boss or coworker waiting to hear from me via email for something urgent. But I do have clients, and when they need me badly enough, they will call and leave a voicemail. When that happened, I could decide whether to call back or wait until I opened my inbox to respond. Most of the time, their ‘urgent’ request could wait.
For the first time in a very long time, my productivity increased so much that I found myself with more free time. I actually found myself breaking for lunch – phone-free.
By the end of the month, I had made every deadline and even finished projects (like fixing my website and editing a video) that I had put off for months because I didn’t have the time.
3. It made me feel more in control
I ended up sticking to an every-other-day email frequency for the month of February that made me feel less stressed and more in control.
Will I continue this? Yes. I may ease up on my rules and check my email once or twice daily, but it’s much better than the dozens of times every day that I used to do.
4. It gave me time to create a new morning routine
Now that I wasn’t spending a chunk of my morning in bed checking emails, I could finally build a morning routine. I decided to take the 7 a.m. hour and make the most of it by using the time to meditate, stretch, and eat a solid breakfast, so that I’d feel good to start the day.
5. It put me in a better mood
I felt less stressed now that my first thoughts of the day didn’t revolve around the drama of what was inside of my inbox. I noticed that my days went by faster and my mood was more pleasant. I found myself starting the day with the feeling you get after a good workout, full of dopamine and energy.
In full disclosure, at first this method made me slightly more anxious and stressed. Without looking at my email daily, I was convinced I was missing big things. I didn’t sleep for a few nights, feeling panic over missed opportunities and people getting mad for not replying.
But that wasn’t the reality. What happened was that when I did check my email, rather than read what people sent me and forget to respond or put off responding, I formed more intentional responses and replied promptly. This helped me clear my inbox consistently for the first time in years, and made me feel like I reclaimed and owned my day.
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