Should you do that to start work?

I’m very interested in the rhythms of how people work. Last week I conducted a very small experiment where I asked 10 people what was the very first thing they did when they got to work.

Nine said how they checked and responded to their emails, while 1 person usually had an early morning meeting to attend. 

I wanted to drill down on the email behaviours a little further:

Me: “Is it a company directive to process emails immediately once arriving at work?”

Most common response: “No”

Me: “So why do you do it?”

Most common response: “I want to see if there’s anything that’s urgent but it’s a habit that I haven’t really thought about”

Me: “Can you sometimes get buried in these emails causing your day to go off the rails and not achieve what you had originally planned?”

Most common response: “Oh, yes”

I realise a survey of 10 isn’t sufficient to base concrete information on, but the results were basically what I was expecting. What surprised me though was not 1 single person started their day actioning their most important work they knew they had to complete on a specific day. Instead 90% started their day reacting to other people’s emails.

I can understand this approach for people in roles who have to react to serve others, but it doesn’t make sense for most roles if you set yourself up to possibly get really distracted at the expense of making progress on the really important work.

To stay outcome focussed I spend the first hour or so on my really important work, then I check and action emails in 25 minutes or less, move onto the next planned activity and so on.

I think you are the best person to make decisions about the rhythm to follow which maximises the likelihood of doing your best work. However, maybe another approach to consider if you feel the need to check email the first thing in the morning is to limit the email activity to a 20 minute sprint and then get on with actioning your most important work.

Finding your rhythm will help you get more done in less time.