Tips from Never Check Email in the Morning

Working smarter not harder in your business

Did you ever see that amazing lady on Oprah who organises people’s houses? Her name is Julie Morgenstern and you would not believe some of the challenges she faced on the show. If, like me, you get high from visiting Officeworks, separating paper with coloured tabs in a lever arch file, or writing a To Do list (Control Freak? What?) and you run or work in a business, you will love Julie’s book Never Check Emails in the Morning – and other unexpected strategies for making your work life work.

Of course, this is also a great book for the disorganised – it’s quick and easy to read, with ‘grab and go’ strategies you can put in place right away to start working more efficiently.

Because the whole premise of this book is ‘work smarter, not harder’, people with highly developed organisational skills can get something out of it too. Start with the quiz before Chapter 1, and use your results to judge how much and which parts of the book you need to read. I skimmed most of it in an evening and jotted down some of the points that really struck me… and here they are.

  • Never check emails in the morning: basically, decide how to schedule your day to avoid distractions and maximise real work time. You know how you can spend a whole day being ‘busy’ but not actually getting anything done? I like the suggestion to allocate an hour of uninterrupted, solid work (you know, the nitty-gritty stuff that requires you to do the hard work of thinking) first thing in the morning before checking emails. Then time how long you are allowed to stay on email, phone calls, follow-ups and other ‘bitsy’ things.
  • Prioritise tasks: Julie suggests ‘dancing close to the revenue line’, i.e. do the stuff that brings in the money or saves you money first, such as working on a client project or chasing up leads.
  • Starting with the most important tasks ‘clears the decks’ – provides you with a feeling of relief and makes it easier to handle everything else.
  • Write all your to-do’s in one place (I am currently trying to wean myself off post-it notes!)
  • A big one for me: Actively LET GO of other tasks while working on one!
  • On your desk: Inbox, Working, and Outbox. She explains each one.
  • Cull paper and electronic files. Do you come back from a seminar full of inspiration, only to stuff the entire goody bag under your desk and forget its existence? Or do you keep every bit of paper you’ve ever received, ‘just in case’? Allocate a day to go through this stuff and type a summary list of important points, keep only relevant business cards or things you intend to action, then throw everything else out. It’s worth the investment of time to clear your space and your business might finally benefit from those brilliant ideas. Emails: action and discard asap. And one from me: financial records – ask your accountant what is essential to keep.
  • Say NO: the people most likely to be interrupted are the ones that feel responsible for everyone and everything. Is this YOU?

There is so much more in the book and I highly recommend it to every businessperson from perfectionist to walking disaster!

Adapted from Morgenstern, J. (2004). Never check emails in the morning and other unexpected strategies for making your work life work. New York: Fireside.

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