Check your calendar and your todo list before jumping into email.
Pretty simple right? Don’t be fooled – it’s a very powerful technique. Here’s why it works:
Our brains are wired for newness and novelty and so we’re very attracted to the “unread” emails that have appeared in your inbox since the last time you checked it. Once we open the first mail we have unconsciously re-prioritized our day according to the messages, requests and spam that other people have sent us.
By checking your calendar first you remind yourself what hard commitments you have made to yourself and others. Then you check your todo list (you are using a good todo list, right? to remind yourself of your other pending high-priority items. Once you have a clear picture of what your day looks like only then should you check your email for emergency emails.
Now we’re at the brink of a trap that many people fall into (myself included) : If there are no emergency emails then you need to close your email program and get to work on your highest priority item (unless of course if you have a meeting).
It’s a simple idea but surprising difficult to implement. Let me know your thoughts, feedback in the comments.