Email is a major problem for most people, given the amount of attention the topic gets from blog posts, advice columns, and even entire books. Laura Shin at Forbes.com has some sound advice in her article “‘Don’t Check Email First Thing’ Is Unrealistic For You? Try This Instead”
So the impulse to say, “Don’t check your email in the morning” is a good one, even if it may not feel realistic. Decision-making is an energy-hungry task. Our tanks are full in the morning, so that energy should be reserved for something important. Since email is usually the means by which other people get you to pay attention to the tasks important to them, it’s understandable that some experts would caution you against using the time of day when you have the most brain power to get them ahead on their goals instead of moving forward on your own.
She has some great alternatives in the article posted here: Link
So why all the concern about email? You can really boil it down to two essentials:
- Email can be a black-hole where important tasks simply disappear.
- Your inbox can be a black hole for time making your work-day about completing other people priorities rather than your own.
But isn’t there a bigger problem here? If you take a step back, the issue isn’t about email; it’s about creating space for the two things that pull us apart at work. There is the tasks that need to be done because they are tactically important and there are the tasks that need to get down because they are strategically important. Both tasks are going to pop up in an email but the tactics are likely to get addressed right away (Fill Out Expense Report ASAP!) while the strategy is going to fall by the wayside (Hey, here are the 10 ideas from our brainstorming session on improving the expense reports. Should we follow up?).
Delineating between Tasks and Strategy is essential to managing email and, really, your career. It’s important to figure out what you’re being paid to do. Jobs run the spectrum between tactics and strategy, but none sit entirely in one camp. A good rule of thumb? If you’re job is heavy on the tactic side, check your email in the morning and prioritize answering them with other tasks on your plate. If you’re job is about strategy, leave email along but keep track of tasks that need to be worked on so they don’t fall by the wayside entirely.
The big takeaway? Let your balance of task and strategy dictate your career and not email.