How to gain control of your inbox

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We're all guilty of checking our emails first thing in the morning and then reacting to notifications throughout the day. But what would happen if we decided to isolate a few hours a day to read and respond to emails?

Work is busy and it’s getting busier. Life is busy too. Especially for those of us with young children, now that the new school year has started.

I was with a client recently who felt that trying to implement my morning routine of journaling and planning was a step too far. She felt that something that was supposed to provide clarity and focus was instead creating more anxiety - I get that.

Because if I’m honest, with so much going on I’ve felt the same at times over the past few months. But at the same time, I’m 100% convinced that slowing down in order to speed up is the right approach.

That anxiety we feel when we sit down and pause for just 15 minutes at the start of each day, to reflect and plan, is a powerful data point. It proves how much we need to pause for thought.

We need to move through that anxiety as we re-programme our brains to work (and live) in a much more effective way. As a result of many years in the corporate world, we’ve come to believe that being busy is a sign of our value in the workplace.

But are we busy doing the right work? Or, are we just reacting?

Should emails be our first priority?

We’ve come to believe that our first priority each day is to check our emails. But truth be told, most of us check our emails on our phone long before we get anywhere near our computers. We probably don’t even make it to the shower before checking our emails.

What does it do to our mental state when the first thing we see each morning is 50 new emails containing requests from our boss, issues from customers or suppliers and a news round-up telling us all that is bad and broken in the world?

It steals our focus and it increases our anxiety and puts us on the back foot. But what if we didn’t check our emails first thing in the morning?

I have a constant out-of-office on my main email account saying that I’m only checking my emails at 12pm and 4pm

Time for a radical approach

I’m currently one week into an experiment taken from Tim Ferriss’ book The 4-Hour Workweek.

I have a constant out-of-office on my main email account saying that I’m only checking my emails at 12pm and 4pm. I’ve included my mobile number in case anyone needs to contact me for anything that really can’t wait.

It’s been a scary process and a few people (my wife included) have told me that they thought it was a bit odd when they received the out-of-office reply.

But my productivity has definitely improved. I’m getting my most important work done first thing in the morning before reacting to a lot of stuff in my inbox, which truth be told, isn’t usually my top priority.

The world is still turning...

It’s not been easy though, and it’s been a little scary. I had all the thoughts that you’d expect. What if my clients get frustrated and ditch me… what if I miss something urgent etc.

But guess what? Nothing has happened, nothing has changed externally and nobody seems bothered. What’s more, not one person has called my mobile saying they need an urgent response to their email. The world is still turning and I’ve still got all my amazing clients.

I’m certain that if I push through the discomfort I’ll continue to get more and more value from the experiment. Do you think you could give it a try?

About Ben Morton

Ben Morton

Ben is a best selling author, accomplished keynote speaker and sought after leadership mentor who has worked with senior leadership teams in the U.K, US and Australia.

Ben’s work as a leadership mentor is based upon three fundamental beliefs:

  • Leadership is less about the tools and models and more about understanding what it really means to be a leader.
  • The best leaders put the interests of their people and organisations ahead of their own.
  • Leadership is both a great privilege and a great responsibility.

As a graduate of the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst he completed two tours of duty in Iraq as a Captain in the British Army. He then moved into business as Global Head of HR, World Challenge, later part of Tui Travel and followed this with a period in the Tesco Leadership Academy.

Alongside his military and corporate career Ben has also led expeditions around the world to places as diverse as the Himalaya’s, Malaysia and Mongolian Stepppe country.

He now works exclusively with senior and executive teams to help them be the most effective version of themselves as individual leaders whilst also becoming a genuine, high performing team.


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