When you wake up in the morning, what’s the first thing you do? Do you check email or voicemail? Or do you take a few minutes to develop a plan so that you know exactly what you need to achieve that day to make it a successful day?
If the first thing you do is grab your phone and check email, you’re not alone. But that one reflex action is putting you on a path to being much less productive during the day.
More than 7,000 people have taken the free online test “How Do Your Time Management Skills Stack Up?” And one of the 12 questions asks respondents to choose between the following options:
- In the morning, before I check email or voicemail, I develop a plan so I know exactly what I need to achieve that day to make it a successful day.
- In the morning, the first things I do are check email or voicemail.
As you can see in the chart below, 66% of people check their email, while only about 34% make a plan for the day.
Now, it’s clear from the data that reaching next to the bed, grabbing a device and checking email is an incredibly natural action for many of us. But there’s a very big problem with doing that.
The online test also asks people to answer the question “what percent of your time at work do you feel is wasted?” And this is where the data gets really disturbing. For people whose first activity is developing a plan for the day, 11% report that more than half of their time at work is wasted. But 20% of the people who check their email first thing in the morning say that more than half of their time at work is wasted. In essence, if the first thing you do in the morning is check your email, you’re about 82% more likely to have over half your time wasted at work!
Additionally, only 47% of people who begin their days by checking email say they often leave work feeling like “today was a really successful day.” But 68% of people who begin their day by developing a plan say they often leave work feeling like “today was a really successful day.” That means that you’re about 45% more likely to leave work feeling like “today was a really successful day” if you start your day by planning rather than checking email.
It strikes some as odd that this simple technique could have such a significant impact on one’s productivity and happiness throughout the day. But it seems to have something to do with creating an intentional plan for the day. For example, when you start checking, let alone responding, to emails, you’re no longer working towards achieving your goals for the day. When we respond to emails (or chat or whatever), we’re responding to someone else’s agenda and goals.
For example, if a colleague emails me with a request, I’m reacting to her needs. Now, that can be fine, but when I’m responding to others’ requests, I’m putting my goals for the day on hold. And if I begin the day by moving my goals to the backburner, it’s really difficult to flip the switch back later in the day and say ‘ok, now it’s time for me to focus on my strategic priorities for the day.’ Generally, once we start responding to emails (or anything similar), it’s a slippery slope that’s hard to climb back up.
Now imagine that you began your day by saying “these are the 1-2 things that I need to achieve today in order for this to be a successful day.” Rather than mentally prioritizing other peoples’ needs, you would have firmly anchored your day to achieving your own goals. And that mental anchoring will then often lead to us spending an hour or more focused on achieving our own personal strategic goals.
I don’t necessarily need to spend 10 hours per day working on achieving my goals; I may have a job that requires me to spend 6 hours per day responding to customer requests. But if I can spend even 1 hour per day working towards my own goals, before I start responding to others’ needs, I will likely find that I can achieve a tremendous amount over the course of a year.
In fact, most people find that with an hour or two of intense work in the early morning, before their day gets too crazy, they can knock off most of the activities they put on their list of things they need to achieve today in order for this to be a successful day. If you’ve ever found that you get more work done in one hour at a coffee shop than in eight hours at the office, you know exactly what I’m saying.
More Info: www.forbes.com