Did you ever pay attention to how much time you spend processing email each day? I couldn’t find a decisive analysis of the subject, but various studies conclude that Americans spend anywhere from 15 minutes to two hours on average. That’s a significant amount of time, especially considering that most people I know would like to have more time for themselves in a typical day.

Email can be incredibly intrusive. Imagine if, instead of sending you an email message, each sender showed up at your door. Can you imagine being interrupted 10, 20 or 30 times a day? That’s what email does—it interrupts us and takes our attention away from whatever we had planned for ourselves. Instead of attending to the things we deem important, email has us responding to other peoples’ requests and following their agenda. We relinquish control of our day to the strangers who come knocking on our door via our inbox.

I make a point of not checking my email first thing in the morning. Instead, I try to do two things that I’d otherwise regret not accomplishing that day. One thing is always exercise – I know that if I don’t do it first thing in the morning, I’ll find plenty of excuses not to do it the rest of the day. In fact, I once wasted a two-year health club membership because I “intended” to go after work, but something always seemed to get in the way. The second thing I try to do before I check email usually involves writing –this blog, for example, my newsletter, a thank-you note, or a client report. I don’t particularly like writing, so doing it first thing in the morning gets it out of the way so I can enjoy the rest of my day. I liken it to eating vegetables at the start of the meal –I don’t care much for vegetables but I know I should eat them. Getting them off my plate right away allows me to enjoy the rest of the meal.

I can hear you saying, “Not checking email first thing will never work for me. People depend on me to reply to email first thing in the morning.” Do they really, or have you just conditioned them to hear from you first thing in the morning? What if you had a client meeting in the morning and couldn’t respond to emails until noon? Would the world fall apart? If you’re honest with yourself, I’ll be the answer is “no.”

Let’s face it, we use email to legitimize procrastinating on things that are boring or challenging. So I’d like to give you a challenge of my own: pick a day this week (how about tomorrow?) to do something other than check email at the start of your day. Instead, spend an hour working on the most important task for that day and see how rewarding it feels to have something accomplished right off the bat. I’d love to hear about your experience.

Wishing you simplicity, harmony and freedom.

Author's Bio: 

Internationally known professional organizer, author, and speaker Sue Becker is the founder and owner of From Piles to Smiles®. She enjoys helping people from around the world live better lives by creating customized systems to overcome their overwhelming paperwork, clutter, and schedules. She specializes in helping people who are chronically disorganized - those for whom disorganization has been a lifelong struggle that negatively impacts every aspect of their life, especially people with AD/HD. Her hands-on help, as well as her presentations, have helped thousands of individuals create substantial change in their lives.

Sue is Illinois’ first Certified Professional Organizer in Chronic Disorganization. She co-authored the book Conversations on Success, and has appeared as an organizational expert on NBC News and the national TV show, Starting Over. A CPA, Sue has an MBA from Northwestern University’s Kellogg Graduate School of Management.