13 March 2017
I start every work day in a suboptimal and damaging way.
Before I continue, take a second to think about how you begin your work day. What’s the first work-related thing you do each day?
If you’re like me, the first thing you do every day is check your e-mail. If you’re even more similar to me, you spend the next 30-60 minutes replying to those e-mails and scouring social media for questions to answer and posts to respond to. And if you’re exactly like me, you also feed your cats, Biddy and Walter.
In the 3+ years I’ve been running Stonemaier Games full time, I’ve never questioned this method. Then I had a conversation with Gabe at the Board Game Design Lab about schedules and time management, and he sent me a link to this article.
When I got to the part about why it’s not a good idea to start your day by reading your e-mail, this line hit me so hard that my jaw dropped:
“Your email inbox is full of tasks from other people’s to-do lists.”
I’ve always used my inbox as one of several to-do lists, but I’ve considered it my own to-do list. But it’s not. The vast majority of e-mails people send me–while important–are part of their to-do lists, not mine. So why am I prioritizing them? Why not instead start by focusing on a few tasks that are 100% mine?
With that line in mind, I reread the rest of the article and found some gems of advice about early-morning time management. Here’s what I learned:
- Don’t start your day by reading and replying to e-mails. As noted above, most of those e-mails are on someone else’s to-do list, not yours. Instead, do one thing that is solely on your to-do list for an hour.
- Don’t start your day on social media. This includes the comments on your Kickstarter project. The idea is to avoid negativity while your brain is charging up for the day, because they’re likely to impact you for the rest of the day. Instead, wait until you’re feeling good before you check out social media.
- Don’t ignore big projects. It’s human nature to try to accomplish small tasks before big ones–it’s gratifying to cross things off my to-do list. Instead of ignoring the big projects, I try to identify the next step and do it. The most daunting part of a big project is actually starting it.
- Don’t read the paper. Or your blog feed. Or watch YouTube. Consuming information you love can be inspiring, energizing, or relaxing, so save it as a reward for after you’ve accomplished something meaningful.
I would love to say that I’ve taken my own advice, but can you guess how I started my day today? That’s right: I checked my e-mail, replied to it, then spent some time on social media. It’s hard to break habits!
How do you start your work day? Is there anything you’d recommend?