I Went an Entire Week Without Checking My Email: A #labrat Conclusion
For the past week I served as guinea pig to test the “No Email in the Mornings” rule and invited our readers to do the same, tracking their thoughts with the #labrat hashtag. A lot of productivity theories sound wonderful, but the idea of actually including them in the every day context of work, social life, and overall balance of things, often times feels unrealistic. So I took it upon myself to see how it actually held up against my usual morning routine, and in a job that beforehand seemed justifiably excusable from this sort of rule as I handle all of our social media, inquiries, comments, etc.
The answer? It turns out 99U doesn’t explode without me for a few hours.
1. Turn off your notifications. This was the biggest thing I learned during this test. I didn’t realize how much my brain was expecting some kind of notification at all times, how often I reached to check my phone. And how, even for the mindless ones of “joeshmoe liked your photo” on Instagram, I felt compelled to still click on it, and go look at it within the app, as if somehow it would reveal more than them liking it. In fact, I’ve decided to keep them off indefinitely.
2. Make a to-do list beforehand for what you are going to work on. With no clear parameters for what to work on, I wasn’t checking my social or email… but I wasn’t doing much else productive either. Mainly, I fidgeted. When I came in the next morning with a to-do list, I was able to smoothly tackle each and every thing on my list. It was the most productive morning I have had in months.
3. If you break once, it’s okay. Don’t use that as an excuse to drop it all together. I accidentally lapsed early on the third morning, checking my email and social notifications for five minutes before I realized what I was doing. By 10:30 a.m. I had just given up, and felt awful about it for the rest of the day.
Since this #labrat ended, I’ve integrated parts into my daily habit. Now, I wait until I actually get into the office to check email or social, and all notifications for any of it are off on my phone all of the time.
It’s a hard habit to break but if you keep at it, the amount of good work you get back for just a few hours of set, undistracted time is worth it. In the end, the worst-case scenario involves someone waiting an hour or two longer before receiving a response. Unless you’re some kind of finance broker where more than an hour delay between communications means the end of your job, it’s more do-able than you think. People will realize that you’re not instantly always available and that leads to less unnecessary emails and a better respect of your time.