Several years ago I purchased a book titled Never Check Email in the Morning and Other Unexpected Strategies for Making Your Work Life Work by Julie Morgenstern, primarily because I was intrigued by the title. The book sat on my bookshelf for years. I never got around to reading it but the idea of not immediately checking email after arriving at work remained in the back of my mind. Sounds cool, right?
Fast forward to about five years ago when I read Tim Ferriss’ book The 4 Hour Work Week which, as I mentioned in another post, is one of my favorite books. Well, work-related books anyway. Tim also brought up the idea of not checking email first thing in the morning. Since I actually read this book, I learned why. The reasoning is basically that once you check email, other peoples’ priorities become your priorities. You can go into work with a mental or written to-do list but then check your email and all of a sudden Tim needs this and Jane needs that and Paul needs it ALL and everyone needs it ASAP. As in yesterday. Or immediately. As in before you get comfortable in your chair. Next thing you know, it’s the end of the day and you’re lucky if you got a third of the way through your to-do list.
Granted, there are probably a few jobs where there would be a legitimate need to check email immediately i.e. an email that reads “Dr. Jones, your patient needs an emergency appendectomy as soon as you get in” or some such other extremely time-sensitive, life-or-death type of task needs to be done. In general though, most people would probably be ok (and healthier and more productive) if, as Ferriss recommends, they establish certain blocks of time in which they will check email.
I found myself wondering what types of emails an HR professional could receive that would require immediate and/or constant email checking. As important as it is to be available and responsive, allowing yourself the time to work without being interrupted by emails will only make you better.
Need more convincing? Research has found that checking email often increases stress and therefore, checking email less decreases stress. Who needs more stress? So, do yourself a favor.. step away from the screen. Inform your colleagues of the windows of time in which you will respond to email. The easiest way to do this is by using your email signature or auto-responder.
Try not checking your email in the morning (and continuously throughout the day) and let me know how it goes.