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  • Rich Haglund

Never "check" email.


Smarter people than me have been saying this for a long time.


I'm writing this to remind myself and to confess to those of you who know me that I've fallen off the wagon a bit.


In recent weeks, I've been acting a bit like the lab animal chasing the dopamine hit from pushing a button. When I got stuck working on a project, I treated myself by "checking" email. Before I tackled that daunting contract revision, I procrastinated by wandering over to my inbox.


Then I heard someone recommend that we never "check" email. Instead, we should "process" email according to our priorities and our available time and energy.


As David Allen puts it, we have three general modes of working: planning our work, doing pre-planned work, or doing work as it shows up. Doing work as it shows up is work that interrupts or prevents us from defining or planning our work, or from actually doing that work we've planned. Doing work as it shows up is certainly not "deep work" that's likely to make a difference to your clients or your community.


As a reasonably devout GTD-er, I often quote Merlin Mann, who coined the phrase "Inbox Zero" nearly two decades ago. He challenged us to "make sandwiches" instead of just "taking orders." Mann's slides are below. You can watch the entire Inbox Zero talk here.

Generally, life requires doing some work as it shows up. Like covering a hole in our siding yesterday when we saw a bird coming out of it! But, my invitation (to myself, too) is to stop "checking" email. Instead, I'm going to plan when I'm going to "process" email (or LinkedIn, or . . .), and otherwise stay out of my Inbox.


When I want a chemical rush, I'll eat a donut.

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