I just finished gulping down “The 4-Hour Work Week” by Tim Ferriss (available for borrowing as an e-book from the Ottawa Public Library), so I wanted to regurgitate some of his tips and immediately actionable items from the book before they are fully digested (pardon the mental picture, folks).

One of my biggest obstacles to being productive has always been an obsessive desire to read email the second it comes in. Business or personal, I had to know as soon as the indicator lit up just what was in that precious e-envelope – read, unhealthy compulsion, and a bit of “I’m so important, someone emails me every 5 minutes.” Oh yeah. So when I read Tim’s suggestions to turn off the pesky notification and limit e-mail checking to two timeslots a day, needless to say, I was sceptical (and fearful for my ego) – but decided to give it a shot last Monday.

Holy. Shit. What a difference! I was actually done something before lunch, thereby avoiding that crushing feeling of uselessness that used to come over me as I tried to convince myself that I still deserved to eat. I could totally substitute this solid accomplishment for the fleeting sense of importance!

Tim’s book wasn’t the first place I had come across the suggestion of making sure you’re getting something done before lunch – Steve Northover, the father of SWT and my first boss at IBM, used to call it “earning your margarita”, in reference to doing something useful before going out for lunch to Mexicali Rosa’s (where the aforementioned cocktails are quite delicious!). Well, Steve, I’m clearly a little slow on the uptake, but 4 years later I finally concur.

In summary, then:

  1. Turn off your new email notification! This alone will reduce your anxiety immensely.
  2. Check your email and deal with it in bulk at a maximum twice a day – I go from 11AM to noon, and 4PM until I’m done with it. Whatever you do, don’t check it first thing in the morning!
  3. Earn your margarita! Before you check your email for the first time that day (or go to a stitch’n’bitch morning meeting), get something done. The good inertia will get you through the rest of the day faster than ever!