Over the years, I’ve learnt several ways of allowing myself to be more productive. I create most important lists each day (Thanks to Leo Babuata – Zen habits – for the idea), turn off notifications on everything (although Apple likes to turn them back on) and don’t have mail running as a background app.

I was intrigued by this article in Fast Company on the first things to do in the morning. The author underlines the importance of where you put your attention first thing.

Mark Twain once said that if the first thing you do in the morning is eat a live frog, you can go through the rest of the day knowing it can’t get any worse. That doesn’t mean you have to go and switch your soy latte for a frog—it simply means you should do your most important assignment first. Studies have shown that you have the most willpower in the morning, so harness your motivation mojo and master your most important task bright and early.

What this article advises against is reading email first thing in the morning. It’s a killer. Brain science tells us this uses up our best capacity for thinking in the morning. And when the prefrontal cortex is empty, there is no topping up that day.

There is something deeply soothing about the first thing of the day being the task of checking email. It’s like a baseline for the day.

There are times when an email – intended or otherwise – puts me in a bad mood. That can take hours to recover from as I try to do ‘real’ work i.e. not email! Otherwise, email sends you down the path of what other people need or find urgent.

I have a colleague, @suitedyogi who has a permanent out of office notice saying he will get back to you in three days and to text him if its urgent. It says alot about how email gets in the way of what we want to be doing when we have to go to these extremes. (I’m  not brave enough to do that!).

So starting tomorrow, I am not going to do email first thing and see how that works out for me. Who’s with me on this challenge?