Meet Your First Task BEFORE You Meet Your Email!

OK, so, I have an obsession with organizing books for about the last 10 years and have just finished my thirtieth book.  You can ask my college roommate (Dena – God bless her used to put all my clothes in my closet just so she could not be embarrassed – she just threw them in – WHAT A MESS!) or you could ask my Mom.

I just finished Upgrade Your Life: The Lifehacker Guide to Working Smarter, Faster, Better by Gina Trapani in one evening and learned so much. (Honestly, I'd read Bit Literacy: Productivity in the Age of Information and E-mail Overload by Mark Hurst FIRST and then you'll be ready for Gina's book of tips and tricks.)

I had a lot to do today but have a list of the “hacks” in her book to start with.  I want you to meet what I'm lovingly calling “Tim.”  OK, his real name is F. TIM (First Thing in the Morning) but this handy trick is a winner.  You see, Gina said that a study determined that there are these super-productive technology people and they call them “alpha geeks.”  THey get so much done because of their habits.  And one of the consistent habits is that they DO NOT check email first thing in the morning. That's right – NOT FIRST THING.  Her suggestion was to have a “First Thing in the Morning” folder and have it smack dab in the middle of your desk.  When you finish your day, put the most important thing in that folder and when you get to the office DO THAT FIRST before checking email.

Did you know that it takes 15 minutes to get into a “flow state” of maximum productivity and that if you stay in your email ALL DAY LONG you're constantly a victim of whatever email comes into your box?

I've been at inbox zero now for over a week following the principles I used from Bit Literacy – they are much more simple than anything I have read and resonate with me.  So, now, I have three times during the day to check my email and then I”m focusing on getting other things DONE.  I've always been one to go off-line or unplug when I have work to do.

OK, so Kip and I are going to take his AMAZING KEY LIME PIE out to my parents house now and I've gotta run.  But I'll tell you, this one trick is perhaps the best one I”ve read in a long time.  Onwards and upwards!

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Vicki Davis

Vicki Davis is a full-time classroom teacher and IT Director in Georgia, USA. She is Mom of three, wife of one, and loves talking about the wise, transformational use of technology for teaching and doing good in the world. She hosts the 10 Minute Teacher Podcast which interviews teachers around the world about remarkable classroom practices to inspire and help teachers. Vicki focuses on what unites us -- a quest for truly remarkable life-changing teaching and learning. The goal of her work is to provide actionable, encouraging, relevant ideas for teachers that are grounded in the truth and shared with love. Vicki has been teaching since 2002 and blogging since 2005. Vicki has spoken around the world to inspire and help teachers reach their students. She is passionate about helping every child find purpose, passion, and meaning in life with a lifelong commitment to the joy and responsibility of learning. If you talk to Vicki for very long, she will encourage you to "Relate to Educate" or "innovate like a turtle" or to be "a remarkable teacher." She loves to talk to teachers who love their students and are trying to do their best. Twitter is her favorite place to share and she loves to make homemade sourdough bread and cinnamon rolls and enjoys running half marathons with her sisters. You can usually find her laughing with her students or digging into a book.

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Student Handouts, Inc. April 25, 2010 - 8:59 pm

I love the idea of a first-thing folder on my desk. It seems like once I log on to check my email, it’s nearly impossible to get me out of my chair until the kids start piling in the room.

Raspal June 5, 2011 - 10:03 am


Going offline or unplugging, when work needs to be done is the best thing even I’ve experienced. At times, when I’d be doing useless work online and the electricity goes off, I’m back to working on my laptop and those are the most productive hours I’ve seen.

But I’m a freelancer and my work involves being online. I have to be online even to upload work and get paid only if snapshots of my screen are uploaded to the employers. In such a case, can you recommend a way to remain focussed on work, without unplugging or going offline?

Best Regards,

coolcatteacher June 5, 2011 - 2:13 pm

There is a plug in called leech block for firefox that let’s you block yourself from time wasters. I block myself from twitter and email sometimes and am careful about having too many tabs open that beckon me away. The biggest issue is email. Leaving it up invites interruption.

Vicki Davis
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