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DON’T Check Your Email First Thing in The Morning

In the beginning it’s tempting to check your email all day long, especially in the morning after you’ve been offline for eight or ten hours – Maybe you finally made a sale or one of your readers tried to contact you. Eventually, though, you’re going to be bombarded with email and all that checking can eat into your productivity, especially if you check your email inbox as soon as you sit down at your computer. Here are three reasons you don’t want to check your email account first thing in the morning.

check your email in the morning

You Already Have Your Own To-Do List

The last thing I do every day is make myself a list of things I need to do tomorrow so when I sit down at my desk I immediately know what needs to be done. If you check your email first, then you’re going to find new things you want to add to that list, things that someone else wants you to do, things someone else has on their To-Do list. Now, you’re going to have to take time to re-prioritize your list and possibly even move important tasks to another day.

In other words, it’s a time-waster. You already have your day mapped out and we both know the best way to reach any destination is to follow the map. When you answer your email first thing in the morning you’re allowing other people to put up detours. Check your email at the end of the day and add those action items to your list of things to do tomorrow.

You’re Delaying The Inevitable

Trust me, I know there are days when you just don’t feel like getting started. In the end though, it’s just like going to the gym. Nobody likes to roll out of bed and head out the door first thing in the morning, but once you get to the gym and start your workout you can’t imagine why you were so reluctant to get started. It’s another beautiful day!

If you find yourself checking your email first thing every morning, stop it. You’re just delaying the inevitable. You have to write that blog post today whether you feel like it or not. And by checking your email first you’re just distracting yourself and wasting energy. By the time you get done checking email you’re going to feel even less like working today.

If You Check Your Email In The Morning, Your Reply Will Be Less Effective

When you sit down at your computer in the morning you already know you have a lot of things you need to accomplish and there are only so many hours in a day. If the first thing you do is check your email then you’re going to have more things to do and that’s going to cause a certain amount of stress. You’ve already mapped out your day and now this person wants what?! So you hurry and rip off a reply because you have other things to do.

If you’re like me you spend the day with that answer burning away at the back of your mind. “I should have said…” and “I wonder if…” or “Maybe I should…” start playing in your head like earworms and soon you’re … checking your email again, wasting even more time and causing additional stress.

Check your email at the end of the day and put answering on your list of things to do tomorrow. That gives you time to come up with the best effective answer so you can carry on with your day.

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35 Comments (Add one)

  1. website designer

    Disagree! Checking my email every morning and periodically throughout the day is a requirement so that I can address my customer’s requests within a reasonable amount of time. I work for my customers.

    NEVER “rip off a reply” to any email. That would only make for even more work in the end. It’s far too easy to send a quick message out with the wrong sense, and then have to spend even more time calming the receiver down and explaining what you really meant.

    Answer emails as though they are the ONLY request you have to fulfill all day. Then and only then, move on to the next email and do the very same. Works for me!

    However, if I were doing affiliate marketing I might be tempted to take your suggestion of not checking my email :-). That’s the only time that sort of behaviour would only hurt my own income and not that of my customer’s.

    1. Sté Kerwer

      Hey Trish, I was thinking the exact same way before. However, since I red the book “4 hours work week” by Tim Ferris, I changed my ways. There is a very interesting chapter about the necessity of training your co-workers and your clients. If you check your emails at the exact same time every day, and you let everyone know that it’s at this exact time that they can expect a reply from you, they won’t expect you to reply with 5 minutes to all their emails, so your mind can be more free to actually develop the business further instead of taking care of these basic tasks.

      If you only reply to emails during the day, how are you growing your business? How are you fulfilling orders? How are you dealing with suppliers? How are you developing new products?

      When you see recurring questions from your clients, develop a FAQ and simply have a virtual assistant redirect the clients to your FAQ instead of taking them by the hand every single time.

  2. Stacy Claflin

    I couldn’t agree more. Once I open my email for the day, it’s basically game over for my productivity. The later in the day that I check, the more I am forced to only concentrate on what’s most important.

    1. Sté Kerwer

      That’s the way to go Stacy!

  3. Mike LaRue
    Mike LaRue

    I agree to the idea of not checking emails all the time. However, I do check in the morning. If it’s an important email that will take time responding, I send a short response back giving the person a specific time I will get back to them by so it doesnt mess up my morning schedule. Once I check my email in the morning, I do my best to time block specific times during the day for checking emails and for replying to emails. If you spend your day responding to your emails, nothing will ever get done….or tasks will at least take a heck of a lot longer than it should. I also believe this is relevant to voice mails and calling people back. As long as the expectation is set on when you will respond to people, no issues should come up.
    Thanks for the post….always a good reminder for me to stay on task since there are a millions other things going on during the day! :)

    1. Sté Kerwer

      Mike, what you’re doing is overkill… Why sending an email to say that you will send an email? You’re going to keep it on your mind as long as you won’t send the longer reply and it will take your productivity down.

  4. Linda Harding-Bond
    Linda Harding-Bond

    I SO disagree. My day begins at approx 4:30 a.m. This is when I read my e-mails and I check throughout the day as well. Also because I correspond with folks overseas, for them it may be midday so it’s a great time to reach them.

    1. Sté Kerwer

      Linda, I think you’re trying to do good by checking your emails like that, but you don’t realize that you are actually hurting your productivity. Email is not instant communication. No matter where people are in the world, they shouldn’t expect a reply from you within 5 minutes of sending an email. What happens when you have an email? You drop everything else and craft a nice reply? then you need time to get back into what you were doing? It’s counter-intuitive.

  5. Andrew F. Butters
    Andrew F. Butters

    I have mixed feelings on this. As someone who spent years getting hundreds of emails a day managing the constant flow of information (and sometimes misinformation) a system was definitely required. I’m in a job now that should see my email increase, but it has actually gone down! I don’t take it to the extreme and only respond at the end of the day, but I definitely don’t reply right away. I set aside times in my day to focus on formulating the right reply. Typically, a half hour after I get into work, mid-day, and before I leave – and never when I’m in a rush.

    One thing I do is draft emails with no addressees. I fill those in last, and make sure my “To” list is limited to the people who have actions or who have requested the information. Everyone else goes on the “Cc”.

    In summary, it has been my experience that you can reduce email by utilizing the To and Cc fields properly and taking the necessary time to formulate a response. If you can do both those things then your email communication will be more effective, regardless of what time of day it is.

    1. Sté Kerwer

      You’re right Andrew: replying right away is not a good thing. It sounds like you have an interesting and well-organised approach to email management.

      1. Andrew F. Butters
        Andrew F. Butters

        Things get more difficult to balance when half your company is 6 time zones ahead of you and has a completely different culture/outlook on things as well.

        Hands down though, as Marc puts it in the next comment, email is not an urgent form of communication. Set expectations!

        1. Sté Kerwer

          It’s true that balancing timezones can be tricky… Most of my business contacts are in Europe or USA, and I live in Hong Kong. Which means that I have a 12 hours difference with New York: it makes things tricky.

  6. Marc Zazeela

    Sté,

    Agree completely. Email is not an urgent form of communication. Instants replies are not required.

    If a customer needs something right away, they call me. Otherwise, they know they will get a reply to the email, but it could take a few/several hours. It is about managing expectations.

    Cheers,
    Marc

    1. Sté Kerwer

      You nailed it, Marc. Thanks for your comment.

  7. Brian Kooshian
    Brian Kooshian

    If you are speaking of personal email at home, then I agree. I wait to check email when I get home at night.

    However, if you are referring to email at work, then I strongly disagree. I always check my email first thing in the morning in order to help create and prioritize my to-do list for the day. Also, much of our inter-company communication is conducted via email, and meetings are often scheduled at the last minute — the meeting notices sent out via email. We are expected to monitor our email all day.

    Also, a huge portion of my job requires email communication with suppliers both domestic and foreign. If I were to check email only once a day, or even only twice a day, I would miss important and time-sensitive communications that are necessary for doing my job, and I would soon find myself in the unemployment line.

    While checking work email only once or twice a day may be okay for some, it isn’t for all.

    1. Sté Kerwer

      Hey Brian, from what I read, the problem is coming from the business organization. As said earlier, email is not a form of instant communication. Instant Messaging and Phone, are.

      I don’t do last-minute meetings because they disrupt the workflow. In a perfect world, meetings (both face-to-face and skype) should be set at least 1 week ahead, and I want to know exactly what this meeting will be about. If I don’t get a checklist of the meeting’s subjects, I simply don’t attend. These “unformal” meetings tend to last hours and go in a lot of different directions.

  8. S Emerson

    I do open my email first thing in the morning but before you get on my case let me explain why.

    I am on the West Coast. A lot of my customers are on the East Coast therefore they have already been waiting overnight or at least 3 hours for a reply if they sent the email this morning.

    My response “window” is limited by design though. I backup my emails at 10 am which means I have to close down the email program while the backup is run. I can move onto other stuff by design.

    Having worked in business for over 30 years and having had to deal with the time difference between West and East coast (don’t expect to get anyone to answer the phone or reply after 1 pm West Coast time and also expect to find urgent messages left or sent at 6 am West Coast time) I can sympathize with the customer’s urgency. I quite often send out emails “after hours” because it is quite but I also expect to see a reply in the morning when I open my email or check phone messages because they have a 3 hour head start on my day.

    1. Sté Kerwer

      Hello Emerson, I don’t know what type of products you are selling so it’s hard to reply. But 3 hours to get back to your customers is a very short timeframe in a lot of industries. Very often, it’s between 24hours and 48hours.

      As I said in a previous comment, living in Asia, I have a time difference of 6 to 12 hours with most of my contacts/clients. However, I “train” people to know that if they send me an email, they should not wait for an instant reply.

      1. S Emerson

        I do web design and developement. Prior to that I worked in construction where I had to deal with suppliers.

        I was not implying that every email needs an answer first thing in the morning however if you didn’t at least check your mail/messages first thing you would not know if there was anything urgent that needed immediate attention because it is affecting your customer’s business.

        1. Sté Kerwer

          As I already said many times, email is not an urgent form of communication. For emergencies, people can always use phone.

  9. Kelli
    Kelli

    Great suggestion! I’m going to give it a try.
    Thanks-

    1. Sté Kerwer

      Good! Let me know the change on your productivity.

  10. Ernest Nnagbo

    I believe that the appropriate time to check an email is first thing in the morning, and this timing depends on what kind of job you are doing, if you are in the technical goods and services industry, then you need to urgently respond to a curuios customer waiting to have a machinery fixed as it cost money being idle, if you are in the consulting business, definitely all email response can wait when you articulate proper intellectual momentum to answer and respond to emails, this may be in the evening or after noon when you must have exhausted your “to do list” and preparing to start a new line of action for another day..

    1. Sté Kerwer

      Hey Ernest, don’t you think that if your customer has some broken machinery, they will call you until you pick up the phone? Email is not instant!

  11. John Young
    John Young

    Thanks for bringing up this topic. As a one man shop (designer, accountant, marketing department, customer service rep) – fielding emails all day is certainly counterproductive to my workflow. I’m going to start really thinking about how much time I spend answering emails as opposed to getting work done. Marc really brought up a good point – emails aren’t necessarily needed to be answered immediately. We’ve gotten to a point where we expect to hear back right away, get an instant response and that’s a dangerous place to be.

    1. Sté Kerwer

      Hello John, it’s not only about the time you spend answering emails, but also the “cost” of the non-stop interruptions and the time needed to get back into what you were doing before.

  12. Dale
    Dale

    It depends on the type of work you do, your personality and your style of productivity. People are not machines; everyone should do what works for them.

    1. Sté Kerwer

      Of course people are not machine. But taking this approach means that you can throw productivity and goals out the window… because we’re not machines after all. It sounds like a cookie-cutter reply, but productivity is productivity and there are some recommendations that apply for everyone.

  13. Keith Matthews
    Keith Matthews

    I’m wiping tears of laughter from my eyes! Why? Because I find people who find “reasons” for not following proven advice to increase productivity (aka “making more money”), after taking the time to read said advice, then arguing with the adviser….too funny!

    But, then I’m a bit warped. The observation of human behavior is a passion of mine.

    Good advice. I wish I had thought of it first. But, then again, I’m learning…

    Thanks!

  14. Jules
    Jules

    I am divided on this issue, pretty much a constant state of mind.

    1. There are few distractions as complete as email. So many messages, so little me. Add in that most of my business – crochet & book/site/product reviews – schedules via email, and one login kills the day.

    Admittedly, the reviews are rarely urgent and, given the posts and other work in my average day, acknowledgement and scheduling could easily wait until EOD. Or at least land on a lower rung of my to-do list.

    2. However … As an ecommerce / small business owner, my situation is slightly different. Each product I sell is crocheted when ordered and has a set creation timeframe – from 2 to 14 business days, depending on size. It is critical that I know – immediately – when an order is received.

    Therefore, I start my day checking email and continue to check throughout the day. I suppose, as 99% of my orders process through PayPal, that I could simply check that account, instead. It would be less likely to drag me into the morass of timesucking distraction that is email.

    Something to think about.

    1. Sté Kerwer

      Jules, your explanation about your ecommerce site does make sense, but only to a certain extent. Why don’t you just check orders twice a day? Say: 10am and 6pm. And orders received after 6pm would be processed the next day. It sounds like a more practical approach and would remove the non-stop email checking fro myour schedule.

  15. Meg
    Meg

    One point : you say “email is not instantaneous” however, in my field of work (worlwide Production support for banking applications), email is THE main means of communications. I work with Asia, the Americas & Europe so when it’s morning for us in Europe, it’s already afternoon for India and they are anxiously awaiting the support ! I agree that for the most urgent issues, an email (filled with detailed explanations) is usually followed by an instant message asking me to read it, or a phone call. But you can’t get into as much detail over the phone (content of log files, …) as in an email.
    So for Production Support, I would say from experience that it is mandatory to check email several times a day … you are right in the fact that we need to set aside some time to answer the time consuming emails (these can be put on a “will-do list”) but for the Production Incidents, these require immediate attention & need to be seen as soon as possible …

    1. Sté Kerwer

      Thanks for sharing your experience Meg!

  16. Edye Deloch-Hughes

    I understand the logic behind what you propose. But I don’t think that advice is good for everyone, especially those who are looking for a job. Many times an invite to an interview or a freelance gig is waiting in your inbox. If you don’t respond fast enough, the employer will go to the next candidate. Your advice is good for hose secure in their jobs and are bombarded with requests and stuf to do from others, etc. But if you are looking for that next money maker or you must respond tothing else that is urgent and time-sensitive. You better check that email. Now, I think opening all of your emails is another story. Being selective and timely is the key.

    1. Sté Kerwer

      Thanks for sharing your experience Edye. I’m talking about a working environment. When you are looking for a job, you are supposed to be actively looking for it… So checking your email is part of your priority tasks.