Image for post
Image for post

Why You Should Do Your Work First, Others’ Work Second

Andrew Merle
Jul 14, 2015 · 3 min read

I stopped checking my email first thing in the morning several years ago after reading Tim Ferriss’ . He said that one simple change would be a life-changer, and it has been for me.

The reason why it works is because it enables proactive work first, reactive work second.

Even when we have clear top priorities for the day, checking email first thing can easily derail those plans by compelling us to react and respond to other people’s “urgent” needs. And before you know it, the day has been totally eaten up, and our energy drained, before we can get started on our own projects.

This is why , James B. Duke Professor of Psychology and Behavioral Economics at Duke University, says “It would probably be best if managers went to the IT department and asked that email not be distributed between 8 and 11 every morning.”

The experts say that it is key to block off time in the morning whenever possible to do the work that is most important to you, including focusing on long-term projects without an immediate payoff. If you don’t build big-picture meaningful work right into your daily calendar, it will always get crowded out by the small stuff.

Best-selling author and researcher reinforces this point by saying, “What you will be most proud of a decade from now will not be anything that was a result of you simply responding.” He recommends to, “Manage your communications, online and offline, instead of letting them run your life. If you don’t, you will inadvertently spend a majority of your time responding to other people’s needs instead of creating anything that lasts.”

We are busier than ever and there are dozens of things every day to divert our attention, so it now seems that that maintaining our focus is actually our biggest competitive advantage. Entrepreneur , named to Fast Company’s “100 Most Creative People in Business List”, says that “Whatever the future of technology may hold, the greatest leaders will be those most capable of tuning into themselves and harnessing the full power of their own minds.”

It is actually easiest to get sucked into a day of busyness and bouncing from one urgent thing to the next. Perhaps that’s why the best leaders and creative minds seem to agree that giving ourselves time to think, and focusing on our top priorities before others’ needs, is a key to long-term productivity and success.

In a world filled with distraction, I know that I’ll keep looking for ways to harness my attention and preserve more space to focus on the big picture. As Henry David Thoreau said, “It is not enough to be busy. So are the ants. The question is: What are we busy about?”

Now just imagine if there were no meetings and no email before 11am — perhaps that is the way of the future!

— — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — -

If you enjoyed this post, please hit the “recommend” button below. Thanks!

Several of the quotes in this post come from a great little book called:

Want to read more stories like this? Read my most recent post

Life Hack: Your Story, Experience, etc

This is a collection for writers who share their life story…

Andrew Merle

Written by

Certified Nutritionist who writes about living well. Subscribe to my email list at andrewmerle.com.

Life Hack: Your Story, Experience, etc

This is a collection for writers who share their life story and experience. This collection is managed by @tkwyoung and @aptnumber2.

Andrew Merle

Written by

Certified Nutritionist who writes about living well. Subscribe to my email list at andrewmerle.com.

Life Hack: Your Story, Experience, etc

This is a collection for writers who share their life story and experience. This collection is managed by @tkwyoung and @aptnumber2.

Welcome to a place where words matter. On Medium, smart voices and original ideas take center stage - with no ads in sight. Watch

Follow all the topics you care about, and we’ll deliver the best stories for you to your homepage and inbox. Explore

Get unlimited access to the best stories on Medium — and support writers while you’re at it. Just $5/month. Upgrade

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store