Why You Should Never Sit On an Email You Could Answer Right Now

Plus, the reason I removed all alerts and notifications from my phone and how AHA moments give me energy.

When you have the opportunity to ask some of the most interesting people in the world about their lives, sometimes the most fascinating answers come from the simplest questions. The Thrive Questionnaire is an ongoing series that gives an intimate look inside the lives of some of the world’s most successful people.

Thrive Global: What’s the first thing you do when you get out of bed?
Alexandra Cavoulacos: During the week, the first thing I do is check my email and have a big glass of water. I’m not a big morning person so once I get up, I start my workday right away. On the weekends, I’ll usually pick up a book, or relax a bit with my husband before doing anything productive. Having that time to recharge is precious to me, since I don’t get enough of it.

TG: What gives you energy?
AC: Sleep. Enough of it, ideally. Barring that, I’m most energized by those AHA moments when spark of a good idea turns into something, and you can already see the potential coming to life.

TG: What’s your secret life hack?
AC: Don’t wait. My life hack is that whenever possible, I deal with things now. And compared to the average person, that puts me at a competitive advantage. I reply to emails as soon as I know the answer, I delegate quickly, and I don’t dilly-dally when I’m 90% sure of a decision. As a result, things move off my plate quickly and I reduce the very real cognitive burden that comes from having an unfinished thought or unmade decision shacking up in your subconscious. You can’t always be perfect or right, and I believe that extra time spent agonizing over decisions that are most of the way there are almost always negative ROI. There are very few decisions that are so critical that you can’t risk being a little wrong. Save your time and thoroughness for those.

TG: Tell us about your relationship with your phone. Does it sleep with you? 
AC: My phone and I have a co-dependent relationship, but I’ve done a better job of drawing boundaries since I did a tech curfew last year. The key for me has been removing all alerts and notifications from my phone, so that I choose when to check it, and then being super careful on weekends and on vacation. It’s easy to develop a Pavlovian response to your phone, reaching for that Gmail app without even realizing that you’re doing it. I like to use airplane mode strategically and on my honeymoon went so far as to delete email off my phone for two full weeks.

TG: How do you deal with email?
AC: Quickly and constantly. As a startup founder, especially a very product and operationally focused one, it’s easy for me to become a bottleneck. My email strategy is to process emails as quickly as possible and to avoid touching them more than once. Re-reading and re-thinking about an email over and over again is wasted time. If I can reply, forward, hand off or archive an email, I’ll do it right away. If not, I try to set expectations for when I can get back to people. Oh and I’m also a huge Boomerang super user; removing emails that aren’t currently relevant from your field of vision leads to more focus.

TG: You unexpectedly find 15 minutes in your day, what do you do with it?
AC: If I’m not intentional about it, the 15 minutes will go to email, every time. I really value answering people quickly, so it’s a natural habit. I’ve become more intentional recently of looking at my day, and if the unexpected 15 minutes are my only break that day, I’ll go for a walk around the block or get a cup of coffee to get a mental break and reboot.

TG: Share a quote that you love and that gives you strength or peace.
AC: I’ve always loved the quote from Walt Disney: “It’s kind of fun to do the impossible.” I’ve had it it on my desk since before starting The Muse to remind me that there are no limits to what we can envision, create and build.


Alexandra Cavoulacos is the founder and COO of TheMuse.com, a career platform used by over 50 million people every year to find a job, learn professional skills or advance in their careers, and by hundreds of companies looking to hire or grow their employer brand. She is also the co-author of “The New Rules of Work: The Modern Playbook for Navigating Your Career” published in April 2017 by Crown Business/Penguin Random House.