How To Put Creative Work First

by Jess Brown

Last year I went on vacation to Okaloosa Island. Going on vacation for a small business owner is tough. I usually get Scott to check my email for me, handle anything pressing, and respond to others telling them I'm out of town. On this trip though, he was going to be out of town too. So I decided I'd check email once in the morning and once around lunch. To my surprise, I was able to 1) quickly process email, and 2) no one really seemed to notice I "didn't respond right away".

Creative work first

I recently read Manage Your Day-to-Day: Build Your Routine, Find Your Focus, and Sharpen Your Creative Mind. Close to the beginning of the book, I picked up on a quote:

The single most important change you can make in your working habits is to switch to creative work first, reactive work second. This means blocking off a large chunk of time every day for creative work on your own priorities, with the phone and e-mail off.

That coincides with a tip read a long time ago that suggested to never check email first thing in the morning.

Email is definitely reactive work. You can sit around for hours answering email and getting distracted from your creative work.

How to turn email off

The problem with ignoring email is that I need my email to work. Clients send me copy, images, instructions, etc and I need access to that. But if I go to my inbox and see new messages, it's too tempting to get distracted. I recently found a tool for gmail to turn email off. It's called Inbox Pause. Inbox pause helps by pausing your new incoming email. It does this by adding a hidden label to the email. Your email will be delivered to the inbox in one of two ways. You can manually unpause your inbox, or you an setup a schedule for emails to be delivered. I use the latter so I can stick to a schedule of blocking off time for creative work and blocking off time for email.

My email arrives at 12:30p so I can check either before or after I get back from lunch and at 4:30p so I can check at the end of the day and make sure there's nothing urgent to do before going home and so I can plan accordingly for the following day.

This process has been working for me so far ( I'm happy enough to write a blog post about it ). I can focus on my creative work, I can focus on knocking out email when I'm done, and I'm not distracted by email in the evening when I should be spending time with my family.

I know there's thousands of strategies to handling email so choose your flavor, but I'd definitely recommend giving this one a try. Here's a short clip about it:

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