The 4-Hour Workweek

Week One – The Email Diet
The first Timothy Ferriss productivity hack I tested out was to regulate my email activity. In short, allow my email to pile up and attend to it in one swoop, at noon and 4 pm. Since I’m usually paralyzed with hunger by noon, I opted for 11 am and 3 pm. Here’s how it went:

Day 1
I can’t quite bring myself to not check as soon as I get to work. It’s Monday morning, after all. I scan through and answer exactly one, because there’s a media deadline waiting on it. Total time is less than five minutes.
While I do check my email, I ignore my Outlook calendar list, and miss the fact that it’s my day to empty our communal dishwasher. Oops.
I plan to check at 11 am but get too wrapped up in my main project for the day. I finally do check again at almost 1:30. I’m a little bit appalled at how much of it can simply be read and tossed. Total time: 22 minutes.
I kind of fall apart in the afternoon and answer a few as they come in. Tomorrow, I’ll do better. : )
Day 2
I look quickly first thing in the morning. One gets forwarded and I answer one because it’s related to a media release that needs to go out pretty quick. Total time is still less than five minutes.
Again, I plan to check at 11 am, but don’t actually do it until 3:30 pm. I’ve left the notification bar active, so I can see the sender and the subject line when emails arrive. This is enough to assure me that I don’t have to actually go and look at the email in question. When I finally do sit down with the email, it takes a total of 43 minutes.
Day 3
I’m late for work, arrive flustered and the rest of the day is about the same. Still and all, I do get things done and don’t really spend that much time on email.
Day 4
We get hit by a massive snowstorm, necessitating email around the re-scheduling of evening meetings and tweeting to warn patrons that the bookmobile’s schedule is altered. The day is pretty much a disaster as far as controlling email.
Day 5
The morning goes well. I still haven’t mastered the ability to stop at regular times of the day and go look at my email – I’m cheating and sneaking peeks as things come in. But overall, I’m not spending inordinate amounts of time attending to email.

I’d say that this first experiment has been a success. I obviously have some work to do in the self-discipline department, but I think Mr. Ferriss has made himself valuable. Oddly enough, there’s a spin-off effect, in that I feel much calmer about my work than I have in weeks. Go figure.

Because of the Easter holiday, the next two weeks will be short weeks in my office. We’ll tackle another of the Timothy Ferriss productivity hacks when my work world goes back to normal.

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