Read the email.

Look at the ticket.

Check the attachment.

Open the bill.

Listen to the voicemail.

One productivity rule I've had to make for myself is "read it now". Reading can sometimes mean listening or analyzing depending on how whatever it is hits my inbox, but it always means "take time to understand this thing". Errors of assumption about what a given message might contain, or how long a potential assignment might take, have disrupted my schedule more than a few times as I've been settling into a new job.

Worse than schedule disruptions is the anxiety. I've ruined a whole evening after reading only the iOS lock-screen preview of an email message and thinking I knew what the rest of the email contained. I'm not sure how I thought not reading the rest would make me feel any better about the imagined bad news, but that's how anxiety works sometimes.

I try to let being on the receiving end of someone not following the "read it now" guideline strengthen my resolve rather than degrade my patience. It's not always easy.

It's important to note I'm not advocating for constantly checking your email or building systems to send every notification to every place you can all at once. In fact, splitting your attention across so many notifications often prevents you from actually reading and understanding the damn thing already in front of your face.

I build a lot of little rules for myself to help manage my attention, anxiety, and bad habits. Focusing on this particular rule for the past few months has helped me understand how much skimming, perusing, glancing, checking, peeking, poking, and various other incarnations of looking-at-a-thing-but-not-really-understanding-it I'm capable of in a given work day.

So instead? I just try to read it the first time.

AuthorScott Kubie