Without realizing it, most of us have entered the new era of what I call “reactionary workflow.” Rather than being proactive with our energy, we are acting in response to what is incoming. Having relinquished control over our focus, it has become harder and harder to embark on our work with intention.
Amidst the research for my upcoming book on extremely productive creative people and teams, I have found that the “uber productive” actively develop methods for defying this new and dangerous trend. They impose discipline on themselves and set up blockades when necessary. And, most importantly, they have a “separation of church and state” philosophy for communications and actionable stuff.
I’ve interviewed a number of people who literally quit (or minimize) their email program at certain times during the day. For example, Piers Fawkes, founder and editor of PSFK, reserves a good chunk of his morning – from 7-10am every day – to do research and digest the day’s trends and news prior to going through his email. Proactively blocking out time for creating – rather than just responding – is a key tactic of productive creatives.
You should also consider keeping the “actionable” stuff in your life separate from your email and calendars. Whether through post-it notes, action management programs (like ActionMethod.com), or even using a separate color pen or notebook for items requiring activity, try to manage your action steps in a sacred space. Doing so will empower you to prioritize and focus on the stuff you want (and need) to do, rather than living a life reacting to whatever flows in.