Rat Race designed by Luis Prado from The Noun Project

Rat Race designed by Luis Prado from The Noun Project

Edit: This experiment is over! See the results, and what we’ve learned, here.

What’s the very first thing you do in the morning? For most of us, it’s immediately grabbing our phone to see if we received any messages, texts, or emails. And while you’re there, you might as well respond too — and suddenly you just spent half an hour doing work before even getting out of bed.

At the end of the day, you know your office or job is not going to crash and burn if you wait until actually getting there to start, and it’s not good for our psyche or productivity to begin with that way.

The “No Email in the Mornings” rule is one lauded time and time again as a productivity no-brainer, but it can be hard. I’m designating myself as lab rat to test out these theories in real life, during an actual work week, to see if no emails in the morning are realistic or more idealist. 

While I could never cut out email completely, every (business) day of this coming week, I will not check my email until 11 a.m. If you want to watch me struggle or miraculously reach productivity enlightenment, I’ll be sharing my experience in the @99U Twitter with the hashtag #labrat starting on Monday. Feel free to join in experimenting with me, even if you decide to do it for shorter blocks or maybe for you it’s right before bed — just make sure to include #labrat in your tweets so I can find you.

  • Anshu

    I’m in…lets do this.

    • Guest

      I do this periodically and NEVER regret it. It’s great to start your day making progress on an important project. It sets the tone for a really good day.

    • Sasha

      How’s it going so far?

      • Anshu

        Great so far! I had a strong reason to check email on Tuesday because I was expecting positive responses from two prospective clients, but I held on to my commitment until 11:00 am.

  • http://ThatGuyKC.com/ ThatGuyKC

    I’d love to do this, but the function of my job necessitates the need to constantly be in Outlook. It’s where my work gets queued up. : Someday I’ll break the chain.

    • Sasha

      Hey, I hear you — when my editor-in-chief first suggested this I told her there was no way I could. My job includes all of our social media, AND monitoring comments, answering inquiries… all email all of the time. Her answer? “Oh, well then you definitely need to try this.”

      • http://ThatGuyKC.com/ ThatGuyKC

        Haha! Well then…🙂

  • Wendy Smits

    I am going to do this. For a few clients I am available everywhere, even on Facebook. They send me messages on Facebook and e-mails so I really feel the need to respond right away. It’s my own fault, since I started like that so my clients have the idea that I am online all the time. How to change that? Just explain them?

    • Jake Davies


      I’m just send the message with something like: «Hey guys, I feel the need and/or I want to increase my productivity, and since we’ve working on «something», I want you to support me. Starting today lets manage our collaboration more wisely»… And from this point you could develop your own comfortable habit that will make both of you happy🙂 For me it’s really good to have 10 minutes calls on Skype, Hangouts, FaceTime, you name it, everyday starting at exactly same time to have clear vision on what is goin’ on for today from client’s side and from my own. Nothing heavy, but I think that all is needed. Just discuss this with personal on the other side of the internet/phone. We’re all humans🙂

    • Sasha

      So, how did you do today?? One more hour to go here and it is amazing how ingrained going to check my email is. I keep catching myself!

      • Wendy Smits

        Gotta say: Sometimes when waking up I have the urge, but only because it has become a daily pattern. I now open up my e-mail after getting up and having breakfast and having my dose of coffee. It’s really a bad thing to stress out on stuff before even going out of bed! Now I am more relaxed. For my customer’s it takes getting used to though😉

  • Sarah Peterson

    I have done this for a couple of weeks now, ever since reading Managing Your Day to Day (which is BRILLIANT guys… I’m buying a copy for every one of my co-workers for Christmas). I’ve been literally 150% more productive. Never going back.

  • Shawndra Russell

    I wish everyone did this! Actually doing creative work, brainstorming, prioritizing and other more challenging tasks first before getting wrapped up in email and putting out fires has been such a gamechanger for me.

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