If you looked for texts, realize that it’s rare to hear a ping in the middle of the night. What kind of text would likely be there, after all? Is there a joke from a drunk buddy partying in Vegas? Did your spouse who left the bed earlier text you something lovely to wake up to? Doubtful.
Next you open your inbox. Why? Is there something so important you must do it this instant? Is there an email you need to send before you wipe the sleep from your eyes? No, because you would have sent it last night. But you open your inbox anyway.
You aren’t alone. Recent studies suggest almost 80 percent of cellphone users sleep with their phones in their bedrooms. Among entrepreneurs, I bet that number is even higher. So why is reaching for the phone first thing such a problem? Because how you start the day sets the tone for the rest of your day.
If your first act is to check for texts or emails, then someone else sets your priorities before you’ve had breakfast. And those emails seek your time, attention, help and brain space. You start your day being reactive to other people rather than proactive about your goals. You have surrendered control—which is crucial to your well-being, success and happiness—to others.
Think a second: You’re lying in bed reading emails that arrived while you slept. Emails from marketers, colleagues, vendors and bosses flood your brain. Before you’re even vertical, someone else’s needs come before yours.
If your phone doesn’t receive emails, you aren’t off the hook. I guarantee you either fire up the computer as soon as you leave your bedroom or as soon as you arrive at work. That means you check your inbox before you even get organized.
Do not ever do that again.
Before you read about a 25 percent off sale, before a reminder alerts you that a PowerPoint is due, before a colleague turns you into her errand boy, take control of your day.
Instead, do a “brain dump” for five to 10 minutes without opening that inbox on your phone, laptop or other computer. This consists of dumping all your projects, to-dos, reminders and priorities onto a piece of paper. Then highlight the top three things on the list that you need to deal with today, things that matter most to you.
This starts your day by focusing on what’s important to you. I make my notes in a 3-by-5-inch notebook that I carry everywhere so I can continue brain-dumping all day.
Next—still without visiting that inbox—open your calendar and find a 30-minute block in your day when you can focus on your top three things uninterrupted. It doesn’t matter when that block happens. It can be the first 30 minutes at work, waiting in the car for your child’s soccer practice to end or after you watch a ball game tonight. Find the time and schedule it.
All right, you’ve given your needs priority over everyone else’s and you’ve taken control of your day. You may now open your inbox.