Increase Your Productivity With No Meetings or Email Before 11am

In: BlogDate: May 30, 2022By: Henry Stewart

Having no meetings and not checking email before 11am is the Monk Mode Morning concept that Bruce Daisley set out in his book The Joy of Work.

Since my holiday I have adopted it and spend the first 2.5 hours of each morning getting stuff done. I can manage 5 Pomodoros (25 minute focused sessions) in that time. How would your day be if you could get your most important tasks done before 11?

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I have blocked out those hours in my diary for the foreseeable future, so colleagues don't book stuff in. Obviously if I'm doing a full day of facilitation I can't do it, but I'm probably managing it three days a week (out of four).

Getting those key important tasks done at the beginning of the day is making a huge difference.

One of the things that prompted me was reading about Jeff Bezos in The Hard Work Myth by Barnaby Lashbrooke. In contrast to fellow billionaire Elon Musk, who is said to put in 100 hour work weeks, Jeff takes a more relaxed approach.

"I like to putter in the mornings. I like to read the newspaper, I like to have coffee, I like to have breakfast with my kids before they go to school. My puttering time is very important to me."

He sets his first meeting for 10am and likes to do his 'high IQ' meetings before lunch, when he feels he is at his best.

By 5pm if he is asked to make a decision, he will leave it to the next day.

In WhenDaniel Pink sets out how important the time of day is for effective work and decision making. For me that time is the morning.

The night before I will set down the four most important tasks that I have to do the next day. Then, for that 2.5 hours, I will complete them with a huge sense of satisfaction.

At 11am I check my inbox for the first time. Those who have read my previous blogs will know that I practice 321zero:

  • 3: Check your in box only three times a day
  • 21: Set your timer to 21 minutes
  • Zero: Reduce your in box to zero

This approach has worked for me for five years and means that I never have email overload. Above all I am not checking my email inbox in every spare moment. Instead I am timeboxing it to be done in three focused slots.

And you know what? It means I actually look forward to doing my email. I really enjoy that focus of getting my email down to zero — and, as there are a few dozen emails — there is usually something fun or interesting in there.

After that I feel I have deserved a hot chocolate, which I have either at home or in a café on the way to work. And I take time to reflect. (Yes, I’m at home for the 8.30 to 11:00 time. But then I only have a rather fun 14 minute cycle commute to work.)

For the rest of the day I may chat with colleagues, have meetings, talk to clients. But I have the firm base of knowing I’ve already completed my key tasks.

Would this work for you? I have worked on productivity now with many organisations and I can tell you for absolute certain that the normal approach of multi-tasking, of checking your email regularly, the 'hive mind' approach, is not effective.

What does work is 'time boxing' your activities so that you are clearly focused on one thing at a time.

How would your day be if you could get your most important tasks done before 11?

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Henry Stewart, Founder and Chief Happiness Officer

Henry is founder and Chief Happiness Officer of Happy Ltd, originally set up as Happy Computers in 1987. Inspired by Ricardo Semler’s book Maverick, he has built a company which has won multiple awards for some of the best customer service in the country and being one of the UK’s best places to work.

Henry was listed in the Guru Radar of the Thinkers 50 list of the most influential management thinkers in the world. "He is one of the thinkers who we believe will shape the future of business," explained list compiler Stuart Crainer.

His first book, Relax, was published in 2009. His second book, the Happy Manifesto, was published in 2013 and was short-listed for Business Book of the Year.

You can find Henry on LinkedIn and follow @happyhenry on Twitter.

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