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Taking back your own time: No e-mail before lunch (noon)

I know I’m privileged in that my own institution and my colleagues are very respectful of my time. They’re also extraordinarily considerate of my schedules. I am very vocal about my routines, so anybody who either follows me on Twitter or interacts with me on a regular basis know a few things about my schedule.

  • I wake up very, very early (4 am) to start writing.
  • By the time I hit 11 am, I’ve already almost put in a full day of work.
  • If you want my undivided attention, schedule meetings with me any time after 11 am (preferably 12, 12:30 or 1pm).
  • I won’t be attending meetings scheduled 24 hours in advance. I simply won’t. My schedule fills up weeks in advance.
  • I break the rule above only with real emergencies, particularly when it has to do with students, payments, etc.
  • I tell people my response time is anywhere between 24 and 72 hours. If I don’t respond, send me a friendly reminder 3 days after your first email.

I remember Dr. Jo Van Every (a good friend of mine, and well-known academic coach) telling me that there are no emergencies in academia, and for the most part (99% of the time) I agree.

I’ve instituted a “No Email Before Noon” rule for a very long time. If you REALLY need to communicate with me, you probably have my iMessage, my Telegram, or my cell phone.

The problem with letting someone else control your day by sending you an important email BEFORE noon is that you are no longer in control of what you need to do. Write on your planner or your Everything Notebook those emails you need to respond to by a certain date.

I shared my “No Email Before Lunch” rule with my friends Dr. Josh Gellers and Dr. Amanda Bittner.

One thing that is important as numerous friends of mine ask me – is it ok if you only read or do research before noon or when you wake up early? I think it’s perfectly valid. Anything that moves your research forward (coding interviews, typing notes into your Excel conceptual synthesis, reading and scribbling, assembling or cleaning datasets, cleaning references in Mendeley) should be considered solid work.

A lot of people ask me if I do the same (no social media before lunch). I pre-schedule most of my content tweets, so I actually am writing or doing research while many of my tweets come out. I like answering to people because I think Twitter is and should be a conversation, so often times I answer tweets before noon while I’m having breakfast or commuting to work. But yes, no email before lunch is the best time saver I’ve found.

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Continuing the Discussion

  1. The “Accomplish Two Things Before Anything Else” approach: Dealing with academic life under pressure – Raul Pacheco-Vega, PhD linked to this post on August 28, 2019

    […] am currently chairing two searches for new tenure-track faculty and thus I can’t use my No Email Before Noon rule at least until the searches are completed, so I’ve been trying to find a way in which I […]

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