Use a checklist to control your email addiction

So what was your most terrible anti-productive habit in 2012? Mine was checking email. On my desktop, iPad and iPhone, morning, noon, night, between and during and before and after everything else.

Killing this habit in 2013 would be the #1 thing I could do to increase productivity. And maybe, just maybe, I’ve chanced upon an approach that will work.

Make a mobile checklist of your email checks and check off a check each and every time you check email.

A little unpacking is in order.

Having bought nearly every todo managing piece of software in the past 20 years for every platform I’ve used, I decided this year to separate enumerated lists of simple tasks into one software stream available and synched on my macs, iPad and iPhone. Simple tasks/things go there, project planning – figuring out how to accomplish and execute work that matters elsewhere (more about that in a future post).

I wanted the absolutely barest amount of overhead for managing day-to-day stuff: shopping list, what I need to do for our cats, daily routine todos, ideas. And it has to be utterly usable on my phone since I, like you, have my phone within 3 feet of me all of the time (relevant stats).

Enter Cheddar. Free on the web, Mac. If you need more than two lists, you’ll pony up $5.99 for 3 months to 19.99 a year. It’s the absolutely minimalist attractive checklist-making software experience I’ve ever seen, synching happens instantly and combined with Siri, a near-frictionless way to track simple tasks.

So besides a Daily Plan checklist, a Family with Fur checklist, a Store List, a Post Ideas list, etc., I added one more this morning: Allowed Email Checks. I’m starting with 5 allowed checks, and hope to par it down to 3. Every time I check email, I am forcing myself to check that off in Cheddar on my phone.

Email controls us because it takes literally no thought at all to stop what you are doing and see what’s in your inbox. By adding the commitment to check off each such self-inflicted interruption in Cheddar, I am forcing myself to think before I act. This new habit has already prevented a half dozen interruptions of whatever else I was doing this morning.

And, since all too often todo lists are places tasks go I’m not motivated to die, maybe some of that will wear off on my most anti-productive behavior. That would be a very good thing.

So how are you going to reduce your email bondage in 2013? Please share your ideas!

Cheddar