So you followed the last ritual blog and established your own before a presentation, but maybe somehow things still got in the way (like every day life.) This, quite simply, can be called: presentation sabotage.
Let me walk you through a scenario, using emails as a main example:
The morning of your presentation you are ready. You check your emails…oh no! Unanswered messages, junk mail, videos your friends have sent you; there are problems everywhere – or so it seems. But are they really problems? Why is this a problem, especially on the day of a big presentation? This is why:
#1 –Morning time is when you’re supposed to be rested, refreshed and productive: Email can take you out of this quiet environment. Just say no to the distraction. When you get up, work on something that needs your undivided attention right away and work on this for 45 minutes to an hour. Then if you have to check your email, go for it. Do you really need to get distracted by that funny YouTube video or link right before you finish your duties for the morning?
#2 – Email, among other things, can be a great avoidance technique: Either you have not set your goals for the day or you are procrastinanting. Neither works. If you are checking your email first, stop and make your to-do list for the day and week. It will refocus and remember to ask yourself: Why are you checking email first thing in the morning anyway? Frequently it’s because you don’t know what you’re supposed to be working on. When you don’t have a clear list of priorities, checking email becomes an urgent activity that you do at the expense of your important ones.
#3 – When will you stop? How long do you spend? Have you ever timed yourself?: Just as I suggest you time your presentations or speeches, you must time how long you spend on your email. Try it. How long was it? One hour? Three hours? In fact, I have had days where I’ve checked my email, and have not finished until after lunch or even 2 p.m.! IT is not just the email, it is the activities that involves. Checking documents, looking for files, organizing…the list can go on forever. Before you check your email, set a time limit.
#4 – People expect you to respond immediately: Many people believe they have to respond immediately in the morning. Of course, there are things that need your immediate attention. But not every request must be answered immediately. You can establish your own process. There are some requests that require immediate responses, but they’re much less frequent than you might think. Do you know why people expect a response from you in the morning? It’s probably because you’ve always responded first thing in the morning and you’ve built up that expectation. The more often you check email, the more often people will expect you to check it.
If You *Must* Check Email…
Some of you may protest – “That’s how I keep in touch with my team!” or “I need to hear back before I can move forward.” I can understand that – there are times when I am expecting to hear back on something important (not just urgent) and do briefly check email first thing in the morning as well.
Here’s the thing: If you must, constrain yourself to only check a limited subset of emails, and I recommend you follow these rules:
- Only check if there is something specific you are looking for: Most importantly – don’t go fishing around. Check it with a specific plan, a specific email you’re looking for from a specific person.
- Separate low value emails: via filters (“rules” in Outlook) or separate email addresses so you don’t even see them in your inbox when you check.
- Set a time limit: Commit to checking for five minutes, just to look for that one piece of information – and have your exit strategy ready. Before you open your inbox, decide what you’ll do if 1) the email is there 2) the email isn’t there 3) the email is incomplete. Don’t be reactionary – proactively decide what action you will take based on the outcomes you expect.