Don’t check email first thing in the morning. Why? Because it puts the demands and requests of others in front of the ones that you’ve set for the day in advance. So don’t do it.
Unless you have a way of dealing with email that keep you mission-based rather than question-based. That means checking email with the mission “Here are the emails I know I have to deal with today/right now” instead of the question, “I wonder what emails I have?” If you need to start off your day with email, go in with a mission, not a question.
Don’t use your calendar as a task scheduler. Doing this only fills your calendar up with things that aren’t date/time specific, and it doesn’t allow the things on your calendar that are to stand out. The calendar is your most sacred haven because it is where you have the most control to protect your time. Use it sparingly. So don’t use your calendar to schedule tasks.
Unless the tasks are important enough that you want to make measured progress with them and finish them well before deadline. Another reason to put tasks on your calendar that aren’t date-specific are when you struggle with them when they are only in your task app. Exercise is one of those things for me. Timeful can be a really helpful app for both of these types of tasks (iOS only, unfortunately).
Don’t focus on working by project all the time. Projects are often linear and have dependencies that are out of your control. Some variables require follow-up and others require time-based variables that you simply have to wait on. If you constantly work with a project-based mindset then you run the risk of getting stuck and losing time rather than being proactive and progressive. So don’t always work by project.
Unless the project is a major area of focus and need to be dealt with before anything else can be. That may mean renaming the project or reclassifying it so that it gets your attention week before it starts to overwhelm you. It also means using contexts within the project (or modes) so that you can easily shift gears along the way. Ideally, you want to be able to work by project and by context/mode. But when you’re heads down in a deeply involved project, using contextual lenses or modes can keep you moving things forward when things start to stagnate.
I know that there are no absolutes that are constant. Things change and what all strategies don’t work for everyone. Salespeople can’t hold off on checking email nearly as much as others. Realtors need to use their calendars far more than those who don’t have showings set for specific dates and times. Project managers that have only one big project need to work by project more often than others because the project stalls otherwise. For every “don’t” there will be an “unless” and that’s fine.
Just make sure that the “unless” is validated internally. Otherwise it turns from a reason into an excuse. And excuses can hold your effectiveness and efficiency back far more than reasons ever can.