No Email Before 8:00AM
Updated: Sep 5, 2022
Gabriella’s voice trumpets over mine, “Hold it. What the f*ck did you just say? … did you just say you don’t read email until 8AM?”
Though in jest, it was the first time our VP of Ops had cursed me out. But, I’m ahead of myself. So I’ll start at the beginning and explain why emails can wait until after 8AM.
Squinting into the laptop, I fine-tune conclusions within the client specification. The keyboard clicks and clacks as I press into next steps. It’s Tuesday and the doc’s due next week so we’re in good shape. But still, the engineering team needs lots of time to review. From across our open office space, laughter uncoils from a conference room. Looking up, I spy my partner regaling the design team with a story. He’s animated; arms swinging this way and that before pointing to a drawing on the white board. Again, the room howls. Suppressing a desire to join the fun, I peek at the clock in the lower corner of the screen.
“Shit.” It’s late.
I run spell check, add the word ‘draft’ to the title page, and save to the client drive. With my daughter Gee heading out to her swim team event within an hour, and my son’s hockey practice set for seven, and Sandy on call for the evening, I have to hustle home to get dinner ready for Gee and DJ. Shutting the laptop, I stuff reading materials into my backpack.
As my laptop fills the bag’s remaining space, our VP of Ops steps before my desk. I look up from efforts to jam five pounds of poop into a three pound bag as Gabriella clears her throat, “Hey.”
Our no-nonsense VP crosses arms and stands astride. Well-tanned, her arms appear strong.
I respond with a nod, “Hello Most Excellent Gabriella. I’m heading home to do the dad thing so if there’s anything I can help you with tell me now. Otherwise, it’ll have to wait ‘till tomorrow.” Gabriella cocks an eyebrow as I continue, “Oh, and you crushed it with Oxford today. Utterly crushed it. I mean, that client loves you.” I tilt my head, “You’re making those folks even smarter than they already are. And they’re already full blown brainiacs! They think you’re a rock star. You know that, right?”
Gabriella drops her chin and offers a nod in the affirmative. Feet firmly set; her arms remain crossed. She’s a bad @ss and she knows it. She cocks a hip. Finally, she extends arms, leans forward, and presses palms into my desk, “Thank you. They’re awesome so it’s fun helping them. Easy, in fact. But anyway, I saw you packing up so I figured I’d get you before you left.” She fidgets. “The thing is, I got slammed this afternoon and didn’t get to the budget vs. actual reports we talked about.”
I nod, “OK. Will you have them finished before our two o’clock tomorrow? They’re pretty eye opening. And they tell the story clear as day. No drama, no opinions; just facts telling us who needs help.”
Gabriella stands straight, juts her chin, and returns arms to their crossed position, “Yea, I agree. Those reports are great.” Her brow furrows, “But anyway, I can have them for you tonight; right after dinner. Maybe by … ten?”
“Tonight? At ten?” I shake my head before continuing, “I’ll take a pass on that offer. In fact let’s be as clear as a budget report and say absolutely, without question, ‘No!’ Rather than work on budget vs. actuals this evening, how about you go home and enjoy some tea or a glass of wine (Gabriella nods vigorously) and catch your breath? Besides, I guarantee with 100% certainty, I will not look at those reports tonight. Not for one second.” With a smirk, I conclude in the language her grandmother speaks at home, “Capeesh?”
Gabriella cackles, “Oh my God! If you’re gonna try, at least get it right. It’s capisce. With the accent in the middle.” She shakes her hand as she schools me in Italian.
Mouthing the word back, I shrug. Then, tilting my head to the side, I remain silent.
She frowns. Then begins to pace, “OK. How ‘bout this; I’ll bang them out early tomorrow and get them to you by 7:00AM? Sound good?”
With a bit of drama, I raise my voice, “Seven AM? That’s even worse than tonight! So, no! Absolutely do not, under any circumstances, work late or get up early to work on budget reports. In fact, if you do do that, and I do receive your report after 7PM tonight or before my first nine o’clock meeting tomorrow, I will open the report, delete all your hard work and type the word “Irejectthis.com” in 50 point font across the page. Then I’ll email it back to you at exactly 8:05AM.”
Gabriella bursts out laughing. “I reject this dot com? Is that what you said?”
I shrug, “Yeah, I own the URL, so I might as well use it, right?”
Again she laughs, “OK, fine, I get it. No work tonight. And no work on budgets before seven tomorrow. Capisce as you would try - but fail - to say correctly. And by the way Mr. Irishman, you gotta use your hands when you talk like that.” We settle the agreement with smiles and a flurry of Gabriella’s hand gestures. “Capisce,” she repeats.
Starting to turn, Gabriella stops herself, “Before I go home and relax with a glass of wine or two, why would you email me at ‘exactly 8:05’? I mean; that’s kinda random.”
“Well, actually, it’s not random because I don’t read email until 8AM so even if you do…”
Gabriella holds hands high. Her voice trumpets over mine, “Hold it. What the fuck did you just say?” I raise eyebrows in response to a rare curse. Gabriella muffles a laugh as she continues, “Oops. Sorry, but did you just say you don’t read email until 8AM? I mean holy shit – oh sorry (we both laugh) – that is not normal. Like, I’m online 24/7!” She turns to waive an arm across the open office space, “We all are.”
“Well, not all of us. I’m sure as heck not.” I zip my bag up, “And you know what? I can’t imagine the 24/7 online thing is good for anyone. Not for me, or you, or the company.”
I look over Gabriella’s shoulder and into the past, “I used to wake up and read email first thing. And every day it was like getting hit with inbound missiles. Each morning I’d start the day by reacting to someone else’s issues. Every day started with me on defense; reacting. And you know what? Over time I realized nearly all of those emails or issues or questions could wait an hour or two. Starting in reaction mode made me less creative. It made me more resentful. So now, rather than spend those productive hours reacting to everyone else’s issues, I start the day on offense. I start the day reading, or writing, or sometimes just drinking coffee and listening to music and thinking.”
Gabriella places hands on hips, “Jeez. And how long has this been going on?”
“Oh, I dunno; years. And don’t get me wrong; if I know there’s a deliverable due or an issue hanging over us, I get up and check mail to make sure we’re good and to see how I can help. And I peek at texts after fetching my phone, but I just scan them and leave answers for later.”
I raise sights toward the ceiling, “Morning’s my best time, so, I make it my time.”
Without a word, Gabriella rubs her chin. Pulling on my jacket, I fill in the silence between us, “Life’s too short to start every day in reaction mode. I’m not a frigg’n missile defense system! When I get up and start the day, I wanna proact, not react.”
I jut my chin toward Gabriella, “Same applies for you. What’s your best time to think about the non-tactical stuff?”
Gabriella smirks, “Oh, definitely late night! That’s when stuff really starts clicking for me.” Crossing strong arms, Gabriella drops her chin, “And you know what? Me and my glass of wine are gonna try it tonight. So, that means you’ll have those reports at 10AM tomorrow. Capisce?”