Malcolm Gladwell has a 24-hour email rule, and he’s pretty strict about it. In fact, the best-selling author, thinker and longtime New Yorker writer has set a few boundaries with work, and when he sat down with Arianna Huffington on the Thrive Global Podcast, in partnership with iHeartRadio and Sleep Number, he explained why.
Gladwell told Huffington about his father’s boundary-centric rules, which ultimately laid the foundation for his own work ethic. As a mathematician, Gladwell’s father thought a lot about work-life integration, and created strict boundaries between his work time and his leisure time. “I never saw him work on the weekend,” Gladwell recalls. “Never saw him work past 2:00 or 3:00 in the afternoon… never saw him work before 9:00 in the morning. He worked in sharp, concentrated bursts, punctuated by tea with my mother and walks with his dog, and plenty of sleep.”
The boundaries his father set with his career inspired Gladwell to do the same for himself – and the rules he’s put in place have improved his productivity and success along the way.
Step one: He reserves his mornings for himself. “I don’t schedule anything in the morning,” Gladwell says. “I take those first crucial three hours and I can usually get a lot done.” Gladwell finds that he is most productive in the early hours of the day, and so he plans accordingly. He also finds that he prefers to respond to messages in the evening, which explains step two: His 24-hour email rule. Gladwell checks his email every 24 hours, and it’s always later in the day. “I answer email in the evening,” Gladwell explains. “If you don’t answer people’s text and phone calls and emails right away, then they learn that, and they understand. They don’t have to respond to my response right away, and I don’t have to respond to their response right away.”
Gladwell swears by his time boundaries, and he believes his intentional work habits can apply to everyone, no matter the field. “If everyone observed the 24-hour rule for responding to emails, the world would be a much better place,” he tells Huffington. “Everyone’s happier.”