Email has transformed business, helping international companies communicate with far-flung offices instantly.

But reading and answering it sucks up a lot of time, says Julie Morgenstern, author of Never Check E-mail in the Morning (Fireside 2005). She works with companies and executives to improve productivity. Here are some of her strategies to help you get more done at the office, manage email and hold on to your job:

Why is it bad to check email in the morning?

Morgenstern: Checking email is completely reactive. It's a bunch of interruptions and requests for things that other people need. People can't focus anymore.

I want people to invest the first hour of the day in the most critical concentrative task. Do your strategic planning, for example, and then roll your shades up for business. You will be able to focus on other people's requests because your own critical to-do list is behind you.

What are some bad habits that can get people fired?

Morgenstern: A lack of strategic planning can get you fired. We just came out of an era in which people were proving their value through speed and accessibility, by getting back to everybody the minute they emailed, for example.

Now, I think a premium is placed on innovation and coming up with the best ideas. Those are the people who are going to survive.

What are some seemingly productive activities that hurt productivity?

Morgenstern: Getting caught up in the idea that every customer comes before everything else can lower productivity. If you're teaching a colleague something and you drop that every time a client calls, you'll never develop your peer.

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