Get more done by checking your email less

Checking three times a day is better for you and just as productive

Two men working at laptops side by side, seen from above

(Joe Raedle/Getty)

Ever felt your BlackBerry buzz with a “phantom vibration” from what felt like an email that turned out not to exist? Or compulsively pulled-to-refresh in your iPhone inbox just to make sure there isn’t just one more email that came in in the last 30 seconds? If so, you’re not the only one with email anxiety. New research shows that what we all suspect is true: checking your email frequently stresses you out.

In a study from the University of British Columbia, researchers assigned 124 participants—students, financial analysts, medical professionals and other adults—into one of two groups over two weeks. One group was told to keep their email inbox closed, turn notifications off and check their email only three times per day; the other group was told to leave notifications on and check their email as often as possible. Subjects were told to fill out brief daily surveys that included information about their stress levels. After the first week, each group switched their condition.

The study’s authors found that the more often participants checked their emails, the higher their stress levels. When participants were limited to checking their emails only a set number of times during the day, the findings showed that tension lessened during a particularly important activity and overall day-to-day stress levels were lowered for subjects. The researchers also found that those individuals who checked their emails more frequently didn’t perceive themselves as being more productive than those who had email restrictions.


So, if you’re constantly pressing the “Refresh” button on your Outlook system, or reloading your web browser to make sure your Gmail account is up-to-date—stop it. You’re only causing yourself unnecessary levels of stress.