Workplace Issues

Stress Reducer: Ignore Your Inbox

Workers who limited their email checking to three times a day experienced significantly lower stress, found one study.
Katie Kuehner-HebertJanuary 23, 2015
Stress Reducer: Ignore Your Inbox

New research backs up what many already know intuitively: checking emails less frequently lowers stress.

In a paper to be published next month in Computers in Human Behavior, University of British Columbia, Vancouver researchers Kostadin Kushlev and Elizabeth W. Dunn detailed their investigation into how the frequency of checking email affects well-being over a period of two weeks. During one week, 124 adults were randomly assigned to limit checking their email to three times a day; during the other week, participants could check their email an unlimited number of times per day.

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emailstress“We found that during the limited email use week, participants experienced significantly lower daily stress than during the unlimited email use week,” the researchers wrote in their abstract. “Lower stress, in turn, predicted higher well-being on a diverse range of well-being outcomes. These findings highlight the benefits of checking email less frequently for reducing psychological stress.”

In a Forbes column Friday, Frances Booth, author of “The Distraction Trap: How to Focus in a Digital World,” offered a number of tips for limiting email use to three times a day, including whether to set fixed or flexible times for checking. Booth also recommended sending necessary emails in batches, and then monitoring the overall time that has been reduced emailing — and how much other work may be getting done instead.

“At the end of the day, think for a moment about how checking just three times a day made you feel,” she wrote. “Did you feel more, or less stressed? If this new behavior worked well for you, why not do it again the next day, and the next, until it becomes a healthy habit? You might even want to cut your email use down further, to checking twice a day, just once, or on certain days, not at all.”

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