Why You Should Stop Checking Your Email So Much

Stepping away from the office has proven restorative benefits mentally and physically. It turns out taking a vacation from your email can be just as good for you. Studies show that not looking at email on a regular basis increases concentration and reduces stress.

Enhanced Focus

Studies show that when people turn off email, they are more productive and focused. Without an ongoing barrage of email, we are able to pay attention to the task at hand and complete it more efficiently.

Experts recommend “time blocking,” focusing on one task at a time:

If you want to be more productive and creative and to have more energy, the science dictates that you should partition your day into project periods. Your social networking should be done during a designated time, not as constant interruptions to your day.

The evidence is clear. Email should be done at designated times. Leave your phone at your desk or in your pocket or bag when you go to meetings so you can fully pay attention. And before you actually do go on vacation, if you have a job that requires you check in from time to time, manage your office’s and your own expectations — set up specific times, perhaps an hour in the morning every other day when you will check email. And stick to it.

Enhanced Health

In addition to enhancing concentration, turning off email for a period of time boosts health, too. In a study, researchers attached heart rate monitors to computer users in a typical office. People who read email were found to be in a “high alert” state and had higher cortisol (a hormone linked to stress) compared to those who were removed from email.

Constantly checking email has been linked with an unhealthy condition known as what Linda Stone, a thought leader in technology, coined “email apnea.” About 80% of people have this involuntary behavior Stone describes as shallow breathing or holding of one’s breath while emailing. She further explores the unconscious behavior that leads to it:

Our posture is often compromised, especially when we use laptops and smartphones. Arms forward, shoulders forward, we sit in a position where it’s impossible to get a healthy and full inhale and exhale. Further, anticipation is generally accompanied by an inhale — and email….generally includes a significant dose of anticipation. Meanwhile, the full exhale rarely follows.

Checking email also takes a toll on life in general. These “bursts” of information distract you from connecting with real live people. Instead of emailing a colleague, get up from your desk and interact with them in person. At home, make a rule not to allow mobile devices at family dinners or on vacations.

Taking an email vacation is a win-win strategy. Not only will you be more productive, you will be healthier and happier.

I wish you all the best,

Dr. Samantha Boardman