A study of email habits in a recent NYT article serves as a great reminder of this. Check your email two to three times (max!) a day to be more productive and less stressed.
Check this out:
In other words, cutting back on email might reduce stress as much as picturing yourself swimming in the warm waters of a tropical island several times a day.What?! Done. Even better? Schedule it, so it's a habit and requires no thinking or planning.
The research says it's better NOT to check email first thing in the morning (so you can use that start-the-day burst of energy to do something more important or that requires more mental focus), and I find this pretty challenging, too. I'll usually at least take a peek to see if there is anything urgent, but the truth is, replying to emails within 24 hours is totally reasonable for almost anything and everything, so perhaps the best scenario is to check email once a day at, say, 2pm, after lunch, when our energy is low. And that's it. Or maybe just one super quick peek in the morning to make sure there are no fires to put out. But just a quick peek.
Tim Ferris recommends checking email only once a week, with an auto-reply suggesting that people call him if it's more urgent than that. And the truth is that people will call if they don't get an email back from you in time. I prefer to do certain things via email (so efficient for simple information transfer!) and really don't enjoy talking on the phone, so we can all figure out what works best for each of our personalities.
But the bottom line and moral of the story is—don't check email too often, as it zaps both energy and productivity. And I like picturing myself basking in warm, tropical waters...