Checking Email Causes Stress, Go on an e-Diet From Your Inbox

The ping of an email notification sounds and we jump to read it, dropping what we're doing--disrupting our workflow. It's stressing us out, according to a recent study.

Our email inbox has us well trained. Whenever we hear the ping of a notification, we jump to look at it. It's a time consuming and stressful activity that might be better left as a limited daily routine.


Jesse Singal of the New Republic highlights a new study that brings forth evidence to the millennial argument that our email is stressing us out. The research paper was written by Kostadin Kushlev and Elizabeth Dunn of the University of British Columbia and published in the journal Computers in Human Behavior. They found that an email diet plan may be necessary to reduce stress.

Over a period of two weeks, researchers randomly assigned one group out of the 124 participants to limit checking their email to three times a day for one week and were told to turn notifications off. While the other half were given directions to leave notifications on and check email as often as they liked. After the first week, the groups swapped roles for another week. Over the course of the two week study, researchers monitored the participants' stress levels, how productive they were, and how often they checked their email.

The results:

We found that during the limited email use week, participants experienced significantly lower daily stress than during the unlimited email use week. 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.”

Researchers also reported that the unlimited-email groups didn't feel any more productive than the limited-email group. Email fills up a lot of time, but often results in little getting done. This idea is reminiscent of an “object lesson” by Brett McKay inspired by Stephen Covey's book First Things First. People will feel like they've had a busy day, answering emails, doing research on the web, and so on, but realize at the end of the day that they haven't accomplished anything of significance. By rethinking how you prioritize your day (i.e. limiting email use), you may find yourself less stressed from having had a more fulfilled work day.

Read more at New Republic

Photo Credit: tommaso79/Shutterstock

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