Thought checking your email constantly at work hurt your work performance? Well, according to recent research, email checking causes stress in many workers.

Surprising? No, not really. Whenever people feel driven to do something, they feel a certain amount of stress or pressure associated with that constant behavior.

Tips for Coping with Email Stress

There are a number of simple but effective ways to relieve email stress.

1. Filter for important email
Since one of the reasons we check email so often is to attend to important versus non-important action items, it helps to have an indicator that important email is waiting for you. You can setup a filter or rule in your email program to chime a special sound or flash an alert on your screen when the important emails arrive (as determined by sender name, subject line, etc.).

2. Chunk email checking and responding times
People have also found that setting aside just two or three times a day to attend to email to be effective. Nothing is so important that it requires immediate email attention in most people’s jobs (because if it was so important, wouldn’t the person have picked up the phone to talk to you about it?). Handling email just a handful of times throughout the day (e.g., first thing in the morning, before or after lunch, and maybe an hour or so before you go home) compartmentalizes the task into more manageable segments of time.

3. Stop checking every minute
The key to reducing email stress is to wean yourself from checking email every 5 minutes. This is a learned behavior, so it can also be readily unlearned. Start by reducing the amount of time between checking your email from 5 minutes to 10 minutes (some email programs even allow you to set how often it checks for new email, helping you with this change). Try the new time out for a week or two, then add another 5 minutes, and another, until you’re checking in an interval that is more comfortable and less stressful to you (it might be one hour, it might be 40 minutes, it depends on you and your job).

Email stress is not inevitable. Approaching email like any other work task — instead of a work interrupter — can be an invaluable way of dealing with the pressure that email brings to many of us.