I talk about this in my post on how to get your email inbox to zero every day, but it is worth discussing again from time to time.
When it comes to checking your email, the main rule is: Do not check email continually. Most of us have lots of work to do other than email. If you are checking email continually, you are dividing your focus. As a result, your other work is going to take a lot longer. Plus, you will probably find yourself less satisfied with your day.
Therefore, I recommend checking your email at set times throughout the day. Your frequency on this will depend upon the nature of your job. It might need to be every hour, or even every half hour. Or it might be once in the morning, once before lunch, and once before going home. I usually recommend once per hour.
Each time that you check email, process it all the way to zero. Do not leave something in your inbox because you “don’t know what to do with it.” If you don’t process your email to zero each time you check it, the unprocessed emails will start to feel like loose ends that nag you throughout the day.
If an email contains a long action item, processing to zero doesn’t mean that you need to do that action right away. It means that you either need to park that email in a working folder (“answer,” “read,” or “hold”) for attention later on, or park the action on a list somewhere and the email itself in a support file (if you will need to refer to it). I give more details on how to process your email in my post on getting your email inbox to zero every day.
When you are done checking email, turn your attention back to your other work and focus on that. Make sure the bell that notifies you of new email is turned off. You won’t miss anything — when it’s time to check email again, turn your attention back to your email program and process all the new mail down to zero again. If you fear you won’t see an important email soon enough, then just increase the number of times you check email per day. But do not default back to the continual-checking-mode. Whatever you do, do not check your email continually.