Michael Sampson, who I think does a great job in his blog of keeping the industry up to date on enterprise collaboration news and trends, recently wrote a blog entitled "How often should I check email?" He writes about his recent insights that "you should check email as often as you need to get the work of your day done."
I couldn't agree more, but I know that's not how everyone does it. Michael sights examples from pundits who suggest we check email once, twice or more a day. Like what i think Michael is suggesting, I don't think there's a standard answer or approach. Email is one of many ways to keep you connected to everyone in your network. Sure there's a lot of spam, but how long does it take to hit delete?
I realize that the question quickly becomes, "if one checks email all the time and is constantly answering or deleting mail, will they ever get anything done? " Maybe that's the case for some, but I'm convinced that in order for each of us individually and organizationally to thrive, we need to respond better and faster all the time. Email, and other forms of electronic collaboration (chat, IM, video, phone, etc...) are all tools for us to accomplish our goals, not meaningless technologies that get in the way. Though, I admit, if one is not capable of moving faster, or responding in real time, the challenges pile up and then the scape goat becomes the technology and not the person, generally.
Competitive advantages are gained by your ability to plan, execute and respond. That cycle is getting faster and faster all the time, which means our responses need to be in near-real time as well. Those who can, stand a better chance at success, while those who don't...
I'd rather see folks learn to handle the real time interruptions than plan to check their electronic communications at specific intervals. We all need to learn how to quickly sort between the necessary and unnecessary, or we may become the later.