Today’s reliance on e-mail has changed the nature of vacation. If you do clean your in-box, you’re “defeating the purpose of vacation. If you don’t, you have to work twice as hard when you come back, punishing yourself for taking the vacation.

Diane Danielson of Brookline, Mass., lost control last year when she decided to prevent a pileup during a vacation in the south of France, where she had Internet access temptingly at hand. She intended only to clear out her junk mail, but while she was at it, she innocently answered a message about rescheduling a speaking engagement.

“It created this big, stressful thing – four days of negotiating back and forth” about two people’s schedules from six time zones away, said Ms. Danielson, founder of the Downtown Women’s Club, a networking organization. “It would have been better if I had never looked at my e-mail until I returned. And if I missed an opportunity, so what?”

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The next summer, also in France, she ignored her e-mail until she returned. “It was great,” she said. “In my view, vacation is when you don’t wear a watch, you don’t have anyone checking in on you.”

Many, though, feel the opposite. For them, failing to keep up with their e-mail is stressful. “You become very nervous if you are out of pocket or out of touch,” said Ira Schacter, a lawyer at Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft in Manhattan. In pre-BlackBerry days, he crashed his company’s server when 8,000 e-mail messages piled up while he was on vacation.

(Even today, not every in-box has infinite capacity. Some people clean out their in-boxes because they must. In-boxes that are filled to the limit, often with large picture files, can crash a computer, slow it down or reject new messages.)

More here.