If you find your productive periods of work ever shrinking because of email, phone and other interruptions, it's time to adopt a policy of scheduled replies.
Photo by Mike "Dakinewavamon" Kline.
Over at the organisational blog Everyday Simplicity they found their productivity was taking a hit because of excessive interruptions and perpetually responding to emails and phone calls as they came in. Their solution was to set aside scheduled windows of time to deal with incoming email, voicemail and other inputs:
I only return messages left for me at 10 am, 2pm, and 4 pm. My phone's ringer is turned off, and my cell phone sits in my purse. I call it my "Dr Pepper Rule," because of the old 10-2-4 logo on the Dr. Pepper bottles.
You can adapt the schedule to whatever fits your work flow best. The spirit of the system, however, is to break away from the habit of answering email and phone requests the second they happen. Make sure you're scheduling large enough blocks of time for your primary work.
If you already batch your email and voicemail checks to cut down on interruptions, we want to hear your tips and tricks in the comments. Have another tip for getting things done without all the distraction? We want to hear about that too.