Given the interest around applications you use to hide distractions from yourself and reward yourself for spending time productively, here is simple technique you can use that’s already available in gmail:
Create labels and apply filters to non-urgent emails from discussion lists and automated alerts and newsletters. Use the “skip inbox” option to route these communications away from your inbox keeping it reserved for unanticipated communications. Nothing new here – if you use Gmail this is probably how you do it already. The secret: collapse the labels tab so you don’t see these messages pile up while you work.
We are insatiably-curious creatures. We pick at scabs and buy scratch ‘n win lotto tickets because we have to see what’s underneath. But the reverse is also true – out of sight, out of mind.
I was looking for a greasemonkey script for firefox that would cover up the labels section in gmail so I could reduce distraction throughout the day and I discovered that the labels tab is collapsible. Use this technique to put non-urgent communications in their place and handle them on your terms instead of reactively answering non-priority email and getting pulled off course.