I want to share some tips that are helping me to avoid unnecessary email distractions and be more productive during the day.
Assuming that you carry a mobile device with you all the time which has access to the Internet, you are probably being bombed with all kind of notifications.
I decided to organize the way I check my email the following way. The main trick is to establish check points in your day in which you will be able to check for incoming email, and to filter your notifications so you don't get alerts in the middle of other tasks (I will explain how to do this later). For my check points, I decided to set 4 along my day; 1) whenever I wake up, 2) at 12:00, 3) at 18:00, 4) whenever I go to sleep.
This check points are the only time I open my email and process my inbox —delete spam and read, reply, archive whatever is important. I also add to my todo list any emails which require a later action.
If I have the need to send an email out of this check points, I would either save a draft of it in my todo list and send it in the next check point or just send it anytime if it is an important matter.
I am currently using an iOS device, and I have disabled all my email notifications. No badges. No alerts.
What happens when you are waiting for a “super important” email that makes you check your email every 5 minutes?
iOS helped me out. Recently, Apple added the VIP functionality to the contacts list on iOS. With iOS 6, you can mark as favorite multiple telephone numbers or emails from your contacts, and activate the notifications only for those VIP contacts. This system works the opposite way than spam filters do. You select what really matters to you, everything else stays out.
This way, you will avoid undesired distractions when you need to be productive, and will still be notified of important incoming messages from your current VIP emails.
There may be other similar systems, but this one is working for me and that is what matters. This same logic can be applied to any other service. You can selectively filter the notifications for other apps in your device and impose yourself limitations for when you should or shouldn't check for updates.