I mentioned earlier that I'd be sharing any tips and tools I've been using to help me focus. One of the biggest discoveries I made last year is a service called AwayFind.
I used to check email obsessively throughout the day. At first it was because I didn't want to miss anything important that came in, but then I realized that even if I wasn't expecting anything super-urgent, I'd STILL regularly (as in at least a few times an hour, sometimes more often) check my email, no matter what else I was doing.
It was only after I started timing myself, seeing how long I could work before I checked email, that I had to admit I had a real problem. The action of frequent email-checking was so automatic that it happened without conscious effort, making it impossible for me to sustain focus for more than a very short time. Gah.
The brilliance of Awayfind: You can set up a list of email addresses and get alerts when mail arrives from any of them. You can even customize these alerts, to avoid getting alerted for groupmails, etc. I added agent's address, for example, as well as other important work-related contacts.
There are different pricing plans, but you can try out the Personal and Pro for 30 days for free. I ended up opting for the Pro account.
End result? I no longer feel compelled to check email so often, giving me more distraction-free time to focus.
You can check out Awayfind yourself: http://www.awayfind.com
(and no, I'm not getting any affiliate fee for this recommendation)
Do you have another productivity tool to recommend? Feel free to post below!