Don't sit and press the "Check Mail" switch like a lab rat hoping to get a tasty food pellet.
Yes, okay, you might get something you can answer quickly and scratch off your list, but that will not be as important as what is currently on the top of your to-do list.
Set your automatic mail check to every six hours. Yes, I said 6 HOURS.
As you get done with the things you've prioritized as important for today, you will check for new mail, but not before you've gotten at least the #1 thing on your list done.
As Merlin Mann said
Don’t let the blur of movement try to replace one elegantly completed task.
– "okay to check first thing in the morning to catch changed priorities"
Set the timer for this one, though; you are only processing. After you go through it, you will do the most important thing you've labeled "Urgent". I like to download the mail at home and then process it on public transit.
– "close mail program when doing tasks that don't require something in email"
Cut out the distraction. At the very least, minimize the program and hide your active programs Dock or toolbar.
– "buy microbreaks too"
Want to spend 5 minutes checking personal mail? Not 'til you've crossed something off the list, bucko.
Discardian Ruut Ackses (which is a fabulous name, by the way) recommends you get rid of anything you haven't used in two years. He writes:
Less is more when you don't live in a mansion. That's the only way
to cope in a modern British house, and we stick to similar rules to
yours to prevent our place becoming a reality tv episode of "Look at
these poor hoarding lunatics".
We have a three bedroom house that struggles to fit two people if
you let your belongings take over. To keep the size and space
comfortable, we run "The 2 Year Rule" on every space in the house,
regularly. We have a minimalist living room now, with just media stack,
DVD/game storage, some LCD lighting, coffee table, one or two nice
pieces or art and two couches.
The two year rule has cleaned out every room, every drawer and every
cupboard. We own nothing but the essentials that we use and some nice
art. Open a drawer, and look at the contents. DId you use any of that
in the last two years? If not, sell, donate or bin it.
It helps to remember that stuff is just stuff. Stuff is not your
friends or your family, and nothing should hold a huge importance to
you. We have very little that we are attached to, and even less that we
would have to grab if an evacuation call came. I'd probably grab my
partner's antique violin, my Thinkpad, my gadget bag and my AIBO. The
rest is disposable.
The hardest part was disconnecting ourselves from our library. We
don't have room for shelves of books and now, as soon as they are read,
they get given away, traded, donated or binned with only a few
We recycle as much as possible and try not to waste anything useful.
This is a good technique. And if it doesn't work out, you can always look into starting that reality tv show…
Discardian John Hritz has gone zero-sum with books, CDs, clothes, DVDs, etc.
By zero-sum, I mean that to buy one, I donate one or more. This gets
me out of the binge and purge mentality of organizing. I try to have a
place in mind for something I want to buy and if there's already
something there it has to go.
This is a great method to give yourself time to adjust your habits and home. Try it out for a few weeks!