I used to keep a tab open in Firefox with my Gmail account, giving me the ability to be a fast replyer via email. Realizing the time I spent being distracted by email, coupled with a discussion from Tim Ferriss to check email twice a day, I decided to close the email tab.
At first I felt like I was missing out on something. I would occasionally check my email, but I got it down to a few times a day and the change was surprising. First off, I was able to batch the time I spent replying to email, making me more efficient. Instead of having lots of little interruptions, I spent a block of time focused on just email. I also used the Getting Things Done approach to get my inbox down to zero. I did this by deciding what I’m going to do with my email. If I plan to reply to the email but don’t have time, I star it in Gmail, then archive it. This gets it out of my inbox and into a “to be dealt with” area. When I have time to process email, I check the starred emails and reply to them. I use the stars method in Google Reader too, acting as a toread tag.
These minor changes have had a measurable affect on my productivity, more so than I would have expected.
Check out Merlin Mann’s Zero Inbox site for more information.