I find that I get the most work done in a particular day by staying focused and avoiding distractions for as long as I possibly can when I first start work each day. When first I show up to the office, I don’t start up anything on my computer except for my work notes (which I keep in a Microsoft Word Document or a simple text file) and the application(s) I need to do my most important task of the day. Then I try to keep it that way as long as I possibly can.
Eventually, something will come along to break me out of this zone, such as a meeting or a rumbling tummy after 11am, but if I can stay focused and avoid all distractions until this time, I get a tremendous amount done. It is far easier to resist those temptations and stay focused on my important task if I already have momentum on my important task.
The key is to stay focused and distraction free for as long as you possibly can, because as soon as you lose it, it can be much more difficult to regain that focus. You can also start this distraction-free period when you first get back from lunch, or any other time of the day, but it can be more challenging than when you first start work in the morning. Afternoons are often the better time to do easier items, because you can be less tempted by distractions when you’re working on an easier task (depending on the task). For example, I’m less likely to impulsively check my email if I’m sorting through papers around my desk than if I’m working on a mentally taxing and repetitive task on my computer.
A couple of other tips to help reduce distractions: have a clear desk (so that you don’t have constant visual distractions always in front of you) and block websites like Yahoo and news sites. Perhaps also block the websites or applications you use for email. You can hide the icon for your browser or Outlook deep in your Program Files or Applications folder to make it more difficult to launch it, and this can cure the impulsive click-without-thinking that happens with email programs and browsers.