A great article on distractions and our ability to focus on tasks is in the NY Times. This is a probably I am constantly battling.
To balance work, family, and my ridiculous commute, I must be highly efficient in how I use my time. Each task will be completed effectively and efficiently if I dedicate 100% of my attention to that task. But... emails filter in, and so do instant messages. And I feel the immediate need to answer all of them, which pulls me away from the task at hand. If I don't watch myself, a whole morning can go by and I won't be able to tell you what I did.
The article follows a technophile family. The family is so absorbed in their gadgets that they hardly talk to each other. It has infiltrated their ability to work, too. I realize this is an extreme case, but the story struck me because this behavior is familiar to me.
If I am to do this job from 8-5 (and a little more at night), then I must treat that time as sacred. Surfing the internet is just throwing away time that could be spent doing hobbies (cooking, gardening) or hanging out with the family. With moderate success, I check my email a few times a day (morning, lunch, afternoon, evening). I limit internet to news sites and literature search engines. I have specific goals for the day, and I complete them. It's rigid and boring, but I have time outside work to enjoy life.
Other faculty will work 14 hours a day, and I just can't fathom how they handle it. Surely they aren't really working during all of that time?! Perhaps they are actively working 9 hours, and being distracted for 5? In graduate school, I found that the people who worked all the time were also playing video games in the lab... Just a thought. I'll try to get off the internet now. It's a bit distracting.