ZenHub have quoted me in an article posted on developer productivity. You can read about distractions, context switching, and disjointed tools on the ZenHub article Become a Productive, Distraction-Free Developer.
If you are having major problems getting some focus time, you could try some of these ideas that I have used in various teams (different ideas work in different contexts…)
- Nominate one person each week to be “The Disturbed”. They handle all interruptions and shield everyone else’s focus. A big arrow pointing at the current nominee helps everyone go to the right place and avoids the classic distruption: “who is The Disturbed this week?”.
- Make sure you give people a regular time where their questions can be presented without being an interruption. The lack of this known “good time for questions” will mean they happen at random times.
- Pomodoro Technique. A disciplined system of work and rest designed to aid productivity. Watch out for the mistakes I made when I first tried Pomodoro Techique.
- Avoid blocking developers from accessing important development resources. Implementing a web proxy that thinks Stack Overflow is a forum and MSDN in a blog – and therefore shouldn’t be looked at during work hours – if frankly ridiculous.