Authors who self-publish have to do everything themselves, from plotting to editing to formatting to marketing. It takes up a lot of time to wear all of those hats, and by nature self-publishing is very interactive. You're participating on forums, you're communicating on Twitter. You're practically a one-author show.
And you're not getting any writing done, because all that other mess is too consuming. Figure out how to manage it, and still get to work on your next book, by avoiding email addiction.
Are You an Email Addict?
The self-published author's email is their greatest tool. It's here that bloggers respond to review request, here that your Goodreads messages appear, here that Smashwords sends notification that you've got a new buyer or a new review. If someone mentions you on Twitter, your email will tell you all about it -- heck, it'll even show you the message.
It is, in a word, addicting. More than that, it's distracting. And I ought to know, because I am a raging email addict. I found myself checking it all the time. Really, like every 10 minutes on some days. I found myself actually stopping what I was doing, sometimes while I was typing out a sentence, to check my email.
I knew I had an addiction when I realized how ridiculous I was being. I happened to notice I wasn't getting any work done on my current book project, either. That's when I knew my addiction was a real problem. How much time are you spending fooling around with yours?
Breaking the Habit
It's not necessarily a problem to continually check your email -- if you aren't getting that much. But if you get a lot, weeding through it and making the appropriate responses consumes minutes every single time you check. So when I was checking mine 20 times a day, I was interrupting myself and my work for several minutes throughout the day. It adds up, and it takes you out the right frame of mind to keep doing whatever it was you were doing before you started checking.
Time to break the habit. If you know how I feel about staying organized, you might be able to guess where I'm going with this. That's right: schedule your email breaks. It's going to take you more time to get through your email when you check it less frequently, and you won't be responding to people as quickly, but you will be getting stuff done. When you have a solid schedule and you stick to it, you can get everything done. Check your email once in the morning, once in the evening and once or twice in the afternoon. Check it during your allotted time, so email won't be a distraction. It shouldn't be treated like an escape, and you shouldn't sneak over and take a look at it when you know you've got other stuff to do. Going through your author email is another one of your jobs, and you've got to treat it like one. If you don't keep everything in its place, you'll never keep yourself on schedule.