I'm a huge fun of "Maximize it!" approach when it comes to use of computer screen real estate no matter how big the diagonal is. Initially it was because I could not stand wasting precious pixels. And now it has more to do with attention and concentration rather than anything else. The idea behind this is quite simple: your computer can multitask - you can not. Period. If you think you can multitask enter "why context switching is expensive?" and read whatever article happens to be referenced from the first page. (I was surprised by how often they refer to humans and not computer systems). And then return to the beginning of the paragraph.
When you are at your computer you want it to be one task - one window. No IMs, no blinking something, no "Oh! Here is Firefox, let's check what they say there on the news..." Nothing! Just you, the task you need to accomplish and a piece of software that helps you.
The best way to achieve that is
- Hide the Task bar. You do not want anything to blink at you.
- Switch to full-screen. You need nothing expect for text editor when you write something; e-mail program when you process you messages; spreadsheet when you put together budget for next quarter; etc.
Many programs do support real full screen mode. Web browsers do, Microsoft Visual Studio does, some Microsoft Office applications do. That's pretty good coverage and you should make use of it.
When you are trying to relax and watch a good movie can you enjoy it when your cell rings every 5 minutes? What do you do in such situation? Right, you switch off the phone. Productive work is the same - you can enjoy it when no one disturbs you.
Turn off distraction and let your brain work at full capacity.