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A theme for us at Fully Managed® is #GSD or Getting Stuff Done. In the spirit of #GSD, let's review multi-tasking.
Multi-tasking is terrible for effectiveness. It feels good only because it's a dopamine addiction, not because you're #GSD. Guardian Article
An effective practice is blocking portions of the day for tasks and ignoring distractions, like email, during those periods. Email by nature is not an urgent form of communication, people just seem to treat it that way. Your inbox should be properly defended against other people's priorities. This is not to say that emails shouldn't be treated as potentially critical. It is simply that 99% of the time, the email toaster or chime you hear is not time sensitive. So why interrupt what you are already doing?
Planning your days is a critical first step to focusing on your priorities. All too often people get to work and simply respond to what is requested of them all day. Effective people plan today what they intend to do tomorrow. This ensures that you have a few key objectives day to day, while allowing for some flexibility. Yes, your calendar should be used for more than placeholders for meetings. Schedule times for your own work. If something truly urgent does come up, try not to be critical with yourself for having to move what you had planned, either back an hour or to the next day, if need be. This is perfectly appropriate. There is always a balance to be struck between the urgent and the important. Keep in mind that if an objective or task gets pushed more than a few times, it is worth asking yourself, "Is this really what I need to be focusing on?" Commonly, you are either avoiding that task or it is simply something that does not require your attention at this point. If not a priority, feel free to put it back on the task list for another time.
Here's a simple focus trick you can try on a Windows computer. Whatever program needs your attention, click-hold the title bar, then shake the window quickly. All other programs will be minimized. This is a great practice for removing distractions of web pages, social media, email, IMs, Twitter, whatever keeps catching your eye and making you switch away from what you are doing in the foreground. Now, you can focus on your own objectives and #GSD.