When I entered the workforce, "muti-tasking" was definitely a buzz word and I still hear it today with some of my managers. What I have learned is that this type of work style is not one that provides great results. So how do you manage all of those competing tasks that you are responsible for?
When you start your day, make a task list of the three most important things you need to get done today. Do this before you check your email and your voicemail. That way you won't let other people's priorities take precedent over your own. When you are thinking of the list, make sure to include the most important and most difficult things you need to accomplish. Don't put these things off, instead get them checked off at the start of your day. You will be glad to get it out of the way and feel accomplished in all you were able to get done!
2. Scan email
Now that you have your task list for the day, quickly scan your email for anything from key stakeholders. Think: Your Boss or anyone who may complain to your boss. Anything else can wait until your task list is complete. If you are worried about missing people's email or something important coming through, schedule time on your calendar to check it. You can do this scan once an hour to make sure nothing pressing comes in. Then, after you have finished the most important tasks for the day, you can focus on the emails you received.
3. Say No
Unless your boss is asking you to do something urgently, don't take on new tasks until your task list is complete. These items were put there because you absolutely want them to get done today, so don't let new items sneak ahead of them. They likely don't need to be complete today. Instead say to the person, I can't work on it now but could likely get it to you by end of day tomorrow.
It can be a bit stressful to change the mindset that you need to check email, instant message, and the phone while also working on an important project. Trust me though! You will get that project done more quickly and with better quality if you just focus on getting it done.
Want more on this topic? Check out this article from The Washington Post.