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I am managing 4 projects, and every time I check email, I do see lots of tasks. Once I complete all these tasks, and feel it is done, again I see suddenly something else coming up. Please suggest better ways to handle this scenario.

Problem in detail:

As soon as I see an email which requires my attention, I start working on it. If there are multiple tasks, I work based on priority and complete them. As soon as all tasks are done, again I see something popping up and I give my attention to it too.

To add to that, there are phone calls from different stakeholders, which I have to respond, and everyone needs the answer immediately. I started getting the feeling that the way I am handling this is not correct and this will only frustrate me.

I know many of us handling multiple tracks will have this issue. And one of the major concerns is the different stakeholders are not worried on the task which is not related to them and whether or not I am busy on other tasks. The usual reply I get is can you complete this first, and then things from different track gets piled up.

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What are you currently doing to handle this? It is difficult to tell what is "better" if there isn't a baseline to compare with. –  Doug B Feb 12 '13 at 13:16
    
added more details –  Siva Feb 12 '13 at 13:26
    
I still don't feel like I have enough information to give an intelligent response. I suspect that if I were in your shoes, I'd look for clusters or patterns. I wonder if you might need to look at your communications plan and make sure that the right people are getting the right information before they email you. Are there clusters of information you could publish rather than the current demand/response email. I'm not sure that I understand the last two sentences. –  Mark C. Wallace Feb 12 '13 at 13:38
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You said "I am managing 4 projects". Are you also the designated resource for several tasks in these projects? The requests that come to you through email and phone calls - are they asking you to execute tasks or provide status? –  Ashok Ramachandran Feb 12 '13 at 14:25
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Are you the project manager? It doesn't sound like your projects have a change management process or anyone actively managing the project's schedule. –  CodeGnome Feb 12 '13 at 14:47

1 Answer 1

up vote 7 down vote accepted

Frequent task switching generally results in inefficiencies, wasted effort, stress and eventually burn-out. I think most people have problems managing this because, generally speaking, they want to be helpful and responsive... and most people are also likely to take ruthless advantage of your helpfulness and responsiveness to get what they want without real consideration of the consequences for you. You need to control this tendency so that you are reasonably helpful and reasonably responsive so that you can do the job while maintaining maintain your productivity and sanity. Some ways to do this are:

  • Decide if you really have to respond. Just because someone asks you for something doesn't mean you are the right person to be asking. If the work is appropriate for another team member to address point the requestor in that person's direction.
  • Focus on one project at a time. If you are working on four projects you could block off half a day for each two days a week and leave the fifth day to handle other work. This will at least help keep you focused on one project at a time for relatively long stretches.
  • Be clear about your limits. Both with yourself and others. Learn to say "Not yet..." if you are unable to say "No". If your plate is already full delegate new work if you can or manage expectations of your customer if you can't.
  • Make sure you know what you are doing. If someone asks you to do something make clear up front that you know what they want and when it is needed. Otherwise you are likely going to waste your time doing rework, or pushing out something fast that can wait.
  • Treat "ASAP" as it should be treated. This is a hot-button issue for me. If you are asked to do something "As Soon As Possible", get a hard deadline and justification. If a hard target or understandable justification isn't forthcoming, in my experience it is because someone wants to look like a star at your expense. Get to it as soon as you possibly can - which, of course, is after you finish enough of your other work that has hard target dates to stay ahead of the curve.
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I upvoted this because it's a good answer, but if it's the right answer then the question belongs on Workplace. –  CodeGnome Feb 12 '13 at 15:15
    
this answer is good and is really applicable for the task i have mentioned in my previous comments like status update, people management, administrative issues –  Siva Feb 13 '13 at 13:25
    
Super answer. +1. –  David Espina Aug 31 '13 at 11:59

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