Many people get caught up trying to use their email communications as a task tracking tool. However, sooner than later, you will "loose" an email and spend the better part of an afternoon searching for it only to discover that the subject was unrelated to the request and/or expected keywords are missing. I think everyone has run across one of these cryptic emails once or twice. Instead, try to pivot from reactive to proactive work style by logging requests into a PM tool. Some awesome existing web tools are Trello, Teamwork, Asana and for the more daring, Podio.
We all have heard of several time management techniques to improve focus and increase workload/capacity. everthing from Inbox Zero to the Pomodoro technique, which is based off a 15 minute kitchen timer. However, often these methods break down or are completely ignored over time and, usually, when under pressure. So, instead of creating all the subtasks upfront or breaking up your day into arbitrary units, just start with a couple obvious ones, something like Research & Provide Estimate.
Probably the most important part of the process is to, simply, walk away. Take a break, go for a walk, do a chore, run an errand. This essential decompression will keep you energized throughout the day, allow you to do yoga the same day as a project deadline and still have plenty of time for a nice family dinner.
When the light bulb arrives, add it as a comment/note on your research task. Start planning your steps and adding them to the list. Before you know it, the plan has practically built itself and you are easily able to provide an to estimate.
Be sure to ask for more details about the request's requirements and expectations (parameters). It is often better to ask as many questions as you can. Not only will you be better prepared to deliver to spec and on time, you will also, effectively, generate a higher quality result and inadvertently align expectations with realistic delivery.
Build confidence by consistently engaging the originator of the request. Delivering early and often is grwat, but if you don't get them to verify it is correct along the way, they won't check untill everything has been completed. The last thing you want us to have to redo your work or waste time. Unless, you are being paid to provide multiple solutions/options, I suppose.
Bottom line, choose only those projects that you feel passionate about or provides you with a specific benefit. Last thing you want, is to find yourself at a dead end job working on pointless initiatives.
How to Stay Focused by Brandon Buchard:
I was hippie-born, raised on Science and Invention on a nuclear mesa, SCAdian before I knew the Society, Technomancer before I played the game, creative genius breaking the shackles of Corporate America.
Owner of tekAura, an Information Technology & Design Consultancy involved in projects concerning Human Dynamics & Sustainability in relation to Computing and Technology, Collective creativity & Hackerspaces, SaaS & Cloud Computing, Home & Manufacturing Automation.
Artfully applies Sustainability, Disaster Recovery, Open Source and Agile Industry Best Practices to boost innovation and facilitate Organic Collaboration and Continuous Process Improvement.