Multitasking isn’t all it’s made out to be. In fact, it can be downright distracting. Case in point: you’re trying crunch numbers, or perhaps write that monthly newsletter. The phone rings, and you answer it. An e-mail comes in, and you read or reply to it. Not true multitasking, perhaps, but the net effect is the same. Distractions take you off-topic, off-task, and often lead to inefficiencies.
When you’re working, dedicate that time to working. Office hours for telecommuters or work-at-homers are much harder to maintain than when working outside the home office. Keep those hours as distraction free as possible.
Glance at an e-mail’s subject line, and don’t read it that very moment unless you have to. Don’t task-switch unless you have to. Got a brainstorm? Have a notepad beside you and jot it down for later reference and follow-up. Don’t be afraid to ask a caller with a routine request (obviously, you don’t want to put off a new client or important request) if it’s okay for you to phone them back later. Speaking of phone calls, schedule in talk time. You can’t always schedule incoming calls, but you can schedule when you listen to voicemail, or when you phone people back.
Over the long haul, dedicating yourself to the topic or subject at hand to its next stage of completion is often more efficient, and produces better results, than multitasking.