It's amazing how the mire of activity can kill focus.
One can come into a situation with the intent to become a machine of efficiency, a raging force of nature moving through tasks. Within 15 minutes, one can find one's stuck looking at the blinking cursor of a screen waiting to complete the first of many things which are exactly the same - and not at all related to anything one had intended.
It's a schedule slayer, these unintended things. They're the kobolds of the task world, small creatures which in and of themselves are not harmful at all but, when gathering together in large groups, can bring down the heartiest adventurer in a sea of short sharp swords and flailing bodies.
How does one fight against this sort of thing? How can one ensure the small tasks remain small and handled and the big tasks - the ones which require significant attention - are dealt with in a timely fashion? I would love to say that the answer is readily apparent, but it's not. It almost seems to be a combination of a couple of factors:
1) Managing the smaller tasks: Smaller tasks have to be managed - maybe even more than larger tasks. They must be managed because if not, they become infinitely complex and frustrating. A 10 minute task can take 4 hours if five of the same thing suddenly appear, all requiring the same things to be done. They need to be put in a line, corralled and brought to order.
2) Remember the big tasks: Back to the review I have discussed so often before. One always needs to know what one planned to be doing. Even if the sidetracking comes - and it will - there should still be a sense of what one originally intended to work on. Not only for a sense of proportion - like comparing a seedling to a redwood - but from the sense of keeping one's eyes on the larger picture.
3) Prioritize - And when I write prioritize I mean not only doing first things first but doing anything at all. As I mentioned yesterday, we will never have enough time to accomplish anything. If too many of the small tasks are piling up, have they become a large task? Are the resources not available currently to manage it? If so, what would it take? Can it be done - or is it something that simply needs to fade into the background?
The small things can destroy one's ability to do the big things - but only if left unchecked and roaming about. Bring the small things into line or they will bring you to your knees.