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Get More Done Every Day!

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Exercise e-mail willpower. continued...

Afraid that your coworkers, friends, or family will get annoyed because it's been 20 minutes and they still haven't heard back from you? Try telling them about your new and improved system. Since you've put your revamped e-mail plan into play for practical reasons, they may well respect you for setting some boundaries.

When you do eventually tackle your virtual inbox, try to keep your exchanges short and to the point, and sum up exactly what you need, for instance, by writing, "Please confirm 4 p.m. meeting tomorrow" in the header. If despite your efforts you find yourself getting sucked into an unproductive back-and-forth of pleasantries and trivial information, it's perfectly fine for you to bring things to a close with a simple "Thanks" or "No reply necessary" or "Don't need any further updates unless there's a change in the numbers," says Morgenstern.

Finally, if you haven't already done so, take Winston's sage advice: "Disable the e-mail alert 'ting!' It's extremely distracting."

Break down your tasks.

Productive people divide their bigger projects into chunks that suit their attention span. For some it's 10 minutes and for others it's 20 or 30, or even an hour. Not sure how long you're good for? "Give yourself a to do, a task that's challenging or one you don't particularly enjoy doing — like your expense report, a memo, paying the monthly bills, or drafting a letter — and see how long you stay focused," suggests Morgenstern. "Then break all your tasks down, as needed, to match the duration of your concentration."

There's a subtle but powerful benefit that comes with segmenting your projects. "You're effectively saying to yourself, 'What can I finish in this block of time?' as opposed to 'What can I start?'" says Morgenstern. That just get it done mindset will help you power through even your most mundane responsibilities.

Quit multitasking.

Ninety percent of American adults attempt to juggle more than one task at a time, according to a poll commissioned by the publication Scientific American Mind. Yet six out of 10 of them say that despite being busier, they're getting less done.

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