Every organisation has to deal with this problem. It has been described in many different ways, including the famous quaductionism of “Urgent vs Important” to the simplicity of phrases like “firefighting”. Yes, it’s all those tasks that people seem to want now, which are stopping you from doing the real work.
My analogy for this stuff is the fly on the windshield. You’re driving along and a big fly lands right in front of you on the glass. You could ignore it because it doesn’t stop you from driving safely. However, because it’s right there on your windshield, it looks bigger than the real obstacles that surround you. It’s proximity makes it seem more important than it is. Some people crash their cars because they are so intent on getting the fly off their windshield.
The solution falls into the “simple but hard” category. All you have to do is ignore the fly. It will go of its own accord. Just ignore it. You’ve got bigger obstacles ahead that are far more deadly. Of course, this is easier said than done. Not only are we emotional creatures, in our work life it’s not always obvious which are the flies and which are the heavy trucks. We need a simple knife to cut through all the noise and give us a starting point for our categorisation. That knife is simple, too. If a task has “just cropped up”, the probability is that it’s a fly. Take a deep breath. You don’t need to panic. Make sure nobody is going to die if you ignore it. Then carry on with the important stuff you should be doing.