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« Comments and Discussions | Main | Getting Going Again: Day 18 Update »

Getting Going Again: Day 20 Update

Exactly as I forecast on Saturday, today I succeeded in getting back on top of my work. Everything is now either scheduled for tomorrow or in the backlog from last week (which I cleared approximately half of today). I finished work by 4.30 pm. Tomorrow I have an easily doable list in my Task Diary so should have no problem finishing it - I hope most of the backlog will be cleared too.

If I hadn’t taken action when I realised that I couldn’t catch up last week, I would probably have fallen even further behind today. It’s amazing how quickly a backlog can be dealt with once it is recognised as such.

Reader Comments (3)

Dear Mark,

Unfortunately there are times when I have backlogs of backlogs, especially of paper to read/file/shred/recycle. Some of them are so old that even if I were to sort them, most of the stuff in them would be hopelessly out of date, but I still need to sort through them all and am quite phased by the enormity of the task.
I understand the principle of backlogs but don't seem to be able to get going on them because of the time factor. In a small way I have found your recommendation to go through a mixed pile for one type of thing only - this certainly prevents making one untidy mixed pile into serveral piles with space-taking areas of floor under a paper avalanche which then needs archaeological techniques to tackle!
But I could do with some help on
a) why I find it so easy to create backlogs in the first place (partly because there is nowhere to put stuff because it is already full of previous backlogs); and
b) What seems to me to be even more important than declaring a backlog:setting up an easily workable system that I can keep up with; and
c) even more important, for I think this is my main downfall - keeping up with the new system once I have got it going. I seem to slip back into old habits so easily.
I know the seeds of dealing with all this are in DIT, but I sometimes think that there is something else I'm just missing........

March 11, 2008 at 8:07 | Unregistered Commentergill
Dear Gill

You've raised several important issues here.

First, there is no point at all trying do deal with a backlog until you have established a workable system for new stuff coming in. Otherwise you will simply build up more backlogs, as you have discovered.

So your highest priority at the start is not to clear the backlog, but to get the new work under control so that you aren't continually getting behind again. The question to ask yourself here is "If my backlog vanished overnight and I started with a completely clean slate, would I be able to keep up with my work?" Until you can answer "Yes" to that question you shouldn't attempt to deal with the backlog.

Having said that, it doesn't take very long to set up a good system. I strongly advise you to take the test at the end of "Do It Tomorrow" and concentrate on implementing all the areas which are shown up by that. Once you've done that you should have no problem keeping up with new work. Remember though that the audit procedure is an essential part of DIT.

Now you can turn your attention to dealing with the backlog. From what you say, I gather that your backlog is mainly paper. Here are two ways of dealing with it, one drastic and one not so drastic!

1) Designate a day a week from now in which you are going to burn, shred, trash or otherwise dispose of the entire backlog. You have a week to extract from it any papers that you need. Everything else goes!

2) Go through the entire backlog and remove from it all papers that require some sort of action (whether it be filing, reading, replying to or whatever). Dispose of the rest. Then go through what is left and remove all papers which require urgent action. Deal with them and then go back to the remainder. Go through them and remove all papers that require some action other than filing, and action them. Then deal with papers that require filing only.

Dealing with the papers according to Method 2 makes sure that all necessary actions are taken as soon as possible, which will have the effect of reducing the stress associated with the backlog, even before it is completely cleared.
March 11, 2008 at 9:27 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
Thank you, Mark, that is very helpful.
I have done the test, identified the weak point in the audit and started working on improving my systems.

March 12, 2008 at 13:14 | Unregistered Commentergill

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