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« Sleep and the No-List | Main | How to Do Everything - I »
Tuesday
May172016

How to Do Everything - II

In yesterday’s post I left you with a cliff-hanger:

The process of getting to the stage of being able to do everything consists of one thing and one thing only.

That one thing is… (to be continued)


… to get rid of all backlogs.

You don’t stand a chance of doing everything that you want to do if you have backlogs.

Any backlogs at all.

Remember I’m only talking about getting to the stage of being able to do everything. If you want to do everything then you must go through the stage of getting rid of all your backlogs.

Another way of looking at this is that you must stop pushing present work forward into the future. I don’t mean work which belongs in the future - that isn’t the problem. I’m talking about current work which you are not dealing with currently. It’s very similar to getting into debt.

This is not just a question of catching up with a backlog, it also means keeping it at “inbox zero” once you’ve caught up.

To put it in financial terms, once you’ve paid off debt and balanced the budget, then you have a sound financial basis on which to expand.

As I’ve said frequently recently the best way to get rid of backlogs and keep at “inbox zero” is to use a no-list system.

Reader Comments (14)

I'm looking forward to finding out how you recommend that we identify our backlogs.
May 17, 2016 at 7:54 | Registered CommenterWill
Will:

The easiest backlogs to identify are inboxes:

Email
Voicemail
Text Messages
Forum Messages
Social Media Messages
Papers
Unsorted Digital Notes
Unread Books
Unread Magazines
Unread Articles
Unheard Podcasts
Unwatched Movies
Unwatched Videos
Unsorted Piles
May 17, 2016 at 8:13 | Registered CommenterMichael B.
Will:

Anything piling up :

- Unprocessed mail and paperwork
- Garbage buffers (not common waste usually, but recyclable magazines, glass, plastics, aluminium cans)
- Laundry, at any stage. (ready to wash, ready to dry, ready to fold, ready to iron)
- House repairs and odd jobs
- Toy mendings,

As I like to say, any messy part of somewhere is a sign of something unfinished.

These backlogs are more visible than commitment backlogs, and getting to inbox zero for them usually frees space in your house, as a bonus.
May 17, 2016 at 8:41 | Unregistered CommenterL.
So . . . everything then?
May 17, 2016 at 15:50 | Unregistered Commenternancy
Mark Forster wrote:

> "As I’ve said frequently recently the best way to get rid of backlogs and keep at “inbox zero” is to use a no-list system."

I think I've understood how a no-list system helps avoid backlogs forming, but how does it help get rid of them? Only addressing backlogs when they come to mind seems to be a recipe for perpetual backlog, at least for me.

David
May 18, 2016 at 10:10 | Unregistered CommenterDavid D.
I have several backlogs that tend to grow slowly, and don't make sense to clear each day.

My routine is to spend 15 minutes in each area. (Time varies with area. Goal is an average day's worth, plus enough to get the weekly cleaning done in a week and the yearly done in a year.

E.g., Kitchen. I don't remove a day's worth of dust from the corners every day.

In a typical day, I'll do the dishes, then one other task. Often, the task will be clean a fridge shelf or under the toaster. Those get dirty quickly. Occasionally (about weekly) it will be mopping. If all that is done, I'll deep clean a cupboard that is annoying me, or the cupboard that's been left the longest.

The important part is the frequent attention. Be ruthless for the quick cycle stuff that builds up fast. A bit more flexibility for the slower stuff, but keep on it. Add just enough time to keep the really slow stuff under control.

I don't need a list. I know what builds up in a day. I can see that the floor needs mopping (whether it's been a week or just a messy meal). I know which shelves I swear at.
May 19, 2016 at 21:24 | Registered CommenterCricket
I am going to try the no-list system. However, without a catch-all system how do I remember things that occur to me in the middle of doing something else.
May 24, 2016 at 6:43 | Unregistered CommenterAsim Jalis
The no-list system feels connected to Marie Kondo's "The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing". The essence of her system is to only keep things that spark joy.
May 24, 2016 at 7:24 | Unregistered CommenterAsim Jalis
Asim,

"The no-list system feels connected to Marie Kondo's "The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing". The essence of her system is to only keep things that spark joy. "

Yes, this has occurred to others: search "Kondo" for some discussions on these, (and add your insights).

"However, without a catch-all system how do I remember things that occur to me in the middle of doing something else. "

If you're worried about forgetting things, keep a journal. But don't let it become part of your workflow: just make it a resource like your reference books, the internet and so on.
May 24, 2016 at 9:45 | Registered CommenterWill
Mark
<< As I’ve said frequently recently the best way to get rid of backlogs and keep at “inbox zero” is to use a no-list system.>>

I have been trying to do inbox zero. I listened to your talk here http://www.steverrobbins.com/getitdoneguy/markforster/. I'd like to clarify my understanding of what you are suggesting...

I have been through yesterday's emails in my inbox and where there is a To Do task arising from an email I have written it down on a paper and pencil list - let's call it my Email Task list. So now I have been through all my emails but it doesn't seem useful to delete the ones which require a reply (the task to reply is now written down on the Email Task list) because I'll need to go back to the original email in order to reply. So my Inbox is not actually empty.

But I think that's ok because I beleive my next step is to go through all the tasks on my Email Task list and do each one (like replying to James about the online mapping etc etc) and then I can delete the corresponding email. And when I've done all the tasks I'll have an empty inbox.

So my interpretation of getting to Inbox zero is that it relies upon two steps: a) going through all yesterday's emails and writing down the tasks arising on the Email Task list and also b) doing these tasks the same day so that I have replied to all the emails and can delete them (yielding an empty inbox). If I don't do this, it seems I will just build up a backlog of tasks on my Email Task list instead of a backlog of emails

Sp my question is... is this how you do it? And if not, how do you do it? Many thanks. Paul
June 8, 2016 at 0:03 | Unregistered CommenterPaul
Paul:

<< Sp my question is... is this how you do it? >>

Not quite. I don't write down a list of tasks arising from email. I do the tasks as part of clearing the individual emails.

<< And if not, how do you do it? >>

"Inbox zero" doesn't just apply to email of course but for the sake of example, here's how I dealt with a backlog of email using a no-list method. I recently came back from holiday to find hundreds of emails in my in-box.

My first action was to open a new folder in my mailer called "Backlog", and I transferred all the outstanding email into it leaving me with an empty inbox.

I then dealt with Email and Email Backlog as two separate tasks. I did the Email task regularly throughout the day so that incoming email was dealt with immediately. In the majority of cases this included any action required by the email. This Email task is one that I use every day as often as is needed to keep incoming email at zero.

The Email Backlog task I spread over a few days (I think it took me three or four). Until it was cleared I re-entered it throughout the day each day. First I did a massive delete of everything that wasn't relevant. Then I did a series of passes through the email (one pass per visit) in which I actioned any email that stood out. This included taking action on any tasks the email required. I removed emails from the backlog folder as each was dealt with.

By the end of the three or four days I was completely up to date with email, and could delete the empty backlog folder.

At the same time I was doing the same for other subjects, including Paper and Paper Backlog and Garden.

Basically "inbox zero" is just the currently fashionable buzzword for keeping up to date with one's work. If one can't keep up with one's work then one either has too much work, or is processing it inefficiently or is not giving it enough time. Quite possibly all three!
June 9, 2016 at 23:03 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
Mark,
Thank you for your most helpful reply. I have tried doing any task that arises from each email as I go along (unless it's massive and needs to be spreads over a few days) and I must admit it seems to flow more readily than the two step approach a) processing the emails & writing a list of the tasks arising and then b) going back through the list to do the tasks. But, as I am sure I have heard you say several times before, the main thing is "do what works". Thanks again.
Cheers, Paul
PS I like the idea of applying the approach to the garden.
June 10, 2016 at 8:07 | Unregistered CommenterPaul
Paul:

<< I like the idea of applying the approach to the garden. >>

My holiday coincided with the biggest growth spurt of the year. So the neat lawns and hedges I had left behind had turned into a wilderness in less than two weeks.

Unfortunately one can't just open a Backlog folder and sweep the garden into it out of sight!
June 10, 2016 at 8:20 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
I've taken this idea to heart and am working to close off all backlogs one by one and stop re growing them.
June 23, 2016 at 17:30 | Registered CommenterAlan Baljeu

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