How to clear your backlog

‘Learn to pause … or nothing worthwhile will catch up to you.’  Doug King

Creating legacy while dealing with unexpected setbacks

When you are aiming to create legacy, you have to become extremely well-organised, so you have enough time in your life to work on long-term projects as well as taking care of the short term.

But sometimes, unexpected things happen on top of your daily schedule, which means that you accumulate a backlog.

A few days ago (as you may already know from reading this blog) I got an extremely sore throat and a very annoying cold. So I’ve had to take things a bit easier over the past few days. As I’m now returning back to work, I’m of course faced with the backlog, which I’ve got to clear on top of the daily work on my legacy projects.

A great little system for clearing away your backlog

As I know many of you are faced with having to clear backlogs, I thought I’d introduce you to this delightfully simple and effective system I’m using, which I’ve nicked from Mark Forster’s excellent book Do it tomorrow

1. Isolate the backlog. You need to get the backlog out of the way so that you can’t see it any longer. With a backlog of email you can open a folder called ‘backlog’ and move the entire contents of your inbox into it. If your backlog is paper, then gather all the paper together and put it in a folder called ‘Backlog’. The aim is to close off the backlog and isolate it from new stuff coming in.

2. Only action the urgent matters in your backlog for now. If anything that is part of the backlog is too urgent to leave out of your sight, write it down on a separate list and action it asap, but only that one urgent thing (one of Mark’s excellent pieces of advice is to never take even the simplest action without writing it down first)

3. Deal with the daily work on your legacy projects as if the backlog wasn’t there (apart from the urgent stuff mentioned above). Yes, you heard me. Forget the backlog. This is why we isolated it in the first place. By dealing with the day’s tasks on the legacy projects as usual, you can get back to making progress on each of them without worrying about the lost days.

4. Spend some time on clearing a bit of your backlog first thing every day. The backlog will maybe take a couple of weeks to clear rather than if you tackled it alonside the daily tasks, but the nice thing about doing it this way is that you can see the backlog getting smaller every day. This is quite motivating and keeps you chipping away at it at an even pace, which is what makes this system quicker in the long run. 

What’s your system for clearing a backlog? 

How do you go about clearing your backlog? Any ideas and suggestions for the comments section would be greatly appreciated.

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Alexa Ispas

I am a social entrepreneur, blogger, and talent scout, interested in helping people who want to create legacy. I have recently completed my PhD thesis in social psychology at the University of Edinburgh, and am originally from Romania. I am writing a daily blog on creating legacy, which you can find at www.alexaispas.com