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3 simple steps to deals with a backlog

by Alison Bradford

Post image for 3 simple steps to deals with a backlog

“Backlog – an accumulation over time of work waiting to be done.”

Sound familiar at all?

Perhaps your inbox is multiplying at a rate of knots and each day you dread logging in and seeing the latest unwelcome additions.

Or maybe your filing tray is overflowing as you keep ramming in yet more paperwork that needs filing – someday!

Maybe it’s all the admin – forms that need filling in, reports to be completed, customer feedback to review – that keeps piling up on your to-do list as you slowly feel like you’re sinking under the weight of it all.

When we get behind with something, we can fall into the trap of spending too long thinking about it and feeling overwhelmed and despondent. It drains our energy and takes our focus away from where it should be – growing your business.

Let’s be honest – the stuff that ends up in a backlog is normally the stuff the just doesn’t excite us. It’s not the reason we got into business but it needs doing all the same.

So, enough time agonising over it and let’s get it organised with this 3 step process.

1. Ring-fence it

Put it all together in one place, either physically or electronically, and imagine drawing a big circle around it.

That’s it now – nothing else can go in there. This is entirely separate from any new incoming work.

Now you’ve ring-fenced it, size it. Just how much stuff is in this circle?

Let’s leave it there for now as we focus on dealing with the new stuff coming in in step 2.

2. Deal with the ‘new’

Whatever area of your business your backlog is in, you need to figure out how you are going to keep on top of the incoming work so it doesn’t keep getting added to the backlog.

How many of these ‘things’ do you get to deal with each day or each week? How are you going to stay on top of them?

For example, if your inbox is the backlog and you know you get on average 200 new emails a day, what do you need to put in place to keep on top this?

Areas to look at here are:

  1. What do I not need to do? E.g. can you unsubscribe from emails that are no longer useful to you?
  2. What can I put a system in place for? E.g. can you set up folders to organise your emails better? Maybe you can have 1 for filing mails to read later? Maybe you can separate work and personal mail? Can you set up an email auto-responder for certain types of emails? Do you have templates set up for the same types of responses?

Once you’ve streamlined the new stuff coming up, how much are you left with? How long do you need each day to stay on top of this?

Once you know how long you need each day going forward, you have to figure out how you’re going to do this.

Is this time you can schedule in to your diary?

If you don’t have the time, can you pay someone else to do it for you, like a virtual assistant?

You have to crack this step and be able to stay on top of new incoming work or you are never going to get out of the backlog.

It’s more important to do this than to focus on what is already in the backlog – fix the process before you can fix the backlog.

3. Now you can tackle the backlog

Only once you have fixed the process and stopped the backlog growing can you begin to clear it.

You know how big it is from step 1, so now figure out how much time it will need to clear it.

You need to schedule this in too – can you do 15 mins a day on it? How about 2 hours at a weekend? Maybe 30 minutes each evening instead of watching tv? Just think how you will feel once you’ve got it done……

If you are really struggling to fit in the time then 2 questions for you:

Firstly, what would happen if you did nothing? Let’s say you picked it up and threw it in the bin, what would be the impact? If this doesn’t fill you with dread, then this is always an option.

Secondly, if the nature of the backlog means you can’t simply discard it, then who else can do this for you? A virtual assistant? A student wanting some extra money? Your teenage kids? If it has to be done and you don’t have the time to do it then you are going to need some help.

Now over to you for the action – stop agonising and start organising.

Let me know how you get on by leaving a comment below.

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Alison Bradford

Alison Bradford is a business coach who works with smart, ambitious business owners to get clarity about how they can grow their business and increase profit. Sign up here to learn 6 easy ways you can boost profit in your business today.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Jenny October 10, 2012 at 8:25 pm

This is a great tip Alison! I have used it before to clear my backlog of financial admin – and it really works. You just have to be disciplined and schedule time to deal with it.
However, thanks to the summer holidays my backlog has reappeared so you have now motivated me to tackle it 🙂
I’ve done it before, and I know I’ll get there again – so thanks for the timely reminder! x

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Alison Bradford October 11, 2012 at 6:34 pm

I’m glad this has worked for you before Jenny and am sure it will again!

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