A couple of weeks ago, my wife and I went on a family trip. It was only a three-day trip, but before going I needed to do some backend work.
What do I mean by backend work? The backend work is going through your calendar and to-do list manager and looking to see what is coming up over the next week. It also means looking at what work you would normally do on the days you will be away and scheduling time to do the work before you go. The worst thing you can do is put it off until you return. When you return you will have the work you didn’t do as well as all the additional work that mounted up while you were away — not a good way to restart your work when you return.
Because trips like this are planned, I knew it was coming up and because I am always looking ahead to see what is coming up and seeing where I can relieve any potential pressure and bottlenecks before they occur, I was able to schedule my YouTube video recordings, podcast recording and editing and write the following week’s blog post before I went away on the trip.
It sounds like a lot of work to do, but when you have the backend processes in place, it is a lot easier than it sounds. Yes, there is an increased volume of work for a few days, but when you make full use of your calendar and to-do list manager, it is a lot easier than you think.
The alternative is to not plan ahead and have my family break ruined by worrying about when I will have time to catch up with my work. To me, that is not an option. I would much rather have an intense few days before my break, followed by a fully engaged, worry-free time with my family.
That’s a managed interruption to a normal working routine, what about unplanned interruptions? A crisis at work, a loved one becoming seriously ill or your car breaking down on the way to work?
This is where having the processes in place to handle these crises comes in. I often tell my coaching clients to stress test their systems once they have them up and running. It’s fine for a system to work when you are doing your normal day to day work — when things are running smoothly — the real test is how well your system works when things go crazy. And things going crazy is a guaranteed part of life. For example, When you do the weekly review, you can look ahead and see what your schedule looks like for the week ahead. You can review all your projects and identify work that needs doing next week and schedule time for doing that work. You can also build in flexible time to handle crises and any work you have not managed to get done or finished.
This week, for example, I have an article to write for Lifehack. The deadline for that is Tuesday evening. I don’t have articles to write for Lifehack every week so it is additional work. Whenever I get work like this, I look on my calendar for 3 hours. I know I need two hours to write the draft and a further hour to edit. So, I scheduled 2 hours for writing the article Monday afternoon and will edit the article on Tuesday afternoon. The backend work is knowing how long an article will take to write and scheduling that time on my calendar. The writing of the first draft will be an objective for Monday so if the day goes crazy, I know it will get done — my objectives always get done. That’s the power of the 2+8 Prioritisation system. Each day have two objective tasks and eight focus tasks to complete.
Having the backend work done, knowing what you have to do and by when, scheduling the appropriate amount of time on your calendar to get it done and then doing it, that’s making sure you have the backend work done.
So while you might think taking time out of your already busy schedule to plan and have in place a system to make sure the work gets done is time you do not have, the alternative — not having a plan or a system — is what is causing you to feel too busy, overwhelmed and stressed. If you want to end that perpetual feeling of being too busy, you should stop, sit down and gather together everything you have to do and make a schedule to get it done. Put in place a system that prevents interruptions — blocking your calendar, turning off notifications on your phone for an hour or so and listening to some soothing music — you don’t have to disappear completely, just for an hour or two each day. Don’t worry, your boss, customers and colleagues can wait.
The backend work — putting in place the planning and system — is a guaranteed way for you to finally rid yourself of the daily overwhelm and stress. It is your key to having the freedom to do the things you want to do when you want to do them.
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