How to Make Up For Lost Time

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Life happens. Interruptions occur. Things get in the way. Despite our best intentions, most of us have had to deal with backlog in one way or another, but once you have a case of backlog it can start spreading like the plague. The more time you spend trying to catch up on the work that you’ve missed means you’re missing out on even more new work coming your way or worse; you’re so caught up with tasks that need your constant attention that you let your older projects slide until it becomes a bigger problem- you miss a deadline, you let down a colleague, or even lose a client.

The key to dealing with any kind of back log is to figure out a way to deal with your workload as efficiently as possible without getting overwhelmed.

At the beginning of any project, I recommend writing down all the tasks that are involved. The same can be applied to your backlog. Make a list of all your projects that are on your plate.

Working on a project is fruitless if you do not have all the materials or information needed for its completion. Organize all the necessary paperwork, gather your materials, and contact those involved for any additional information you don’t have. It’s better to know exactly what you’re dealing with then discover you’re missing a crucial piece of the puzzle while in the middle of a project. If you’re waiting for other people to get back to you on something, accept that this task is temporarily out of your hands and focus on the things that only you control.

Now that you have a better picture of the things you need to work on, prioritize what you need to work on based on urgency. Is a project or colleague at risk if you don’t deliver something on time? Have you made a commitment to something you cannot back out of? Are you responsible for another person’s health, safety or well-being? All of these tasks need your attention first.

Next, see what you can juggle.  Are there tasks that you can delegate to others, such as personal assistants, subordinates, caregivers or secretaries? Is there a co-worker who can pick up that shift or take on that extra work for you? If there’s anything on your list that no longer holds your interest, has no direct benefit to you personally or professionally, or is a commitment that is bigger than you are willing and/or able to take on, consider deleting it.

Finally, decide what you can put off. This is officially your back-log and can only be processed once your other, more urgent tasks are completed. Even if it still seems enormous, you can forge ahead with the confidence that the most important aspects of your life are under control.

Like any other large project, it’s always best to break it down into small chunks. Try breaking down tasks based on category, or action (like “Meeting Notes to Type” or “Reports to Review”). Make room in your schedule for dedicated back-log processing time, paying attention to energy levels throughout the day. If you find yourself procrastinating, make your processing time a special date with yourself and take your work to a coffee shop, or reward yourself with a small gift or special treat. If you’re having trouble finding the time, try and find hidden chunks of time in your schedule to catch up on reading or other easily portable tasks, such as commuting or waiting for a flight.

Making up for lost time and getting down to dealing with your backlog is a task that’s often overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be. Remember I did it, and I was the girl who was accused of running a law firm out of her tiny apartment. I shudder to think about the months I spent dealing with all of that backlog, but the sheer amount of space I gained (and the peace of mind it gave me) was well worth the battle.

KBwB-BFlower-50Want more advice on how to deal with workflow? I make it my life’s work to figure out other people work. I share all my ideas on productivity, scheduling and organizing all in the Busy section of my blog.

Do you need to catch up on your clutter? Find out all about how I purged my apartment here, and all the papers I would not recommend getting rid of here. Cleaning out your closet? I did that too.

Still having trouble breaking down your enormous to-do list? Read my suggestions on how to best tackle it here. Or read this post to find out how I re-organized my to-do lists so I could actually get things done.

 

The Holy List

KBB_recycled_paperIn a world where there’s a push to go paperless, it’s easy to want to get rid of your paper-based system entirely. Going digital keeps things safe and well-preserved, and hopefully makes them easier to archive and access (providing you have a good digital filing system in place!)

As attractive as gaining the extra space might be, there are still some documents that you should keep on hand that I consider part of “The Holy List” a.k.a. “The List of Things Ye Shall Not Purge”. For someone like me who relies on a hybrid paper/digital system, there are certain documents that forever will remain in paper format. But if you’re really desperate to go digital here are some of the things that you should at least consider keeping on hand.

  • Any important documents associated with life events such as birth, death, and marriage certificates
  • Household/auto/medical/travel insurance policies, certificates, assessments, etc.
  • Deeds, leases, rental agreements, etc. for all of the properties that you rent, own or lease
  • Degrees, certifications, diplomas, awards, report cards, school transcripts, or important test scores such as the SATs or LSATs
  • Original contract agreements for household and workplace employees, vendors, service providers and major clients
  • Tax documents and assessments (you are required by law to hold onto these documents for a certain number of years; check with your local government as the rules change depending on where you live)
  • End-of-life documents such as wills, Power of Attorney forms, funeral arrangements,etc. (It may be helpful for your loved ones to have a list of bank accounts, pension numbers, etc. to help ease the process and obtain some peace of mind.)

Notice that I didn’t include keepsakes on my list- I leave these up to your individual judgment. What makes a memory meaningful is subjective from one person to the next, and the way a person chooses to keep, store and access their memories is entirely up to them. I don’t believe in holding onto absolutely everything because I have found that I enjoy re-visiting my memories more when I can access them more easily, which for me means confining them to a couple of boxes on my bookshelf. For some people, it might mean scanning everything into a computer. As long as things are organized in a way that feels right to you, and it isn’t jeopardizing the health, safety or well-being of yourself or any others in your environment, go for it! Please just remember to let go of anything unnecessary, meaningless or painful to you now. Your memories deserve better than that!

It can be easy to get caught up in the power of The Purge (I totally identify with it here), and with The Holy List you can’t really go wrong. Trust your instincts. If you won’t use it again, shred it. If it’s something that’s going to come back to bite you in the butt, keep it, or at least make sure you have an additional digital version handy just in case.

Sticking to a strict list of documents that I should keep has definitely made a difference in my life, and subsequently increased the amount of room I had on my bookshelf, so you know what that means. I can’t say for sure whether or not this was my plan all along but my story is that the added space was a surprise, and I’m sticking to it.

KBwB-BFlower-50Haven’t started a Purge of your own yet? Don’t delay and start your journey here. Looking for other ways to organize your space and make more room on your bookshelf? I yak on about my favorite solutions here. If there’s something that should be on my list that I forgot, call me on it below! I’d love to hear your suggestions.

10 Things to Do on a Rainy Afternoon

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  1. Winter is coming. Well, at the very least it comes once a year. Get your wardrobe ready by giving your sock drawer a mini-makeover. Make sure each sock has a mate and toss those that are on their last legs. Do the same for sockettes, footless tights, stockings, pantyhose, etc. Take inventory of the pieces you’ll need to get your through the colder months and save for your next shopping trip, or add to a future budget. (Feeling more ambitious and wanting to clean out your whole closet? I’ve got some tips on how to do that here.)
  2. Christmas is coming, too. Why not be super organized and spend a fun afternoon browsing the Internet and magazines to brainstorm some fun gifts for all of the people on your list? If you find birthday, anniversary or shower gifts to add to your list than you get a gold star.
  3. Craft your perfect playlist. An afternoon stuck inside is the perfect opportunity to start browsing through your digital library. Organize music based on mood, region, genre, beat, era or be even more prepared by crafting playlists for upcoming events or occasions. For example, I’ve got a playlist called “Broken Heart Mending”. Bet you can’t guess what that one’s for!
  4. Clean your oven. Because, come on- how often do you clean your oven? Probably more than I do. A friend of mine has a funny story he likes to tell about me at parties about the afternoon he walked into my apartment and found me on my hands and knees shouting obscenities at my baking rack. True story- it’s honestly my most hated task. But you have to do it sometime, right?
  5. Go through your pantry. Discard expired and damaged products, consolidate multiples and take inventories for your next shopping trip. See how much money you can save by stretching your staples and shopping your pantry to flush out meals before you need to go to the grocery store. Remember to donate anything your family won’t use or love to your local food bank!
  6. Organize your digital photos. Now is the perfect time, especially when a lot of your summer memories are current, to edit and refine your collections and store them in a way that makes them easy to revisit and share with others. Order prints of your favorites online to include with letters or holiday cards, or share by cultivating a collection on your favorite social media platform.
  7. Purge your files. Pick a filing cabinet, a box, a folder, or a magazine file and make a vow to yourself that nothing goes back inside that you don’t absolutely need to keep. Make sure to shred sensitive documents or set them aside and accumulate in order to hire a shredding service.
  8. Testing, testing, one, two, three. Once a year I like to do a quick inventory of all of my office supplies and test my pencils, pens, highlighters and markers on a scrap piece of paper so I may discard ones that have dried up, or have become difficult or uncomfortable to use. Hello, my name is B and I am anal-retentive. (In my defense, there’s nothing worse than grabbing a dead pen when you’re trying to jot something down quickly, right?)
  9. Back up your computer. If you don’t then all of that playlist organizing and digital photo sorting will be for naught. Don’t have a way of backing up your computer? Now’s the perfect time to research a method that will work for you.
  10. Pick a shelf, any shelf. That’s it. Clear it, clean it, organize it and make a vow to yourself that you will never, ever let it get disorganized again (or at the very least for another year, until you have another rainy afternoon on which to organize it again).

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I’ve shared with you some of the ways that I spend my rainy afternoons- now I’m interested in hearing how you spend yours! Drop me a line at keepingbusyb@gmail.com or contribute by commenting below. Are you looking for other productive boredom busters? I’ve got plenty of thoughts on organizing here. Looking for something a little more creative? When I’m not busying myself with some project or another I’m reading or whipping up something in the kitchen. Read all about it here and here.