So one project popped up, then another. You were holding it all together – and then, something went wrong. Things started slipping through the cracks. Now, you’re looking at major backlog.
You can’t go back in time and stop the slip-ups. So how do you catch up? How do you handle your backlog… without going nuts?
1. Be realistic
Wouldn’t it be FANTASTIC to just wiggle your fingers over backlog and poof! be done? Then you could take a nap.
Unfortunately, backlog becomes backlog because it takes time to resolve (otherwise you would’ve done it already). When we’re aiming to get past overdue work, it can be tempting to underestimate how long resolution will take; our hopes get ahead of us.
Be realistic about how much time you need. Accept that you’re probably going to get frustrated along the way. It’s not going to be easy, fast, or exciting – but it’ll probably be LESS irritating than you anticipate. Keep your head down, and prepare to push through some angst.
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2. Be communicative
This does not mean that you have to announce to each and every client that you will be unavailable for new work because you are catching up on backed-up work because you are an inveterate procrastinator.
It does, however, mean that you should be communicative about your availability and your commitments.
If you’re catching up on backlog, don’t take on prohibitive amounts of new work. That’s the path to being overwhelmed; it’s okay to set boundaries about how often and how much you can work.
If you’re going to be late on some unimportant deadlines, calmly let people know. Let loved ones know that you need to catch up – it may help you be accountable!
Make time to unclog your workflow, and don’t be afraid to calmly communicate your limits. Soon, this temporary slowdown will be over.
3. Focus on the positive
When we’re pushing through a backlog, it can be easy to fall prey to despair and self-recrimination. It doesn’t even feel like forward motion, does it? It feels stale and uninspiring – and it’s tempting to dwell on the mistakes that led to overdue work.
Focusing on the negative is understandable, but it’s not productive. The more you dread working through backlog, the more you’ll delay – trust me, I have done extensive personal research re: this technique.
Instead, try to focus on the positive! Resolving backlog clears the decks. It lets you release old commitments, and removes major stressors. Think of the relief you’ll feel when this is no longer weighing on your mind. Pull, pull mightily towards that relief!
Everybody gets behind sometimes; try not to beat yourself up about it. Instead, progress calmly and steadily towards resolution. You WILL catch up – just keep going! You’re almost there! Next stop… nap.
Kate Shea lives and works in New York City, where she consumes an inordinate amount of Sriracha daily. You can catch up with her on Twitter at @katerone.