And speaking of getting back on track:
In his excellent Do it Tomorrow, British time management guru Michael Forster observes that, on average, the number of incoming tasks, emails, whatever, that come into your life each day needs to line up with the number you can process, respond to, etc., over the course of that same average day. Otherwise, you end up progressively further and further behind with each day passing.
Once you’re behind, it’s increasingly tough to catch back up. It’s like bailing water out of a ship that’s already flooded. So Forster puts out an excellently elegant solution: declare a backlog, and move everything that’s come in prior to right this second to a separate list (or, for email, folder). Then focus, first, just on making sure you’re keeping up, day after day, with the new stuff as it comes in from here forward. After that, as time allows, then whittle away at the backlog.
Due to a slew of factors, which mostly boil down to me trying to juggle too much all at once, I realized earlier this week that I wasn’t even close to keeping up. My to-do list had hit 200 items – well beyond what I might hope to accomplish in a day, or even in a month. So, on Monday, I called shenanigans, and declared a backlog. I’m hitting new work as it comes in first, and slowly whittling away at those 200 items as the rest of my day allows.
If nothing else, it’s a good chance for me to watch carefully how much work comes in, and how much I can get back out, in a given day. If I can’t stay at inbox and task list zero, then I have to toss some commitments, or otherwise whittle away at the demands on my life.