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29 May

How to catch up when you have fallen behind

Date: 2013-05-29 12:00 Comments: 0 st

Sometimes our newly established and super-structured working methods run smooth like clockwork. But occasionally everything collapses and the unprocessed e-mails you have received, papers and small notes your have made pile up, and we are soon back in our old habits again.

This often happens after something extraordinary has occurred (which has required our full attention), when we are travelling for several days in a row or when we are in an intense period of many meetings and engagements.

Besides reviewing the situation and finding improvements we can make next time we are in one of these situations and thereby ensuring we do not end up unstructured again, more importantly – we need to get back in the saddle fast. We need to return to our smooth, structured and well-organized workday as quickly as possible.

First-aid of structure-breakdown

But how? Where do you start when everything has collapsed? It might feel daunting to try and get some kind of grip on what seems to be an overwhelming amount of things we need to sort out. This is why we might need someone who firmly but kindly guides us through the work of getting caught up.

I met with one of my one-man-session-mentees the other week who, due to having a period with a very intense schedule, had drifted off-course in her efforts to be structured. During the hour it took us to get her back online again we worked with a “getting caught up”-checklist I had developed.

Since it worked so well, I would like to share it with the readers of Done!.

Do this

When you have slipped back into old tracks and need to regain your structure, close the door to your office and turn off any device that might disturb you.

Once you have done this,

  1. Gather all your to-do-tasks
    • Create to-do-tasks out of anything you think you need to do but which is not currently on the list.
    • Place all loose sheets of paper in the physical inbox.
    • Empty the portable inbox into the physical one.
    • Process the physical inbox.
    • Process your e-mail inbox.
  2. Update your project overview

    • Skim through the project overview and add any existing projects which are not on the list.
    • Remove completed projects.
    • See if you have a next step (such as something you need to do or something you are waiting for from someone else) defined for each project. If not, define one and add it to your to-do-list.
  3. Update the to-do-list

    • Open the items on the list which you intend to do today.
    • Reevaluate the due-date of every task. Move it or keep it. Does the task really need to be done a certain day or do you just want to finish it as soon as possible? If it isn’t actually urgent, remove the due-date (you will see and be reminded of the task in your weekly run-through anyway).
  4. Done! Now you know that everything you need to do is compiled in the list and in the project overview. You know what needs to be done and no tasks are marked as urgent without actually being so.

Get in control again in no time

If you save this checklist (or your personal version of it) and make use of it as soon as you have fallen behind, you will regain the good structure you are striving towards in no time. You will not fall behind more than you already have by feeling discouraged at the sight or thought of your desk. Instead you will get back into the drivers-seat quickly and be able to focus on what matters most by prioritizing consciously again.

In calm control rather than being stressed. Feeling satisfaction rather than trepidation. 

What is your way?

How do you get back in the saddle quickly after falling off the horse? Leave a comment and tell us!

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