Today's dose of productivity porn: Mark Forster on backlogs


#1

Here’s the super short version of Mark Forster’s advice on backlogs: Isolate the backlog and [bee]mind it separately.

Rationale: If you mix backlog processing with inbox processing then (1) it’s just kinda demoralizing to feel like the red queen and (2) you’re driving blind, with no feedback loop on whether your inbox processing is sustainable. You need to hit inbox zero every day, even if you do it by letting things fall on the floor, because you need to be in control of what falls on the floor.

The Inbox River Method

Some people can get away with the river approach (thanks to John Langford for the metaphor), where they can trust themselves to pull out anything sufficiently important as the emails flow past. I cannot be trusted with that approach, since I persist in watching important emails flow past into the vast sea that is my inbox and delusionally insisting that I’ll totally get to that later.

Conclusion

If you’re like me – super akratic about your inbox – then you have to somehow be an inbox zeroer. If you’ve slipped and have a backlog then you’re suddenly the red queen on a slippery slope. Hence: isolate the backlog, keep inbox zeroing, beemind the backlog separately.

PS: As Mark sagely points out, this applies to any kind of backlog (personal debt, for example):


Temptation bundling for inbox beeminding
#2

Having multiple backlogs can also be helpful. If you’re not making progress on one goal , you’re probably making on another!

I have a overall count (not beeminded) of open tasks which I track in Jira through a chart in the dashboard showing the trend over time. Now at 150 (used to be 300 :))
At the same time, i’ve had a backlog goal on the requirements of a single project, being tracked for over two years. Any new requests where not included, the goal was tracking just the original list of tasks.