This week, why must we do the so-called backend work if we want to be more productive.
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Episode 224 | Script
Hello and welcome to episode 224 of the Working With Podcast. A podcast to answer all your questions about productivity, time management, self-development and goal planning. My name is Carl Pullein and I am your host for this show.
Last week, I wrote about the importance of the backend work and why you need to take a few days off to isolate yourself and really go through the process. That was inspired by a question I was asked a few weeks ago about what the backend work involves and why it’s important.
This week, that question is the one I will be answering.
Now before we get into the question and answer, just a heads up that I’ve just released my latest online course. It’s the first of a new series of mini-courses I will be doing this year which takes a single part of time management and productivity and show you, step by step, how you can implement it into your daily life.
The first one is on time blocking. Possible the most effective way to get control of your time and to make sure you have time for doing the things you want to do. Ultimately, everything we want to do will involve some time, which means we need to have complete control over our time. That’s what this course will teach you to do.
Full details of this fantastic course are in the show notes and you can sign up for it right there.
Okay, on with the show and that means it’s time for me now to hand you over to the mystery podcast voice for this week’s question.
This week’s question comes from Liz. Liz asks: Hi Carl, I’ve heard a lot of people talk about things like areas of focus and north stars, but I’m not sure what they really mean. All I want is a way to get control of the crazy amount of work I have to do. Is there any reason why I should be worrying about these things?
Hi Liz, thank you for your question.
It sounds like what you are asking is why are things like establishing your goals and the important things in your life a necessity. Now the important things in your life come from areas (or roles) that can often be neglected if all we are focused on is finishing our work or hitting deadlines. It’s not healthy to be stressed out and anxious about the work we have to do and to let other, more important, areas of our life go neglected.
Now, I admit, with my coaching programme, the first thing I need to do with a new client is to get on top of any backlog or outstanding work that is hanging over a client. But if I am to help a person become better organised and more productive in the long-term so they have time for things like their family, relationships, health and fitness and enjoying life, I need to move to establishing what their long-term goals are and what is important to them.
You see, when you build your life on a foundation of long-term goals and areas of focus, you feel less stressed, more in touch with yourself and fulfilled. It means that these areas and goals become the priority in your life as a whole and work, and the associated workload, is just dealt with.
It’s when work becomes the central part of our lives that things will ultimately break down. You’ll burn out and you will feel exhausted.
But, more importantly, when you know what your long-term goals and areas of focus are, you give yourself a “why”. Why are you doing what you are doing?
Most people go into a job and see it as a way to get some money to pay for groceries, mortgages and going out. That’s a very depressing way to see your work. Your work needs to have some meaning, some other reason why you are doing it.
It could be part of your long-term goal—to become a leader within your organisation, or it could be you want to help people improve their lives.
In my case, the reason I turn up every day is because I see it as a vehicle to help people. Helping people gives me a huge buzz. It excites me and leaves me feeling energised and fulfilled. That’s my why and I see my work as part of my life’s purpose area of focus.
Life would be horrible if I was reacting to my to-do list every day. That way my to-do list would fill up with everyone else’s long-term goals and areas of focus and I would find myself being pulled in all sorts of different directions and those directions would not necessarily leave me feeling happy or fulfilled.
So the backend work is what puts you in control.
So, what’s involved in the backend work?
Well, the first place to start is to ask yourself what you would like to be doing in ten or twenty years' time? That can be hard to do if you have never thought about it before, but where would you like to be living? What would you like to be doing every day?
You may feel you are happy where you are today, and that’s fine except that life doesn’t stand still. We get older, societies and cultures change and if we are not changing with them we are falling behind.
Do nothing to stay fit and healthy today and in ten or twenty years' time you will be struggling to move, you will be wracked with pain and your health will be causing you to spend a large proportion of your time in hospitals. Is that what you want to be doing in ten or twenty years?
Do nothing to improve your skills, and very soon, the work you are skilled at today will be obsolete or have been replaced by a computer. In the last twenty years, I’ve seen receptionists, specialised camera operators, secretaries and sales admin disappear. All of which have been replaced by new technology. Receptionists have been replaced by automated telephone systems, sales admin by Salesforce, secretaries by email, Teams and Slack and specialised film camera operators replaced by drones
So the area of focus related to your personal development is important if you want to stay relevant in your industry.
The best way to build a set of long-term goals that inspire you and to learn what is important to you is to step away from your day to day life for a few days and go somewhere outside of your normal environment.
Book yourself into a country-house hotel or a mountain retreat for a few days and get away from your day to day life. Use these days to really think about what you want and what is important to you.
Use this time to expand your areas of focus—what would you like to regularly do with your family and your friends. What skills would you like to learn? Perhaps you’ve always wanted to learn a musical instrument or to play tennis?
I have a free areas of focus workbook you can download from my website that will guide you through the process of turning these areas of focus into actionable steps you can take every day or week.
The problem is most people will never go through this process. It’s as if they are scared to discover what they want or afraid of making a mistake. The thing is you will never make a mistake. You can change your plans at any time. That’s the fantastic thing about being alive. We can change our minds.
Up until I was thirty-five my whole life plan (if you could call it that) was predicated that I lived and worked in the United Kingdom. It never crossed my mind I would end up living and working in South Korea. Well, that’s where I am and that’s where my future plans are focused on. Life is wonderful in the way it throws up opportunities at almost every junction.
But, it is important to have goals because they give you a direction and a purpose. Without goals, you’ll end up helping everyone else achieve their goals (and not in a positive way).
That said, the biggest benefit to know what you want and what is important to you is your whole time management and productivity system will be focused on you and your wants. When you are focused and making progress where it matters, you become a leader and an inspiration to everyone around you. And when that happens, you begin to give back to the people that matter to you. It’s a win-win. You take care of yourself and your needs and at the same time, you contribute to everyone around you.
You will be more positive, more intentional and less stressed. Everything you do will be more meaningful and you will know exactly why you are doing something, even if you don’t find the particular task pleasant.
And when all that happens, you will be energised and that is a great way to improve your overall productivity.
So, there you go, Liz. I hope that has answered your question. Now go and book those three or four days off, get yourself checked into a nice quiet hotel and enjoy the process of designing the life you want to live.
And… Before I finish, this podcast will be taking a break next week. We will be back in two weeks.
In the meantime, thank you Liz for the question and thank you to you for listening. It just remains for me now to wish you all a very very productive week.