Falling Behind and Digital Bankruptcy

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I travel a fair bit during part of the year. During that time, I end up prepping a number of items as I know I won't have much time to deal with those items while on the road. I may try to get a few things done when traveling, but often I fall behind on regular work and certainly on some communications. I can return to a slew of emails, Slack messages, forum notifications and articles. I may have some SPAM issues or other administrative tasks that have slipped in the cracks as well that will impact my day.

And often, chores as well. Outside of work, there are certain things I find myself taking care of on the ranch, which can limit how much extra time I might be able to spend on work items catching up. That's probably a good thing.

Sometimes I find myself declaring digital bankruptcy and just deleting a series of emails or marking Slack channels as read or removing forum notifications. While it's possible I might miss something important, it's also a huge time sink to dig into each area that I've fallen behind on. The lesson here might be if I've forgotten about something you asked me to do, ping me again. My boss certainly does.

This isn't just because of travel. I've found myself falling further and further behind when I work at a company and never travel. Vacation or time off certainly can cause issues, but big projects have a similar effect. When I've had to write lots of code or assemble complex infrastructure, many other tasks take a lower priority with me. I'll get to some of them, but a few will fall away, and I often abandon them without some prompting from another person. This has even happened with some firefighting incidents that take more than a few hours. Often I may still be fixing things across days or weeks, neglecting other work or delaying my reading of random communications.

I know, not the best system, but I also find that with the low bar in many communication tools, many people will ask for things without thinking if they provide value. I've also found many people ask for something and forget about it, not really wanting it, but just suggesting work. I think if there is work people really need completed, they will ask me again in the future, often with some query about a timeline.

This isn't to say that I want to plan and schedule everything. I think ad hoc suggestions, requests, and ideas are good. I try to triage them and decide which items to schedule in my day, but if I don't deem things important, I may drop them. I also know there is the chance to pull information to myself from sources, such as Slack. Deciding to ignore some of this might be a mistake, but much isn't overly relevant in my day to day job and choosing to let it go dramatically reduces my stress. Perhaps that's something you will choose to do as well in your career.

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