No matter how many self-help and productivity books you read and implement it is inevitable that you will eventually fall behind in your work and life. Falling behind can be a terrible experience; you can lose precious time catching up, stress yourself out, and the worst case being losing your job or money.

But, you don’t have to be a horrible, unproductive loser when you fall behind in work and life. Follow these three steps to fall behind in style.

1. Stick to your system

First off, falling behind won’t work if you don’t have a productivity system in place. It doesn’t really matter what system you follow, just make sure that you have some sort of framework to fall back on.

The reason that you need your system when you fall behind is that you need a trusted place to put all of the incoming stuff that you can’t currently handle. Having a place to store this information while you get out of your little (or big) rut is important to keeping yourself somewhat on track. While you work through you projects and tasks backlog, keep all of the incoming information on a someday/maybe list and reevaluate it when you are out of your rut.

Try very hard not to add more work to your current projects and tasks, unless you absolutely don’t have a choice. If you do have to add more work, then you may need to cut something you are currently working on (more on that in step three).

2. Get some backup

When your work life is falling through the cracks it is almost impossible to get back on track alone. There is nothing better than having someone (or a team of people) to fall back on. I’m not saying that you want to make these people your scapegoats or give them all the work while you sit around and drink your Starbucks. I’m saying that you have to communicate with them and possibly offload work to them.

Make sure that others that you work with know that you are behind and that you are concentrating on a few things to get back on track. If you are a pretty diligent worker to begin with, your coworkers will understand and most likely will give you a hand, that is, if they aren’t completely backlogged themselves.

If you have some teammates at work that are really good at something you have to do, maybe you can delegate them some of your work so you can concentrate on the others things that you are better and faster at.

3. Revaluate your commitments and cut the fat

One of the biggest reasons we fall behind in work and life is because we have committed to too many projects and cool ideas. Our minds are filled with glorious plans, ways to make money, killer startups, and projects that “need to be done” or are “no-brainers”.

The reality of the matter is that we can only commit to so much in our lives. If we overcommit, we not only risk falling behind in our work, we risk completed projects poorly or not at all. This can be more detrimental than the initial stress from falling behind.

What you can do is fall back on your system (you do have one of those, right?) and look at all of the projects you have committed to. Take the five most important projects and make them the only active ones you have. These will most likely be projects that are overdue or are on the brink of failure. Concentrate on these five projects and only work on them until they are completed. Then you can start to trickle in other “less important” projects.

You may find by reevaluating your projects that some of them are not worth your time right now or not worth any time ever. Get rid of them as you see fit. There is no better way to get ahead in work by giving yourself less unimportant work.

One task at a time

While getting destroyed by your work projects can be stressful and feel like the world around you is caving in, you don’t have to be a super productivity nerd to get back on track; just someone who is realistic with themselves and can set realistic expectations on their own work. All you have to do is follow these three steps to make falling behind in work and life look easy.

(Photo credit: Office worker with a sign asking for help via Shutterstock)

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