Updated January 2024

Way back in 2014, I wrote an extensive article on the Agile Methodology and in the process picked up some great ideas for managing workflow and multiple concurrent projects. One of the most useful was the backlog, a giant list of deliverables and their current status. It's the best way I've found to keep projects (and their people) on the path to completion. The backlog provides a macro view of all work to be completed and enables us to see at a glance where it is in the process, so I can assess the work in progress (WIP). WIP is not your friend, so keeping tabs on it is critical to moving quickly and efficiently--and keeping clients happy.

How to create a backlog

There are apps for this, but we just use an old-fashioned spreadsheet.

If you're into granularity, this approach is for you:

  1. Break each assignment down to its key elements (Agile-ites call this atomicity), like brief/approval, query, interview/research, content review, draft, revise, edit, ship
  2. Assign dates to each item.
  3. Reorganize the list in a way that makes sense to you (Agile-ites like weighted shortest job first - tasks that yield the most value and can be completed quickly)
  4. Re-order the list every day or day part as needed

I tried that for a while and it was just too tedious. The version we use now is streamlined:

  1. List each assignment or task (if there are a lot of moving parts of people, you might need to separate the items)
  2. Assign a deadline
  3. Record the status (where it is now, what the next step is)
  4. Add notes as necessary

How to use a backlog

Because I know what we're doing and where it is, I can quickly rejigger schedules and assignments. Few things get off schedule (and none badly) because project increments are checked off frequently. If we need to make an adjustment, it's usually small and easy to manage. And when new opportunities arise, it's very easy to  judge whether or not we can take them on because I have a real-time view of our current workload.

This communicative and transparent process has made a huge difference in our ability to increase our productivity without sacrificing quality or sanity.

Ready to give it a try for your content operation? Email me!

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