Building Your Backlog

First, what's a backlog?

Alright, let's get to work.

First, what's a Backlog?

When using Scrum for software development, the key pillar that drives what development teams do next is a “backlog.”

A backlog, quite simply, is a dynamic, prioritized list of features, functions, and fixes. Every time your favorite phone app rolls out new features, these likely came from their backlog.

It’s dynamic because the priority of certain items may change as time goes on and work gets completed. What seemed important might not be or what seemed unimportant might now require more immediate attention.

In the same way that software developers use a Backlog when creating their products, we’re going to use this same concept as it relates to the skills, habits, and behaviors that will inevitably help you become the person you need to be to reach your goals.

The key component of the backlog is prioritization. While software development teams are able to work on many items at once -because teams are usually made up of m 5 or so developers, we cannot.

While many studies indicate that we can't multitask, the reality is that we can't multi-focus. We can do many things at once but only one thing is getting our true focus. While we're focusing on that one thing, the others aren't really getting any attention.

And since we're usually trying to do everything at once, we never really make any progress in any area. It's a fool's errand.

Our Backlog empowers us to prioritize and iterate. We focus on one thing at a time, the most important thing, and then once we get really go at that we then move on to the next thing.

In the next couple of sections we'll show you how to build out your backlog. Then, we'll show you our signature structure that we use with all of our clients.

This is a slightly different approach to your typical backlog which is explained in detail in "The PFF Big 15" section. Please refer to this as often as possible if you ever feel at all stuck when building out your backlog.

And feel free to copy it exactly as is. At the end of the day, this list is your list and you have the final say in what’s important and what is a priority. But know that the list of skills, habits, and behaviors that I recommend is built in a way so that it builds on itself and offers the greatest return for each consecutive action.

Building Your List


Creating your Backlog, your List, is a simple process but one that deserves the time and space to be right. After all, this list will drive the actions and will ultimately determine whether or not you reach your goals.

I recommend completing the following steps using a physical piece of paper. I know, I know it's 2018 what is Ev thinking? Just trust me on this one.

In Module 3 we'll talk more about a couple other tools you can use like Trello or Evernote. 


List out the 20 things that you think you need to do to reach your goals. Use your responses from both your Initial Assessment and from the Outcomes to Behaviors Exercise to help build this list.

Anything and everything.

If it’s more than 20, great. Include it. But it should be at least 20.

For example, get to the gym, eat more vegetables, drink more water, cut out sugar, eat carbs, don’t eat carbs, don’t eat after 10 pm, sleep 8 hours a night, intermittently fast, take supplements, etc.

Whatever it is, list it out until you hit 20.

Step 2:

Once you have your list, circle your Top 5.

I suspect this may be a challenge in and of itself if not more so than creating the original. That’s ok. Be patient. Do it right.

Once you do this, I promise you’ll have “it” figured out better than most people.

Step 3:

With your Top 5, put these on a new piece of paper.

You now have two of the most important lists you’ll ever write.

Your Top 5 are the things you’re going to do, and if we’re working together, we’ll continue to prioritize this, break it down into actionable steps, and adjust and adapt as we go. It might not be perfect, but that’s ok. But this is our priority list. This is where we start. This is the shit that actually matters.

The other list of 15, that’s likely a list of your biggest ugliest distractions.

These are the things that are keeping you from reaching your goals.

These are the things that are spending you too thin, making you feel like you have to do everything all of the time.

These are the things that destroy your focus and keep you chasing the next shiny new thing.

A Caveat

Now, I’m going to go a little bit against everything I just said for a minute to prove a point that there is no one way to go about this and it’s all about finding what works for you.

From here you can do one of two things:

1. Use the list you defined
2. Use the PFF Big 15 List

The thing with each option is that the size of the list increases pretty drastically when moving from option 1 to option 2.

The reason for this is that there is a different experience when you’re doing this self-guided and when you’re doing this with the support of a coach. While Section 4 has resources for each item on the PFF Big 15 List, it takes a lot of discipline and accountability to work through all 15 items (usually about a year). You can work through your Top 5 is about 3 months.

I want to set you up for success. I’ll show you exactly what my coaching program entails but without me there I wouldn’t expect you to follow it exactly. You might be able to, which is why I included it as an option and will list out the details in the next section. But for most that are flying solo, your own Top 5 works best. 


Evan CookComment