Prioritising your ideas and projects

As a software engineer - or any other kind of engineer I guess - it is kind of natural that you want to suck in as many cool technologies, programming languages and ideas as possible. This happens to me quite often as I am working in a fast paced environment like technology and software development. That is why I would like to share a simple approach on how to tackle this.

Why is this important?

Jumping from one cool topic to the next one results in different disturbances (at least those are the once I experienced):

  • you get nothing done,
  • you learn nothing deeply,
  • you have the feeling of achieving nothing as you are not getting good because you do not spend enough time,
  • you feel useless and worse than others.
Introduction to a priority backlog

My priority backlog

The priority backlog or priority list is a simple, prioritised list of things that you want to learn, try out or improve upon. To create a priority backlog you:

  1. write down all the things that you want to tackle, that bring you forward professionally or personally,
  2. order this list with the item with the highest priority first.

After creating this backlog go over the list again - and this is very important -, stop on each item and ask yourself these questions:

  • Is this really something that you want to spend your spare time with?
  • Does this bring you forward personally or professionally?
  • Does this make your life easier, more interesting, more rewarding?
  • Is this something that you plan on pursuing for some period of time?
  • Put your own questions here...
Using the priority backlog

If you now find some time to work on your skills look at this list and take the first item. Work on that one. If you do not feel like doing the item with the highest priority right now, go further down the list until you find something that interests you today. In the end, you should be doing something fun during your free-time, too.

One more thing: it doesn't matter if you work on the most important item each time you have free-time. You can also split your time and work on the two most important items regularly. What matters is that you try to avoid just surfing the internet - although that might be inspiring from time to time, too.

Adapting

Of course, nothing is set in stone. Interests change. Priorities change. Be sure to challenge the items on your list from time to time. However, ensure that it is stable to some extend. If you change the items on the list too often check “Introduction to a priority backlog” again and ask yourself the questions noted there.

In one of the upcoming articles I would like to present another small tool I use to avoid changing my priority backlog too often.

Post images taken by me, published under CC BY-SA 4.0.