How to Prioritize Tasks and Do Only the Work That Matters | TechWell

How to Prioritize Tasks and Do Only the Work That Matters

Person adding a square to a grid of sticky notes, photo by Kelly Sikkema

It can be overwhelming to deal with all the bits and pieces that go into software development on a daily basis. When you’re working on multiple projects at a time, prioritization is a must—but with everyone breathing down your neck for results, it’s difficult to separate wants from needs.

If you stop and think about all the work that goes into an agile software development environment, you will notice that this is just another day at the office. You have to be smart about task prioritization. Here are four ways to break through the noise and make sure you’re focusing on the work that really matters.

1. Spell it all out

An agile development process is only as good as the tracking that goes into it. Make sure to always know what tasks are waiting for your attention. To that end, you can write the tasks on a piece of paper, keep notes on a blackboard, or enter them in your favorite planning app. Staying on top of your game will help you prioritize tasks much more efficiently and eliminate any unforeseen work that would creep in.

2. Distinguish between urgency and importance

The biggest conundrum in a software development cycle is whether something is really urgent. A piece of code might need some tweaking, but is that really necessary at this very moment? Separate urgent from important by adding deadlines and reminders for each task. Once you actually put a date to each item, you will quickly realize that not all of them were apocalyptic in nature.

3. Delegate to everyone

Being a part of an agile development team means that everyone should pitch in. Give out work depending on individual team members’ interests and skill sets. You can even use a project management platform if you don’t have an internal company system in place. Once you share the work around and everyone has a piece of a whole to work with, it will be much easier to get important work done before the deadline.

4. Leave detractors for last

Some bugs simply require your full attention to be fixed. The same goes for any lingering task or obligation that you have to attend to but can’t deal with right now. Leave these detractors for last and focus on smaller, more manageable tasks first and foremost. You will get a much better sense of accomplishment and progress if you tick small boxes off first rather than focus on a difficult task before anything else. It will give you the necessary wind to get things done and wrap the project up successfully.

Remember that on an agile development team, you are never alone. Rather than panicking, talk to your colleagues and think about the solutions to your task overflow. Keep a clear head, ask for help, and look forward to the light at the end of the proverbial tunnel.

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