Friday, September 19, 2008

Balancing Today and Tomorrow

There are a lot of things I work on that are for today:
  • analyze the results of last night's automated run
  • write acceptance criteria for this story
  • work on a beta test plan for a client
There are also things that I work on that don't help for today but will help me tomorrow:
  • interview job candidates
  • set up backup test machines
  • work on stories to get them ready for assignment to dev
It's really easy to work on the first list. These are things that are asking for your attention now. The trouble is, if you keep putting of the tomorrow list, nothing will ever get better. You'll still be running on the same treadmill, with the same problems.

So how do we balance these things? How do we do enough of tomorrow that things get better, while still getting today's stuff done?

Some days the today things will take over. On those days, all you can do is make one thing just a little bit better. But most days, most days I think we should be striving to work on tomorrow as well as today. There are a number of ways to do this:
  • devote half a day a week to "future work" (or whatever)
  • devote an hour a day to "future work" (or whatever time period)
  • get your future work done, then your today work. I don't think this is actually feasible.
  • get your today work done, then your future work. This one is a nice dream but rarely actually happens for me.
  • force your future work to be today work.
The last one has worked best for me. Basically, I force all of my future work to start being as important as today work by turning it into today work. For example, I make a public commitment to respond to all resume submissions within 48 hours. Now I get a resume, and it's "has to happen today" instead of "I should really look at resumes sometime". Combine that with my empty inbox desires, and it works out pretty well.

How do you handle the balance?

1 comment:

  1. I think you need to prioritize your today and future work relative to each other. Assuming that there is an infinite supply of both (sounds like a reasonable first approximation), that's the only way of making sure they get done.
    The trade-off is what increment you do on long work, but "make it a little bit better" (measurable) and keeping go, IMHO.