Drop The Ball - Developer's Productivity

You are in a significant ongoing project where you are constantly juggling tasks, bugs, features, and all sorts of things. So, you're in panic mode. Everyday. Now, this is where task prioritization comes into play. And this is where I would like to introduce you to a very effective (might sound fancy, but it is really straightforward) tool - The Eisenhower Matrix. It is a time matrix that aids in figuring out what needs to be done pronto and what can wait a bit. It's like organizing your to-do list, but in a way that makes sense to developers.

The Eisenhower Matrix

The Eisenhower Matrix is composed of four quadrants. Quadrant 1 pertains to all tasks that are both urgent and important therefore, you should probably do it right now. Critical bugs, system failures, and high-priority client requests typically fall into this category. Developers must prioritize these tasks as they directly impact project timelines, customer satisfaction, and overall project success.

Quadrant 2 is for all tasks that are important but not urgent, so it can wait. You may decide when to do it. Examples include strategic planning, skill development, and proactive system improvements. While these tasks may not have pressing deadlines, neglecting them can lead to missed opportunities and hinder overall project growth. Developers should allocate dedicated time for Quadrant 2 tasks to ensure they are addressed proactively and prevent them from escalating into urgent matters.

Quadrant 3 is for those that are not important but urgent, so you may assign someone else to do it. Examples include non-critical support requests, routine administrative tasks, and minor technical issues. Delegating or deferring Quadrant 3 tasks allows developers to focus on higher-impact activities and prevent distractions from derailing project progress.

And lastly, the final quadrant, Quadrant 4 is for the tasks that are neither important nor urgent, therefore you can dump it for now. Examples include unnecessary meetings, checking personal emails, internet surfing, and binge-watching. While it's okay to allocate some time for Quadrant 4 activities, they should not consume excessive amounts of time or detract from more important responsibilities

"Most of us spend too much time on what is urgent and not enough time on what is important" - Stephen Covey

The Power of Saying "No"

But beware. Oftentimes, we find ourselves caught up in tasks that seem urgent but really aren't all that important. As if we are hooked on the rush of urgency, even if it's for stuff that doesn't really move the needle. I know that saying "no" makes you appear like an irresponsible developer. But practicing the "drop the ball" mentality will make you feel better about yourself, because you will be able to focus on your work instead of juggling all your responsibilities. It's tough to say "no" sometimes, but you know what is tougher? It's dealing with the guilt that comes from saying "yes" to things we shouldn't have.

Don't get me wrong, this mentality is not about dropping responsibility or avoiding hard work. It's about being strategic with your resources - recognizing that your time and attention are finite, and allocating them where they'll yield the greatest return not only for the individual developer but also for the whole team.

The Rush of Urgency

Other people tend to delay important tasks that have higher impact outcomes, and complete first the ones that are urgent even if they know that the outcome is smaller. This is called "mere urgency effect". Software development requires a lot of mental work. If you work your whole day in panic, then you become ineffective and oftentimes it leads to burnout. Strangely, some become addicted to the adrenaline rush that comes with crisis management. They thrive on the excitement and relief that follow putting out fires, even if it's at the expense of their long-term well-being.


The bottom line is, learn how to drop the ball. Don't fall to the trap of "mere urgency effect". Don't get stuck on the thrill of putting out fires when it is merely just a spark. But remember, constantly living in crisis mode isn't sustainable. Sometimes, you've gotta take a step back, breathe, and prioritize the tasks that actually move the needle.