How To Prioritize As A Software Engineer

As a software engineer, knowing how to prioritize is critical to your career success. But where should you start?

How To Prioritize As A Software Engineer

As a software engineer, you are constantly juggling multiple tasks and projects. It can be difficult to know where to start and what to focus on. One common approach is to break work down into smaller tasks and deadlines. This is known as Work Breakdown Structuring (WBS).

Read the general WBS approach below, then continue reading to learn why it's not always the best approach.

Work Breakdown Structuring- General Steps

#1 Understand the Goal

The first step in knowing how to prioritize is understanding the goal. What is the end goal of the project? Once you know what the goal is, you can start to break down the project into smaller tasks.

#2 Break Down the Project into Smaller Tasks

Once you understand the goal, you can start to break down the project into smaller tasks. This will help you see what needs to be done and in what order.

#3 Know Your Deadlines

Another important factor in knowing how to prioritize is knowing your deadlines. When do you need to have the project finished? Work backwards from your deadlines to figure out when each task needs to be completed.

#4 Take Into Account Other Factors

There are other factors that you need to take into account when determining how to prioritize your tasks. These include:

  • The difficulty of the task
  • The amount of time it will take to complete the task
  • The importance of the task

#5 Make a List

Once you have considered all of the factors, it is time to make a list. Write down all of the tasks that need to be completed, in order of priority. Be sure to include deadlines for each task. This will help you stay on track and ensure that you are completing the most important tasks first.

Work Breakdown Structuring - The Challenge

WBS can help take large work items and break them up into smaller workable tasks. It focuses mainly on simplifying the work, understanding and accounting for complexity, and knowing deadlines.

Unfortunately, in my experience, a different approach is needed when software engineers are dealing with priorities happening around and across projects. This is the prioritization that's necessary when projects are competing with each other for your time, or users are pinging you on slack about an emergency that needs immediate attention, or your boss has changed your work 5 times this week.

For prioritization that is happening around and across projects, a much better solution than work breakdown structuring is to use an Eisenhower Decision Matrix combined with solid collaboration and communication.

In my Software Engineer Career Booster video course, I devote an entire section to prioritization.

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Wrap-Up: Prioritizing As A Software Engineer

When it comes to prioritizing as a software engineer, there are a few things that you need to keep in mind. Understand the goal, break down the project into smaller tasks, know your deadlines, and take into account other factors such as difficulty, time, and importance. And if you are having to deal with prioritization challenges around and across projects, consider the Eisenhower Decision matrix along with some solid collaboration and communication. Check out my course for more information.

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