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Created May 23, 2020
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The Feature Snowball Method Might be Good For You

The "feature snowball" is a product and time management technique that refers to focusing on small tickets first, and letting that momentum carry you into tackling larger tickets. This is a method that I've personally used for the last few years, and recently discovered it had a name due to Randall Degges. First, let me tell you a little about myself so you can understand why the Feature Snowball is so effective.

My Background

I'm still technically a novice programmer, I've been programming about 4 years now. As of writing, I'm also a college freshmen at UC Berkeley. I've primarily worked on smaller projects with smaller teams, things that a few people can build and maintain.

For the projects I work on, I normally have to fulfill the roles of a developer, product manager, QA engineer, DevOps Engineer, SEO expert, marketer, designer, and salesperson all at once. Not to mention, I'm also a full time student on the side!

The Productivity Dilemma

When switching between all of these different roles, it can be hard to prioritize what I should be working on. There's often tons of features to be built, bugs to be squashed, and designs to be improved.

While every item I have to complete is critical to the success of the project, I can only work on one thing at a time. This means I have to choose what to work on consciously.

This can be hard, because what determines the importance of a task? How do you measure the impact on the end user? Not to mention that there's always going to be tasks that I fear to even look at or code I don't want to touch.

This leads to "analysis paralysis", the inability to make a decision due to the sheer number of options and intricacies of the choice.

The Better Way to Think About Productivity

A while ago, I was trying to meditate to clear my head, but instead began thinking about all the tasks I have on hand. I quickly become anxious. The math test I had to study for the next week, the critical bug in my website I had to fix, and the various features I'd like to add, there were simply too many things to do.

But when I thought about everything I had accomplished, the more I got pumped up and excited to get back to work to finish more things. The momentum of accomplishing tasks leads to accomplishing even more tasks.

So what does that mean? I began to focus on knocking out the most tasks in the smallest amount of time. I prioritized my list my time. And the more todos I crossed off my list, the happier and more excited I felt.

The Feature Snowball Method

As Randall coins it, the feature snowball method is a management system where you determine priorities based on how quick a task is to complete.

Instead of deciding what to do based on personal or business priority, you only base your decision off of one variable, speed of completion.

In doing so, you remove much of the indecision that can come with these decisions, and immediately get to work. Plus, the Feature Snowball method prioritizes momentum over all else. By getting the quick wins and reducing the things you need to do, you'll stay focused, motivated, and always making progress.

When to Use the Feature Snowball Method

When working on a small project or a personal project, the feature snowball method can be a great way to overcome initial hesitation or anxiety that can come with the massive amount of tasks that lie ahead of you.

It reduces analysis paralysis, allowing you to start working on tasks immediately, which can start a cycle of productivity. Even better, less time is spent analyzing tasks and more time is spent actually working.

In the start of the week, sort through all your urgent tasks, and tackle each task in order of how quick you can complete them. This will start your momentum for the week, and ensure that you're constantly productive.

When to Not use the Feature Snowball Method

Of course, there are times when the Feature Snowball Method won't work for you.

For example, if you're working on a project where there are strict deadlines for deliverables, you'll of course have to work on those regardless of what takes less time.

If you're working on a project with other people that's synchronous, you may not have the luxury of deciding your work schedule.

Basically, use your common sense and you'll rarely go wrong.

Results of this Method

When I've used this method, I feel more motivated and more productive throughout my week. Less time is spent anxious or stressed out due to work related issues, and more time is spent pushing out features and fixing bugs.

If you're the type of person that enjoys crossing items off of your todo list, you might want to give this method a try, it's changed how I approach my work, and made me more content with the work I do everyday.

This article is crossposted from Comet Code. You've made it this far, why not follow me on Github

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