Level Up

By Patrick Kua

Level Up - Issue #159



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Level Up

August 28 · Issue #159 · View online

Level Up delivers a curated newsletter for leaders in tech. A project by https://patkua.com. Ideal for busy people such as Tech Leads, Engineering Managers, VPs of Engineering, CTOs and more.

Keeping track of “big tasks”
If you’re a new leader or manager, it’s key that you build your own time management and prioritisation system. Each person’s system is different, but you need to have some system because your team work system will help manage team work, but not your own work queue. I cover many basic principles in my online training but a common challenge people have is dealing with the “big tasks”. Big tasks are those tasks that are hard to complete in a single sitting, or a week and can be both individual or team related. Some concrete examples might include:
  • Putting together a tech strategy that requires input from many people across the organisation
  • Planning an organisation/team restructure
  • Putting together a year plan (e.g. for 2023)
  • Upgrading updated libraries through a codebase (where there are 200+ uses)
  • Migrating from one pattern to another (where there many examples scattered throughout the codebase)
Because “big tasks” are “big”, it’s tempting to defer them and not work on them but at some point they will become necessary and the quality will suffer if you don’t give it enough time. Here are some practical tips to help you work on those “big tasks.”
  • Prioritise 2-3 big tasks to focus on for a quarter - While it might feel like you can’t make any progress on a big task in a single week, you should be able to achieve a lot more over 12 weeks. Don’t feel overwhelmed by the sheer size, but do focus on which big tasks to focus on as there is always more work than time.
  • Break a big task into smaller steps - Ask yourself, what do you need to do to get started on your big tasks. Spend a short time (e.g. 10-15 minutes) simply brainstorming activities and steps you need to do for a single big task and list them as smaller activities. If there is an unknown (e.g. A question to be answered), then list out what activity you would run to turn the unknown into more of an unknown. This might involve running an experiment/spike, conducting some research or simply trying to start a first draft.
  • Reserve some time each week for a smaller step - Think about your calendar and preallocate some time dedicated to one of your big tasks. Rather than add the smaller step to your to do list, be specific and add a calendar blocker with enough time allocated for your more granular/specific task
Just like the old saying goes:
Q: How do you eat an elephant?
A: One bite at a time
Big tasks that seem impossible are entirely possible if you use the advice above.
Your challenge this week is to:
  1. List out the big tasks that are on your mind
  2. Separate these into those you have already broken down and those which still seem “big”
  3. For those on the still seem “big” list, spend some time thinking about the smaller steps
  4. Make sure you schedule some time in advance to work on them
I hope you enjoy this week’s newsletter! Share it with a friend or colleague if you find it helpful, or drop me an email about topics you’d like to hear about in future editions.

Big tasks might seem impossible
Big tasks might seem impossible
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Thanks for making it this far! 🤗
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Want to level up your technical leadership skills? Sign up for online interactive courses like Engineering Manager Essentials or Shortcut to Tech Leadership or check out self-paced courses at the Tech Lead Academy.
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Patrick Kua, Postfach 58 04 40, 10314, Berlin, Germany