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Project Work: How to Create More in Less Time

Kirsty Brewster
Software Engineer // I like making cool things with cool people.
・4 min read

While working on my final project at the Flatiron School, everything seemed to be in place to allow for a productive experience. My classmates and I would meet everyday for SCRUM, where we would discuss our goals for the day. At the end of every day, we would go over what we had accomplished, so as to keep ourselves accountable. Finally, we had deadlines for when our MVP should be finished, as well as when our entire project would be wrapped up.

However, there are two major concepts that would have helped me in creating a project that I would have really been proud of after my time at Flatiron.

The 80/20 Rule

Several times while working on my final project, I would get caught up in small details that really didn't matter that much to the overall vision I set. Worrying a bit too much about the color scheme, line spacing, the inclusion of icons, creating a landing page. While these might have been good to add at some point, there were definitely more important things to focus on first. These smaller tasks were more of a distraction. As a result, I didn't end up including some of the stretch goals I had for my project.

So what is the 80/20 rule? This is the concept that 20% of our efforts get us 80% of our results. This concept, also called the "Pareto Principle", comes from Vilfredo Pareto, an Italian economist and philosopher from the 1800's. He observed this phenomenon in a few different areas. First, he noticed that 20% of the pea plants in his garden were producing 80% of the healthy pea pods. He also noticed in his home country of Italy, that 80% of the land was owned by 20% of the population. And finally, he noticed that 20% of the companies in his country were generating 80% of total production.

The 80/20 rule in action.

When it comes to our personal projects, the 80/20 rule is about prioritization. First, break your project down into steps that lead to the final product. From there, identify the most important steps. This is where you need to put the majority of your focus. You could argue that "the devil's in the details", but trying to give 110% into every little detail in your project is more rooted in perfectionism. Sometimes it's even a tactic we use to procrastinate on a problem we deem too difficult in the moment.

Parkinson's Law

Parkinson's Law is the idea that work expands to fill the time allotted. After I finished the MVP on my final project, I didn't really feel like I added any significant features. In all honesty, I was a little aimless and probably gave myself too much time to do things like add form validations and error messages. While these were useful features, I feel like I could have taken less time to finish them.

Parkinson's Law in action.

Set time limits for each task that you tackle on your project. If you give yourself a full day to implement a feature, you'll probably take all day. If you find yourself comfortably finishing a task in your given time frame, maybe try to cut that length of time in half the next time you try that task. If you find yourself stretched thin in a given time frame, increase it the next time around. There's a happy middle ground somewhere. It's all about experimentation.

Even with deadlines, it's probably inevitable that you'll find yourself stuck on a task. If you've spent a lot of time on such a task, go back to the 80/20 rule and ask yourself if what you're stuck on is really that important to the overall goal. If it's not, maybe it's time to move on.

In my case, I should have done this for a lot of design related tasks. However, we can't really throw design completely out of the window. People care about the look of a site or app. In that case, make design it's own category in the larger picture of your project. Now go back to the 80/20 rule: Out of the steps we could take for designing our project, what are the most important? Got it? Okay, maybe...we don't need a landing page all that bad? Or maybe we don't need to worry so much about the design of our buttons? However, if you're someone who wants to do more UX type of work, maybe it's beneficial for you to spend a little more time on design. Use your best judgement based on what your broader goals are.

Final Thoughts

While you might be thinking that each project you make needs to be the absolute best it can be, remember that knowledge comes with practice. You could spend your whole life trying to create the best app and never achieve it. You have to experiment and learn through trial and error. In the arena of creation, quantity leads to quality. Even if you create something and think it could be better, take that thought and apply it to the next thing you create.

Hopefully these concepts can help you prioritize and get more done in less time. I wish I had thought of them while I was still working on my final project at Flatiron! I'll definitely be taking what I learned from the experience and applying it to future projects. Heck, I even applied these concepts to this blog post.

Resources:

  1. The 80/20 Rule And How It Can Change Your Life
  2. How to Use Parkinson's Law to Get More Done in Less Time

Discussion (2)

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kosm profile image
Kos-M

Indeed , i used to stick in details too ..
Mostly because i dont want to forget what needs to be done at that specific thing i tweak at that time.
Its better to file an issue to myself , or add new todo , as a reminder to myself.

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kirstybrews profile image
Kirsty Brewster Author

Exactly! Easier said than done sometimes, but I try to do that too.

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