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Multiple projects at the same time

Every book or article about software management assumes that you are working on a single project. Joel has an article about how task switching is harmful, but... am I the only guy who needs to work on multiple projects at the same time?

I can't hire more people right now and I need to handle 3 or 4 projects at the same time. Yes, I write specs, I make a schedules, I review and adjust it every week.

Is there anybody with the same problem? If so, how do you handle motivation, productivity and avoid the desire to quit every weekend? :-)


Wanderley Miyata
Friday, November 30, 2001

Well, I avoid the desire to quit every weekend by working for myself (though there are times when I am sorely tempted to give myself notice).

Still, I constantly deal with anywhere from 3 to 6 active projects. One of the keys to doing this without going crazy is to try to use a pretty coarse granularity for the switching. Instead of trying to work on every project every day, try devoting entire days (or half-days, or whatever chunk works for you) to each project. It helps to have a pretty firm schedule of what's due when, so you don't feel guilty when you don't visit a particular project for a few days.

Mike Gunderloy
Friday, November 30, 2001

The question is - are you a software developer ?
Actually (at least as I understand) Joel's articles are all about management of software development - not development itself.

It's really a pain to have 2 (3) _active_ projects at a time for alone software developer or consultant, it's not much pain when you meet your client once a week, but for everyday meetings (for manager) or reports (for developer) it's really a pain.

For software developer it's worse, because usually he reports about features _already made_ into project and he cannot just pretend as manager about new improvements.

Getting caught for developer between 2-3 projects at a time makes him useless developer, the main thing here is that he's actually doing it, not  dispatching as a manager.
And if you as a manager lead two-three projects - that's not a god-like behavior - that's normal.

But show me such a software developer doing these 2-6 at a time without serious degradation of performance... I bet everybody will want to lubricate him, because that will be an android :-) not a human.

Friday, November 30, 2001

Well, I work for myself - I have a small company and I need to do a little of everything. I tried to work on every project everyday, but if you don't finish some task on a particular day, your schedule is in trouble. :-)

Anyway, my approach is a little diferent now. I define a set of tasks that I can handle on one week and make my schedule based on it. This way I always can adjust things.

It seems there's no magic answer for my problem - just a lot of work. :-)

Wanderley Miyata
Monday, December 3, 2001

I work for a company that is traditionally a boxes-n-wires consulting VAR type of organization and develop web-based applications using MS (ASP/VB/SQL) tools.

Most of our projects are short-term (3-6mos) gigs and because of our billable time requirements, we always have to have more than one project going at a time.

Right now we have about six, and there are only three of us ; )

I can tell you that I agree that task-switching kills us, but I'm not sure what I can do about it as we can't really turn down business that comes in the door, and our customers have the impression that any web project can be completed in six months, so they don't understand when we want to push off the beginning of the project.

Maybe the solution would be to work on the pipeline of the development process so that our individual utilization isn't so high, but the overhead of such coordination might be worse than just being busy ; )

I know the stuff I've read on this site, along with the MS MSF stuff and othering things I'm learning from what's going on in the industry, and what has happened in the past is helping me get closer, but I think ideally we'd only be working on one thing at a time.

Jason J. Gullickson
Monday, December 10, 2001

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