Avoid Snacking and Preening

There are a lot of tasks that needs to be completed if you're working as a software engineer.

Fixing bugs. Feature improvements. Refactoring and re-architecturing. Writing technical blogs and speaking at conferences for recruiting. Interviewing and screening. Hosting 1on1 and meeting, writing design documents and stake holder managements. Contributing to OSS projects and learning new skills to improve your careers.

The list goes on and on, endlessly.

Being focus is an essential skill to get things done. And your ultimate goal is not to complete items in the long list. Life is short. You should focus on what is really important.

In order to be productive and focus, it's worth understanding what kind of tasks should be avoided. Screening and Preening is those types of tasks that should be avoided.

I learned those concepts by reading this great book, "Staff Engineer", by Will Larson, who is also famous for writing another book called "Elegant Puzzle".


Snacking means to spend your time on low priority and low impact tasks. In other words, it can be called as a "Low-hanging Fruit".


Completeing small tasks is easy. You might feel self satisfaction that you're "doing something".

Don't. This is an illusion, and essential tasks are still there waiting to be completed.

For example, formatting source codes and fixing linting issues can lead to Snacking. I am not saying that all those type of codes are Snacking, and they are sometimes necessary to keep your team grow and productive. But please keep in mind what you want to achieve by formatting and linting your source codes.


Preening is another type of tasks that should be considered well before you start working on. This describes tasks that have high visibility but comes with low impact.


I understand that writing engineering blogs and speaking at conferences can boost your presence. Sometimes expanding your network can make you achieve reaching out to larger talent pools for hiring great people for your team.

But if you lack your hiring strategy or explicit goals, such kind of tasks can lead to Preening. Be aware to be concise and strategic, instead of falling into a trap of feeling good by "showing off".

Essentialism is not easy

Focusing in your essential goals and tasks is not easy. That's why you should keep thinking about what you are spending your precious time on.

Again, life is short.