Project Management Snowball

You may be familiar with Dave Ramsey – he’s the third ranked radio talk show host in the nation and the creator of the Financial Peace University training that trains people on how to get out of debt and build wealth.

One of the most simple but powerful systems he teaches is what he calls the “debt snowball”.  It’s the foundational process for getting out of debt.  He teaches people to list out all their debt and then pay off the debt with the smallest balance first regardless of interest rate on the debt.  Once you pay off this debt, you then take that payment and apply it to the next smallest debt creating an escalation factor to paying off debt quickly. 

Technically speaking, this approach is met with some resistance as people argue that you should pay off the debt with the highest interest rate first.  But Dave has proven time and again through thousands of success stories that his approach simply works.  There’s something powerful that happens when you pay off debt – that early success that empowers you to continue on to more success.  It’s a kind of financial endorphin that’s released in your body.

We can apply this same principle to project management. 

If you’re like me, you have adopted the Steven Covey method of prioritizing daily tasks by assigning an “A” to the most important task and A.1, A.2 and so on.  Then you move on to the B and C tasks and sprinkling in a few “assign to others” as if this magically makes them go away 🙂

Many times these “to-do” lists are jam-packed with a variety of projects and specific tasks to bring them to completion.  I frequently get caught in the trap of spending too much time on the larger multi-year projects as they have the higher risks and rewards.  Many times however, this creates a backlog of smaller projects and tasks that may not be as exciting or rewarding, but still need to be done.

Every now and then, it’s important to just knock out a small task and move on.  Just like getting rid of a small debt, getting a small task or project out-of-the-way actually releases some success endorphins that empowers me to move on and take on the next task with energy and enthusiasm.

With this post, consider another small task knocked out, while I move on with more energy for the tasks before me!

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3 comments on “Project Management Snowball
  1. I constantly need to remind myself of this lesson. When I don’t get the little things done they weigh on me and pile up creating a paralysis of sorts. Better to get the little things out of the way, no matter how uninteresting or mundane, to create clear focused and concentrated time for the big tasks.

  2. Hi,

    I’m not sure if the snowball concept applies to project management. Usually you should start with the larger tasks and worry about the little tasks later on. At least that’s what project managers were doing for the past few decades.

  3. Jon Deshayes says:

    Thank you, John, for the sound financial advice from Dave Ramsey. I have not heard of the “debt snowball” method, but I am already thinking how I can apply it to our finances, our family life, and in my project management duties.

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