Jason Fried

March 14, 2024

Avoiding pile-ups

One of the reasons we work in six week cycles, is that it gives us a different definition of later.

When you work on really long projects — say 3, 6, 9 month projects — or projects that don’t have any end in sight, “we can do that later” typically means you’ll get to it eventually, as part of the current project. Long time frames give you invisible space to pack away unrealistic amounts of work. Since later is so far away, there’s no harm in kicking the can down the line. In other words, later makes a pile at the end.

Gnarly problem you can’t figure out how to solve yet? Punt it into the later pile. Design not coming together quite right? Toss it in the later pile. Taking on lots of technical debt as you go? Push it into the later pile.

But then as you near the end, you run into this big pile of stuff you said you’d eventually deal with, fix, redesign, tighten up, etc. But there rarely seems to be enough time at the end, so you either end up guiltily ignoring it entirely, or hastily patching it together with duct tape. And when you hastily patch, you often end up creating another fix-it-up project later.

But, when you work in six week cycles, or relatively short time frames, later means something else entirely. There’s no time for later. It’s now or not. Later doesn’t mean we’ll get to it at the end of this cycle. It means we’ll drop it. Later means another time, not this time. Later isn’t an obligation, it’s a maybe. Later isn’t a cage, it’s freedom. It’s not a debt to pay off, it’s an asset. There’s no pile of pile ups, there’s no guilt, there’s no feeling of late nights and crunch time ahead. Later simply means not now, not soon, and not for sure.

That’s the kind of later we like.


About Jason Fried

Hey! I'm Jason, the Co-Founder and CEO at 37signals, makers of Basecamp and HEY. Subscribe below to follow my thinking on business, design, product development, and whatever else is on my mind. Thanks for visiting, thanks for reading.