Breaking down technical tasks with Atomic Planning

What is Atomic Planning?

  1. Better estimates — the mere process of atomic planning enables the engineers to align on the solution, evokes earlier discussions and gives the team a better understanding of the work they are estimating.
  2. Focussed iterations — splitting up the work allows multiple engineers to be focussed on the same feature at the same time. This reduces context switching and keeps team meetings focussed. Context switching can reduce productivity by up to 80% so it is crucial to try minimise this in your team’s work.
  3. Early value — delivering incremental improvements enables non-engineers to get a look and feel of the product. This opens up discussions and can address issues earlier on in the development cycle.
  4. Atomicity — Delivering smaller batches of work makes it easier to test and track changes in your code base, in other words, Atomic commits will help you git legit.

Atomic Planning Techniques

  1. Split up the task into micro-behaviours


  • Which tasks can be worked on at the same time?
  • Who is available to pick up the first task?
  • If there are no tasks left: who needs help or what should we test?


  1. Encourages technical discussions — Putting an estimate against a task will invoke discussions around differing engineer perspectives and uncover the true nature of the task
  2. Identify non-atomic items — If a team estimates a task to be large, it is usually an indicator that it is trying to achieve multiple outcomes. These non-atomic tasks will block your team and often contain unknowns that will lead an engineer down a rabbit hole. Break these down further.

But it is so much easier to submit multiple tasks in a single Pull Request….

Lack of Context

Don’t get caught in the Planning Trap





Tech Lead at Payble. Sydney, Australia. We’re hiring

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Adam Hannigan

Adam Hannigan

Tech Lead at Payble. Sydney, Australia. We’re hiring

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