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Backlogs are not idea buckets

A fluff-free backlog is a powerful thing.

The Product Backlog is an ordered list of everything that is known to be needed in the product.

The Scrum Guide

Ideas do not fit that description. An idea is a “maybe this would be helpful” thing, not an “I know this is needed” thing.

If you have ideas for your product, that’s fantastic and fabulous and you should hang onto them. But please don’t use the backlog for that. Use a roadmap or a hierarchy or a storymap or a text file or literally anything that’s not the backlog.

When the time comes to officially plan and refine one of those ideas, that’s when you move it into the backlog.

A backlog with things in it that are not known to be needed is a backlog with waste. It’s a mountain of inventory to wade when you want to find a specific part.

Here are some signs that your backlog has too much stuff in it:

  • You’re embarrassed to show it to people, like a messy kitchen
  • You start to keep a separate list of important things because you’re worried they’ll get lost and forgotten in the backlog
  • You get stressed out when you look at it
  • There are tickets from 3+ months ago
  • There are tickets that you had forgotten all about
  • There are tickets that you don’t even understand

It doesn’t have to be that way. Keep a lean, focused backlog with only the stuff you know you will work on in the next couple cycles, and stop digging through hundreds of tickets you may never get around to starting.

Give yourself the focus and stress relief that comes with a backlog that is free of fluff. It’ll make it easier to shut up and plan the sprint.